Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on building confidence, responding to adversity on road

MARK STOOPS

“It’s been a good week of preparation, a good light day for us. A lot of mental work today, but it was good focus. Looking forward to tomorrow. We’ll have a good run through one more time, then board the buses and board the plan and get ready to play a heck of a football team. I’m excited about the opportunity and I’m worried about us and competing at a high level and getting better. That’s what we’ve been stressing all week is having that great attention to detail, fundamentally playing better. Our communication needs to be better, so we’re anxious to get out there and have another great opportunity.”

On importance of building some confidence going into this game: “I think it was real important and we have to learn from previous mistakes and the last time we went into a tough environment, we didn’t respond very well. Hopefully, we’ll handle that better. If there is adversity -- and I’m sure it will come, in every game there’s some form of adversity -- we have to be able to handle it better and hopefully we learn from that Florida game and we’ll respond better.”

On if he addressed that specifically with team this week: “I did. I did. Yeah. I did. Talked about just that.”

On Kengera Daniel and what he brings: “Just gives us another body, more depth. We’ll see what he can do.”

On if the offense’s struggles yesterday were a result of the defense or if they were just off: “No I think it was more the focus that I was talking about the previous Wednesday. It was about coming out and doing some very good things. You know, yesterday’s practice was split. We were out here, and we practiced in the rain for a good 40 minutes or so but then it got to a point where it was just absolutely pouring, so we went in. But I wanted to get some work in the rain with quarterbacks handling the ball and handoffs and all those things, so we practiced in the rain for a good bit. And then toward the end it was just coming down extremely hard and we couldn’t get anything done so we went in for the end of practice and that focused slipped a little bit. We went inside and didn’t carry the same concentration we were doing the first part of practice. We went inside there and had a couple drives. It just wasn’t quite the focus we need.”

On if maturity or coaching from Lamar Thomas has led to decrease in drops this season:All of the above. Again, these guys have been around for a while and they've played and we expect them to be more consistent. Lamar's done a very nice job and I think Eddie's done a nice job, and all of the above. They're competing at a high level, higher level.”

On the importance of Stephen Johnson getting off to a quick start:I think it's real important. As you know it'll be extremely difficult. We need to understand, with the mindset going into it, how difficult yards are going to be to come by and how you need to compete to get those yards. This is not a team where – some games you play where things come easy or you get big plays. You have to work for every yard you get against them and you have to compete at a high level to get those yards. So that takes everybody being on the same page. Certainly Stephen is a big part of that, but he has to have a lot of people around him playing at a high level. We need to block. We need to be able to run. We need some tough yards, and we need to be able to get open on the perimieter.”

On if this is a game where you have to stick with the run even if it’s not working early: “Well, I think you can’t get deterred because you can’t just sit back there and take negative plays. They will absolutely get after you. They score more non-offensive touchdowns than anybody. They create a lot of big plays with their defense and with their special teams. So you’ve just got to be smart with the way you mange the game.”

On what he sees from Alabama’s punt returns: “Again, just guys that are working extremely hard at blocking, but they’ve got some electric guys with the ball in their hands as well.”

On if there’s a game he coached when he team played well as a underdog he uses as an example in these situations: “I don’t. I don’t. Surely there’s been some times. I’m pretty focused on this one right no, to be honest with you. There’s no time to be reminiscing right now. (Laughter).”

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