Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on what UK offense can do better, explosive plays, getting over Florida loss


On practice: “Great practice. Awesome to get back. It was awesome. It was hot, and they fought through it. It was really good to just get back out here. It helps you get that taste out of your mouth, so really good.”

On if we’ve only seen a glimpse of what they want to do with Lynn Bowden: “Yeah, we’ve got a nice package for him and will continue grow. We’ve got six, seven things that we’ve gone into every game with, and you’ll see more of them this week.”

On how Bowden played against Florida: “For the times that he got in there, the little trick play when I was being conservative, you know. (Laughter). I thought he did a heck of a job there, and got the ball out to Sihiem. It was a great pass. He’s hard to tackle, so he’s doing a good job. That was a joke. I was in a little bit of a funk on Saturday night.”

On if players are typically pretty resilient after a tough loss: “Yeah, they are. I think a lot more than coaches are. It’s tough, tough to swallow. They came out and they practiced. Coach just talked about what’s the difference between commitment and routine. If we come out here and it’s just a routine for a Tuesday we’re in trouble. Today I saw a commitment. So, we’ve got a chance to get better each week, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve got to take care of some things in critical situations and not make mistakes.”

On positives from Florida game: “One out of every six plays we had and explosive play against a really good defense. That means when we talk about an explosive play that’s a 12-yard run or a 16-yard pass. One out of every six. That’s really good. What we didn’t do well was the third-down conversions, but because of our explosive plays we stayed on schedule and were able to score from distance. So, that was really exciting to see. We made some progress there.”

On if C.J. Conrad being banged up has affected his play: “Nah, not at all. He’s so tough. That’s kid’s got great toughness and he loves the game, so I haven’t seen anything at all. But we manage him during the week and then he goes.”

On biggest reason for Conrad’s success: “I think him and Stephen have found a little connection. Better reads, second year in the offense. I think we had some of those opportunities last year and we just didn’t connect. I think this year being that they’re two years together we’re finding ways. You keep trying to find ways to get him the ball. People will start — obviously they’ll key on him, but they still have to play the game and they still have to stop the run. It’s a double-edged sword on that.”

On missed opportunities: “Absolutely. No. 1, at the end of the half I got aggressive. I know better in terms of where we were on the field. When you get a chance to kick a field goal to score points at the end of the half and we could have gone up 17-14, I went pass, pass. I wanted to take the jugular out. OK, well it backfired and we ended up getting back and we ended up missing the field goal. I wish I’d have done something different there. Then we had first-and-goal at the five in the second half. We get a penalty that is ridiculous. There was 36 seconds left when that play was called, and that’s my fault in terms of the person running that show has to get it done. They’ve got to get the communication done, and they’ve got to go. It was in in time, but I’m going to take that. That’s on me. And then following that is a snap over the head. We know the problem, we know what the issue are, he’s working on it, we’ve got other guys that’re playing the position and he’s gonna have to battle and make sure to get it fixed because it’s inexcusable and he knows that. But that was critical. We lost nine points in that game that if we have eight plays and we take care of business should’ve never come down to that. What I was excited about was the two-minute drill. Those guys didn’t flinch, they got in the huddle and they said, ‘Let’s go.’ We converted a fourth down. We had some opportunities there that we actually could’ve gotten down to the 30 or more earlier than that but we made the fourth-and-10 then we made a good run. I thought that was unbelievable by our offense. It’s what we do every Thursday that we talk about.”

On what the options are at center as the snapping problem lingers: “Well, you got Drake (Jackson), you got Nick (Haynes). Luke Fortner is working at it. We’ve got them all. Up until from yesterday to today there is a sense of urgency and a fire under every one of them.”

On what Charles Walker and Sihiem King mean now that they’re making plays: “It’s huge. It’s a nice changeup with Sihiem. He made some great explosive runs. He’s really good in the pass game. That’s been a huge deal for us on offense. And then Charles was the player of the week. There’s some unselfish things that he did running, but he made some big catches too. That was huge. It’s nice to see a guy like that who works so hard. He’s getting some opportunities now so that’s been really good for us on offense.”

On what about Charles Walker makes him successful: “He loves the game. I mean he’s laughing. Just, he loves the games. He’s one of those guys that when he puts the helmet on it means something. He loves the University of Kentucky and he’s gonna give everything he’s got every week.”

On the need for outside receivers to step up and get open: “Yeah, we talked about it yesterday. I went to each one of them yesterday and I said, ‘What are you going to work on your craft this week? What do you have to get better at after you watched film?’ One of them is that in press man you’ve gotta stack, and we can’t catch fade balls out of bounds. So, we’ve got to get better at that. Each one of them told me, ‘Coach, this is what I’m going to work on.’ And that’s the commitment that we’re talking about. That’s what they’ve gotta get better at as we move down the stretch.”

On being a player-led team and if it’s up to the players to fix things: “It is. It’s their team. At the end of the day it’s their team. And our locker room, us on the sidelines has been phenomenal. Our core values are toughness, effort, discipline and pride. Our toughness is unbelievable, our attitude is incredible. Our pride has been good pride, you’re not seeing bad pride. And where we’ve got to fix, we have to get a little more disciplined. We have eight plays out there, Coach talks about it every single week. You don’t know which eight. If you would’ve taken one out of the eight and executed it, it might’ve changed the game. It might’ve been play No. 6 of those eight. You never know in this game. That’s what I talk about: See a little, see a lot. Sometime you get out there and you see too much, and then you see nothing. We’ve got to get it back down to the focus of those eight plays. If we’ll do that, we’ll be really good.”

On what Eastern Michigan will try to make them do: “You know what, their coaches, they do a good job. Their team is solid. They’re bend but don’t break. They’re gonna be in the right place at the right time and we’re gonna have to be really good technique and fundamentals to win the game.”