Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on defense’s last stand, Kentucky’s big win over South Carolina


“Good effort by all three sides. I thought our offense made tough first downs, tough yards when they needed to. Late in the game, they protected the football. We need to clean it up. We have a couple we need to stay away from. Defensively it came down to third down again. Defensively, getting them behind the chains, getting them into second and long and third and long and getting off the field we're 3-13. That's where the game's been for us. We have been really not executing and not playing to our potential on third downs. So when you could get off the field, you limit your opportunities, you limit yards and points and the whole deal.

“So, really good team victory, proud of those guys. Really important for us to play well this weekend when we honor the four gentlemen that we did on Thursday. And then to have the Hall of Fame weekend, I have great respect for all of those people and that's the way this football team needs to play, with that passion and energy that every fan expects, that we expect, and that we will do. These guys mean right, we had work to do and have work to do and we'll continue to work at it. But they come to work. They have accepted it; they looked in the mirror. You can't change the past, but we can certainly change our future and push forward.

“So, really it just feels good to get to 500. Again, it wasn't the start we wanted, but we can't change the past, but we can learn from our mistakes and push on. We're excited to get on to the next opportunity and it will be a real challenge next week.

Q. Did you see the defense respond what you said on Wednesday and in the next practices or was it just the game?

MARK STOOPS: I did, I did. I just wasn't going to let them accept it on Wednesday. It wasn't that -- but it's not okay. The way we have been playing, it's not okay. Every opportunity we go out there and practice is to get better. We don't go out there just to kill time. And when I see some of it, they just, again, they mean well, they just need push. And we need the discipline. We need to approach every practice and every play. Because you never know what one play is going to make a difference in a game. So, I think our approach has been better.

Q. Did you have a player or two step up and lead?

MARK STOOPS: I think I could just see it with all of them. I really could. I don't know, but it really appeared to me that the guys up front played really much tougher tonight. I know Alvonte made a couple critical plays. You guys know in the past couple games, in third and medium, when we were getting some good pressure, I knew they would come to some runs at some point. And he made a great play on the third and medium, a really disciplined play, and that was big. He made a few plays that stood out to me. Courtney had some good pressures and the guys off the edges had some good rushes as well the. It all starts up there. Those guys have to play with that attitude and that technique and be that precise all the time. There were still things in there. There were things that we blew. We gave them, or I don't mean to be disrespectful, we didn't execute on the third down that gave them the three points. That's not okay.

Q. What is it that Benny Snell gives you that maybe other running backs don't?

MARK STOOPS: Well, I don't know. I mean, obviously, he's physical. He's a strong guy. Boom is super explosive and can take it the distance at any time, but Benny's a little different change up. He has really good vision, really good patience, and he's very strong.

Q. Does your style kind of allow to you use him in a closer role, almost?

MARK STOOPS: It does. Yes. In critical situations those tough yards. We all know that certain games are going to come down to very close calls and inches. And it was nice to see our O line get that fourth down right there and not have to go back on the field. That's the way you want it. So, but, yeah, he can get us that.

Q. Did your secondary answer the bell tonight?

MARK STOOPS: They did. They did. They were much sharper. Those were the guys, also, that I've been leaning on, because we need to play better and they played a lot better today.

Q. Your biggest win since you've been here?

MARK STOOPS: They're so tough, they're tough. They're tough. It's not an easy business. That's okay, we know what we're in for and, yeah, it's a big win. It is. I guess you could say that. We're in year four and we all know what comes with it. The heat's always on and so it comes with the territory. So it was a needed win, yes.

Q. At one point Stephen Johnson was 7-8 and you were 1-6 on third down, were you trying not to put too much burden on his shoulder?

MARK STOOPS: He missed the one third down, I want to say, over the middle, we thought it was open, he overthrew it and got the interception. And then some of it was protection. I thought late in the game we had a third down that we had it schemed up pretty good, we thought it was there, and I don't know if his vision was bad or protection broke down, but he pulled it down, I think he was wanting to be careful with the football at that point also.

Q. How do you evaluate him?

MARK STOOPS: I'll have to watch the film. I know he made plays when he had to.

Q. How big was his scramble to get down to the one on that possession?

MARK STOOPS: That was very big. That's what you guys know we have seen people do that to us. It's a back breaker when you have things covered or you get some good pressure and a guy pulls it down and scrambles and make that is first down, it hurts your defense. It was big for us. It was a smart decision and good vision by him and a good run.

Q. Is this the best game that Denzil Ware has played?

MARK STOOPS: It looked like he played really solid to me. He missed one, you'll probably see it on TV, I was chewing his butt during the game, that he didn't get, he lost some leverage on a swing that we had corrected at halftime on some things. So, but, yes, he was -- a couple things I noticed when we got him behind the chains, he was very physical on the counter that had been hurting us earlier in the year and some things we cleaned up and he was, he made one play in particular I know that got him to second and long on a counter that he was very physical. And then the coverage I thought was big on the third on the sprint out. He got that corrected from me chewing his ear off and then he was out there and made a nice play in the flat.

Q. You say the ceremony had an impact on your guys?

MARK STOOPS: I think it did. I really do. I think that was very important for us, so that the courage of those guys and what they have done and knowing the difference between right and wrong and those guys really made a stand and made a difference and had an impact on a lot of people's lives on taught others at that time and are still teaching others today. It was very important for our team to be there and for myself to be there and we have great respect for those gentlemen and like I said the inductees as well.

Q. Any significant injuries?

MARK STOOPS: I don't think so.

Q. Did you have Wesley Woodyard try to go in and talk to the team beforehand?

MARK STOOPS: I told them when I went out there that I wanted him to and I couldn't find him. I would have loved him to talk to the team before hand and I told them that as soon as he went on the field, so I hope he was around there getting them jacked up because I wanted him to.

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