Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops after Kentucky’s last-second victory over Mississippi State


“Just like we drew it up (laughter). So proud of our football team and so proud of our coaches. I just told our team this, and it’s a true statement, through this whole game, I couldn’t have been more proud of our players and our coaches, from the beginning. And I know it didn't go how we wanted it to all the time, but I really felt very well prepared for this game. I felt like our players were. I felt like our coaches were, and I think they did a heck of a job.

We didn't always execute to perfection. We seemed to like putting some drama in things, but we were really playing some good football and turned it and had a chance to really separate ourselves; and we get the stripped scoop again to put more pressure on our football team.

But once again, we showed that resiliency, and we showed that toughness, and all that stuff I talked about is starting to pay off in the off-season with being physically tougher, mentally tougher, and being able to bounce back from adversity. That's what I'm most proud of.

Again, I felt like we were very well prepared. I felt like our staff did a great job. Our players have been so much fun to coach. We've had a great couple weeks. They are a fun group to work with and we are going to take another step. We're excited about it and ready to move forward to the next challenge.

Q. What did you think after Dorian dropped that pass in the end zone?

COACH STOOPS: I didn't quite see it. I didn't know if it was a drop or not. I heard everybody screaming like we got it and then not, but what are you going to do on the next play? I was hoping he would come down with it, but I just saw it bouncing around back there.

Q. Where did that rank as one of the craziest games you've been a part of?

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it's right up there. It seems like we have some of those but it's right up there. Yeah, it is up there.

But I was really proud at the end. We practiced that play every week, we're nine seconds -- and our players know if there's no time-outs and under three, we have to snap it. We have the play that we go to and we have to get down right there. If he runs around, the game is over.

So we run it, hit the dig and get down on the ground and call a time-out and hopefully make the field goal and it worked. It worked this time. So proud of our coaches. They are prepared for that play. They work it every week. Again, it was nice execution there.

Q. Austin missed one early, comes back.

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, he absolutely did. I had a lot of confidence with him in that last kick, I did. I was good with it either way because I felt like our team, our players played their hearts out; I know our coaches coached their hearts out.

And I have a lot of confidence, I've been telling you guys that I felt like Austin was getting real close to being an elite kicker, getting back to like he is. He did miss one early but I have a lot of confidence in him.

Q. What was it like when they picked the fumble up --

COACH STOOPS: I can't talk about that, what goes through my mind right there (laughs) no, but --

Q. What did you say?

COACH STOOPS: Well, you have to bounce back. You have to. And that's what we've been practicing and working on and they have done that. And we went right back and put a really good drive together. And I knew we had them on the field for a long time.

So the one bad thing about a scoop-and-score for a defense is you have to go right back out, there and sure enough, they get the big momentum boost and they go right back out there, but out offense drove it down. We only got the three, but it was a big drive.

Q. What did you actually say to Austin after the game on the field?

COACH STOOPS: I think we both just looked at each other and I don't even know what we said. Just, you know, I gave him a hug and probably told him I loved him.

Q. It's been a tough year for him last year.

COACH STOOPS: It was a brutal -- absolutely. He's a wonderful kid and he works hard, and he's healthy, and our team has a lot of confidence in him. He just told the team that he was just proud to be a part of it and get it for them.

Q. What did you say to Stephen at half-time and can you talk about Marc McWilson?

COACH STOOPS: Stephen at half-time, we told the whole group to just go back to executing and play with poise, get the opening kickoff and go score. And we felt like we did not play very good in the first half. We were playing fantastic defense for awhile, but then we got the short fields and the change of possession, I would like to see us do better on that change of possession but two short fields and we are really playing -- I don't think they had a first down for a long time.

But we knew with the mistakes that we made with the special teams and with the fumble, and you're down one possession and didn't play very good, and certainly not very well on offense; but again, we were moving it. I mean, everybody throws the stats in my face when we lose, but we did have a bunch of yards and were controlling the game and that does pay off sometimes, late, and you know, hopefully it did here.

Q. Inaudible.

COACH STOOPS: You know, I think you can't say enough about what he did, and all of our players. We've talked about being selfless all week, and doing whatever we can do to help this football team play better.

So when you're in the game, you know, it's not about you being the best player out there but it's about making the team play better. And Boom did that and he made some big plays late in the game, and that was good to see.

Q. Jeff Badet’s big plays

COACH STOOPS: He did. And again, we've been -- Jeff and I talked Friday, must have been Friday, and we were in my office and that's what we needed, him to stay the course, stay patient. We've had our struggles with throwing the ball but that opportunity was going to come and when it comes, you'd better make it and do it and he certainly did.

Q. A bunch of wrinkles in the offense today; was that through the bye week you planned that?

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it was trying to build on some of the success that we had with some of the plays and take it to a new level. Some of it worked a little bit and kept them off balance and it helped. And we did have two weeks. And we needed to create some plays.

Q. Since you drew it up like this, how does the plan, the adversity -- what does that do for a program?

COACH STOOPS: I think it gives us an opportunity to take it to the next step. We'll see what we do with it. We'll challenge our team. I just did right there about -- you know, I'm so proud of them, and I love them, and I loved coaching them throughout this whole game and throughout the whole season. We play early next week, and you know, it's about sacrificing this week, getting home, getting some rest and let's get back to work.

Q. Your conference play, almost all games have come down to the last few minutes of every game. What does that say about how the team has finished in close games?

COACH STOOPS: We're proud of the way we've finished these games. They are never easy. We are not built that way to run away with games, and you know, our league, the difference in wins and losses is as tight as any league outside of the NFL.So you know you're going to have some tight games, so you'd better win some.

Q. They were giving up about 136 yards on the ground -- you got 262. Were you developing the mind-set to run the ball?

COACH STOOPS: Definitely, and again, we were in very good control for a long time. And then -- well, -ish (ph), I should say in the second half. But when you're grinding on people and you're getting all those yards and you've got them on the field for a long time, it can pay dividends for you late in the game. It did today. This game could have went either way. We know that. But if we don't turn it over, we're in pretty good control, also. We have to be smarter about that, and that situation right there, an extra yard or trying to get too much, is -- you know, that can't happen. Get down, use the clock, go to third down, try to get the touchdown, and if nothing else, we get three and we're in good shape.

Q. Ryan Timmons had a couple big plays for you.

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, good to see. I think all of our guys have been fun to coach, and you know, waiting for their opportunity. You know, we weren't built to just throw it around and have all that fun that you like to see. We have some playmakers about you we're learning to grind it out and we have a lot of good players, and again, it's about being selfless and when it's your time, you have to step up and make some plays.

Q. On you being hard on Marcus McWilson and his big pick six:

COACH STOOPS: Big time. Big time. I tackled him. I hurt him (Laughter). No, I'm so happy for him. He doesn't realize how much potential he has sometimes and that's why I'm hardest on him.

Q. Once again, you didn't flinch. That seems to be a common mind-set right now.

COACH STOOPS: I'm from Youngstown, Ohio. We don't flinch.

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