UK Football

John Clay: Kentucky coaches show frustration, vow to fight through it

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops was all over the officials after Kentucky recovered an apparent fumble but had it overturned because of penalties.
Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops was all over the officials after Kentucky recovered an apparent fumble but had it overturned because of penalties. Herald-Leader

Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot spent three years as defensive coaches at Florida State. In that time, they lost 10 football games.

In nine games this season, this Kentucky football team has now lost seven.

"It's very frustrating," Stoops said Saturday.

Neal Brown spent three years as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. In that time, he went to two bowl games and never had less than five wins in a season.

This Kentucky football team is not going to a bowl game and would have to win out to reach five victories.

"It's very frustrating," Brown said Saturday.

Kentucky lost to ninth-ranked Missouri 48-17 on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium and for the first time this season, at least in front of the home folks, you saw that frustration boiling over.

If you didn't see it, you heard about it. There were second-half whispers that UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart might have to sign a purchase order for a new chalkboard.

"Nothing was broken," said Stoops when asked.

Prior to that, however, the coach was given to Yosemite Sam fits of exasperation directed at his players, sometimes directed at his assistant coaches, consistently directed at the officials.

Stoops occupied his personal eRUPPtion Zone over the men in stripes at the end of the first half, then picked up the heated debate as soon as the officials came out for the second half.

The venting didn't matter much to the bottom line, of course. Missouri was way too good. The Tigers are 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the league and could very well end up in the SEC Championship Game.

And while Stoops and Company knew this was a tough job — the reason they got the job in the first place — to imagine the toughness of the job is one thing, to experience the toughness of the job is always a different thing.

Thus, Saturday brought the angry Mark Stoops.

"I've got to do a better job," the coach said of his emotions. "I'm trying to fight and claw and help lead this team as best I can. It is frustrating at times, but we all need to a better job, and we need to overcome adversity.

"There's going to be bad plays, there's going to be adversity, and we've all got to handle it better."

When your program loses 13 straight conference games there are going to be plays that make coaches want to chew light bulbs.

"You probably see us on the sidelines some and there are times when we definitely get frustrated," said Brown, the offensive coordinator. "I am frustrated with our performance today, especially in the first half. I was not pleased at all."

His players concurred.

"Coach Brown was kind of frustrated, so he hyped us up a little bit," said freshman Jeff Badet. "He kind of opened up our eyes that we had to go out and just play for each other."

If this first season in the Bluegrass has opened the coaches' eyes, they aren't saying.

"Fortunately for coach Stoops and I both, we've coached long enough to go through some bad seasons and some tough seasons," Eliot said. "It is tough, but you just keep fighting."

It's going to be a long, uphill fight. Missouri is the East's newest team, yet the Tigers have had six first-round draft picks in the last five seasons. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, who caught four TD passes on Saturday, was the No. 1 prospect in America for 2012. Watching him Saturday, some began referring to him as "Megatron II."

Kentucky does not have those types of athletes. Not enough of them. Not yet.

"I think there's so many areas that we need to improve," Stoops said. "I mean, we need play-making ability, we need big, physical guys. We need a lot of things. We need linebackers. We've got to have a secondary. The matchups are so difficult."

With Kentucky football, at some point, frustration is inevitable.

"I may get frustrated," Stoops said, "but I'm not getting discouraged."

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