Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Mark Stoops’ comments after Kentucky’s win over New Mexico State

“As we mentioned at halftime, was let’s get some things adjusted, let’s make some, let’s get some things corrected, let’s not panic and let’s just go play football for 60 minutes. And in that part of it was really good. That’s a step in the right direction. There’s many things to get cleaned up. They will get cleaned up, once again, you can’t play bad in all phases to start a game. We’re putting the ball on the ground, we’re moving the ball, but we put the ball on the ground, I think three turnovers in the first half? When they’re already moving it. And that’s bad. Got impatient after the punt return and when a zero blitz hit us on a trick play, probably got impatient and made a bad call there. Should have made them grind it out and get it in the end zone. Still could have executed it better, but those are the things that, as you pull up different pressures and everything, you can’t possibly work to all different looks on a trick play, but Coach Martin, Doug and his team played unbelievable. They really played hard and give them a lot of credit. I was happy with the way our team responded. A victory’s a victory and we’re 2-1 (he meant 1-2), and we got a chance to get to .500 next week and that’s the next opportunity and that’s what we have to do. Our team will get better and there’s no doubt about it, I thought it was good things to see Stephen come in and play like that with Drew getting hurt right at the start of the game. And Stephen come in and play like he did, was really good.

“On that first play, Drew was already, he must have been hurting, I think he got hit, he got hit on the first or second play. His back was bothering him. He made a very poor throw in the first interception, but he was hurt. That’s not the start you want, obviously. But again, good victory, we’re always going to be proud and take any victory, any which way we can and we’re going to learn from it and get better and we’ll push forward.

Q. Update on Drew?


Q. If he’s healthy, can you take Stephen out at this point?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know what the situation is. I’m not going to make any decision like that right now, obviously, I have no idea. He’s hurt, he has an injured back, he did go to the hospital to get it examined today.

Q. Talk about Benny Snell and his touchdowns.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that’s what we have seen and it was really good to get him some reps and get him in the game and you see him keep those legs churning and hitting guys and playing physical and he played much more mature than a true freshman and that was that was really good to see.

Q. Was it in the game plan to use him that much or was that an adjustment?

MARK STOOPS: As we said earlier that you never know when opportunities are going to present itself. With Stephen in there, we were running the ball good, that sets up some RPO’s to the tight end off of that. The designed screen we had in the game plan, we had been working that for a couple weeks. And so I think some of them were targets and some of them just worked out that way.

Q. As far as you could see field level without film what did you like most about what Stephen did?

MARK STOOPS: I thought he really calmed down and made some good decisions, because early on it was a little rough and he settled in and he has a lot of poise. And that we need right now. So it was really nice to see him, he really made good decisions, what it appeared on the sideline, of when to pull it down and get some yards with his legs. He made some good decisions on the zone read play where he could pull it and run and made some good yards there as you could see. We did that to them and they certainly did that to us a few times and that gets aggravating when the quarterback can run it that way, he gets you a little off balance and I thought Stephen did that. Then when you get the run game going and we could hit the RPO and hit the guys down the middle, the tight end down the middle, and hit some guys off the run/pass options puts the team in a difficult situation.

Q. What did they do to give your defense so much trouble?

MARK STOOPS: It wasn’t good. It was a combination of things. I talked all week about having a higher football IQ. And we didn’t do that. With the first touchdown off of that split. Again, I’m not taking anything away from them, but we flat blew it. That can’t happen. We gave up that touchdown that gets you off kilter, gets you out of whack right from the beginning. They got some aggravating yards. They were doing some things to us that we got fixed at halftime with how they were running the ball inside on us. And it’s a combination of things. Right now, we have got a lot to get fixed there, but we will. When we’re playing both fronts and we’re playing the Okie front and then the over front, we’re searching right now. We got guys that are — it gets difficult with fits and so on. I don’t want to get too complex, but there’s, we have got to get some things ironed out. It’s getting a little bit confusing to them, even though we’re trying to be simple. So we have got some inexperience there and we got to figure out how to get them to play better. We got to coach them up.

Q. How encouraging though was it for the defense to see Derrick make that play with the game on the line?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that was really big play. I talked about that all the time to the DBs. And I just told them that after the game, that they can’t flinch, with that pass that I was mentioning, where we blew it early, and that really got us angry, to start, but you have to be able to play that position, you have to be able to jump, get back in the fight and let it go and move on. As I always say to DBs, they’re going to get some of theirs and we got to get ours and we got to make some plays and that was big for him to step up and get that ball at the high point and get that interception.

As I mentioned earlier, when things start turning, we’ll start making those plays instead of dropping those plays and that was much more difficult than other ones we did make. He actually went up and made a heck of a play. So we need more of that.

Q. You substituted your offensive line a lot today.

MARK STOOPS: That was the plan.

Q. What brought that on?

MARK STOOPS: We had a plan to do that. We feel like some of those guys the backup guys interior give us a physical presence. So, it was nice to see him in there. He’s been playing physical, and a couple of the other guys, so we had planned on doing that.

Q. Overall, are you pleased with the secondary, how they played today?

MARK STOOPS: No, no, no. We need to get better, but they will. They will. We have got a lot of work to do. But they will get better. They mean well. That’s all I could say. We’re going back to work.

Q. Did you ever think it would take this many points to get your first win here in the season?

MARK STOOPS: I’ll take it anyway we can get it. So it was nice to see us hit 62. It was nice to see us hit a punt return. We finally were right about getting a special teams touchdown. That’s a good thing. Really, y’all didn’t ask me about it all year, because I know there were so many other negative things to talk about, which I get it, I really do, but our special teams have really been solid all season and nobody wants to talk about that.

But the minute they make a mistake, you know that’s the first question y’all are going to ask me, right? So how about giving them a little hand. They really played solid all year. Our guys have been really unselfish. That’s the mark of an unselfish football team, they have been busting it on special teams. Matt House has done a great job and our kickers are kicking it better. Austin obviously missed the field goal last week and the extra point, got to get back to work, but Grant’s been fairly consistent the last couple weeks, getting better, he’s a freshman, he’ll get there, but our coverage teams have been really good. When we get good kicks we’re pretty good and our kick off return’s been real close to hitting one and I thought we’d hit a kick off return before we hit the punt return.

Q. Now that you got your sense of humor back ...

MARK STOOPS: For a day.

Q. The joy of just winning a game, were you relieved a bit? This has been a touch stretch.

MARK STOOPS: It is. There’s nothing fun about it, when you’re losing like that. It was tough. So, but we always get back to work, win or lose, we’re going to work the same way and have the same attitude and be positive in everything else, but it is hard. There’s no doubt about it. They say that it’s no fun when it gets to the point where it’s just relief, there’s no joy in a win, it’s just relief. But I know we’ll get better. I really do. We got a good football team, we don’t have a great football team, we have a good football team and they will get better. Defensively, we got a lot of things to iron out, but we’ll get better.

Q. Did you even have any hesitancy at all about putting Charles back out there?


Q. Was Benny’s strong running style kind of like that perfect compliment to what Boom is doing?

MARK STOOPS: I think so. It really does. He’s a physical guy and it’s really important, as you know, through the course of the past couple years, those short yardage situations are very critical. It’s good to have a guy like that physical presence.

Q. What does it say about your mentality you can lose your starting quarterback, lose your senior running back before the game and have their two backups come in and lead you?

MARK STOOPS: It’s a good thing, it really is. I was very pleased with the poise of Stephen and Jojo (Kemp), hopefully, will be healed up. He was close. He just wasn’t a hundred percent all week, so those other guys are plenty good enough. We have a lot of juice at running back and we have some guys that can go, so if you’re not a hundred percent it’s going to be hard to get out there.

Q. What did you tell the team at halftime?

MARK STOOPS: I told them that, I went right in and I went right in and talked to the defense, because I knew a couple things right off the top of my head before I talked to anybody else, the defensive coaches, that we had some things we had to iron out very quickly, but I told them that it was going to be a 60 minute game and that that was not the start of the game that we wanted, but we’re going to be fine, let’s get it corrected and let’s go out and make some plays.

And not to flinch. That’s what we had done early in the season, and we can’t do that. You got to just get them corrected, learn from our mistakes, and not go to -- there’s plenty of things within our system that we get some things fixed, you don’t just have to start grabbing and players trying to do too much and all that. So, just settle in and do what they’re coached to do.

Q. In a weird kind of way was it good that the game started poorly, so that they get punched in the nose?

MARK STOOPS: I think that it does. Because of the state, you know, and I told our team after game one that I didn’t think we were a fragile crew, I didn’t think we were a fragile team. We didn’t respond very well in game two when we got hit in the mouth. And so in that way, I am glad that it was a difficult game and we’re going to get better from a victory in, again, making those adjustments and coming out and playing a good second half.

Q. On deflections at line of scrimmage for Courtney Miggins:

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was good, because any time you’re going back out there and they’re essentially in a two-minute drill, any deflection’s going to be big and a sack is even bigger.

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