Everything University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops had to say after Saturday’s 34-17 loss to Georgia at Kroger Field:
“Really you have to give credit to Georgia. They beat us in all phases. Really played a good football game. There’s many things we will take from this. We can learn an awful lot. Definitely was not our best effort. Not for lack of trying, but our team really had a good week of preparation and were excited to play. We did not execute at times. At times we got out-manned. We missed more tackles than I could remember. Didn’t execute a few things. But you’ve got to give them credit. You’ve heard me talk for many times and they are sitting there, if they rush for 300-yards plus, you’re not going to win very many games. Obviously we have to get back and fundamentally get better. I thought they moved us. They made us miss. They did a nice job with their pinch sets, bouncing it. Our run support, a lot of things we can do better, and again, a lot of that has to do with them. That’s why they do that to a lot of people. What they do is complicated and it’s difficult to defend with some athletes that they have in space. We’ll get better. Our team will get back on track and we’ll be excited to get back to work on Monday.”
Does this loss hurt a little bit more than the other one, compared to what was at stake for this game and all the hype leading up to it?
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MARK STOOPS: Of course. Any time you invest as much as we do into these games and put ourselves in that position, it’s going to hurt. You know, that’s what I told the team. We invested a lot, and I understand that. But we can’t, one, make this loss turn into two. So we have to get back to work and regroup and be committed on Monday.
Q. After Darius West was ejected, I noticed that you took him around your arms and you were talking to him and you want to mention what you were saying to him?
MARK STOOPS: No, I mean, that’s — I don’t even recall all of it to be honest with you. Darius is a great kid and he’s poured his heart into it, and he’s an emotional guy. Just wanted to put my arm around him and make sure he regrouped himself, and you know, go to the locker room and got everything under control. Don’t remember exactly what I said.
Q. How encouraging to see the team continue to fight when they went down 28-3?
MARK STOOPS: That doesn’t surprise me. The fight is there. We’ve got to do some things better. The long run, really, that one really broke it open, and there are some things — they do a nice job with their cracking and we were filling off that. Just give them a little space. You know, they are difficult. They are very physical and all those yards just don’t come from that. They get the movement and then they did a nice job with cracks and then they are so fast. There’s a little bit of room there and they are ripping off some big runs. It’s not just pushing you around inside. What they do and how they scheme it, it’s good. You have to be very precise.
Q. I’m looking at the video of the ejection right now and it looked like the ref initiated contact. Did you say something to him?
MARK STOOPS: I really don’t think it’s wise for me to comment on that. Again, I don’t know. I didn’t see anything. I have no idea. But you know, I’ll put it this way, I know Bunchy’s heart and I know he’s an emotional guy and I don’t think he was trying to be disrespectful. But if he put his hand and tried to grab for whatever reason, you can’t do that. Again, if he did that, if he touched him in any way, even if he’s emotional, I don’t think he meant it in a disrespectful way, let’s put it that way. I know Bunchy and I know where his heart’s at, and the rule is the rule.
Q. This is the first time your team had been in this position — do you think that played any factor at all?
MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. I think our team, you know, all week had great preparation. I thought we stayed in our routine against a very, very good team like that, you have to execute extremely precise along with being athletic, physical, all the things that they do and they have done. They have explosive guys on both sides of the line of scrimmage. You know, both sides. You have to play better. So I think our team is very experienced and we put ourselves to play in games and we will continue to learn.
Q. The missed tackles.
MARK STOOPS: You’ve got to give them credit. There’s a lot of one-on-one situations that happened out there and the speed they have definitely is difficult to defend. It’s one of the reasons why they have been top-five team the past two years.
Q. You said you can’t turn this into two losses. How do you make sure there’s not a letdown?
MARK STOOPS: You let them lean on the leaders of this football team. The guys, they are good in there. We got beat tonight, and we have to regroup and go about our business. We have strong leaders in there and I anticipate that we’ll be ready to go.
Q. The missed tackles, do you think the guys in casts — do you think that played any role?
MARK STOOPS: It doesn’t help. It doesn’t help. You know, late in the game, we’re basically in four-minute defense and you notice, that’s what I was walking with Coach House about. We had Chris and DeAndre in there, I think both in there on the long run, on the long touchdown run. So as experienced as we are, when you take those guys out of the middle, you go to very inexperienced. But I thought they did some good things and it doesn’t help with two guys in there trying to tackle with those on.
Q. On the Kroger Field sellout crowd.
MARK STOOPS: It was a great atmosphere. Wish we had given them a few more things to cheer about but really appreciate it. That was a fantastic atmosphere, and again, that’s what it’s like playing in an SEC venue. I’d like to create it where it’s like that every week.
Q. Did you think coming into the game that their running game and offensive line could be a matchup problem, or did that surprise you a little bit?
MARK STOOPS: Well, I don’t think we ever go into the game thinking we’re going to give up those kind of yards. Again, it’s a combination of things. It’s not just physically, you know, moving you. They do do that well. They definitely create space. They are very well-coached on the offensive line and the sets that they give you create issues with their pinch sets. They make, you know, some smaller guys, some of our corners come up and aren’t quite used to it and they create some edges. There was some things we need to do better.
Q. Anything going on on your side with the running game?
MARK STOOPS: They are pretty darned good. You’ve got to give them credit. You know, we’ll continue to look at all options. You know, we had some good drives early in the game, and then we Pete erred out and we stalled, and got to look at it and see why. I’d like to see us, you know, punch some of those in to give us some — make it closer there at the half. We need to be more balanced, and this time, it’s Terry throwing for more yards; we need to run it some more. But I thought Terry was, again, taking another step today. I thought he really did a good job of hanging in the pocket and distributing the ball against a very talented defense. We need to build off that and be physical and run the ball more effectively.
Q. How much did it hurt not being able to cash in on some of those early drives?
MARK STOOPS: It’s definitely a factor. Definitely hurts the energy and the confident. Again, I thought we had some good drives. We’ve just got to finish them.
Q. You said you could learn things from this. What types of things do you want the team to learn?
MARK STOOPS: Well, many things. Like the execution from a top three, four, five team, the execution that they have and they are obviously very talented. They are well-coached. But you have to be very precise and we have to win some of those one-on-one matchups. We have to do a better job with coaching starting with me and everybody on down. We’ll all accept it together and we’ll keep on fighting to get back in that position.
Q. The offense had some success the last two weeks and you were forced to go fast late in the games. Can you use that in other situations?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think we may. We may. I mean, we have to look at that. I mean, Terry certainly looks comfortable right now, just straight drop-back and he’s doing some good things. The receivers are working hard, and be nice to build off that.
Q. How much was Benny held back by his ankle in the second half?
MARK STOOPS: I think a bit. I don’t know, I didn’t get an update from Jim, but definitely I would think a little bit. I don’t know. I have to get caught up with Jim.
Q. It was such a great atmosphere, everybody in their seats. How big was that?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was big. We start the game, get great punt return, get great field position — and that obviously is not good. We need to do a better job. We had worked hard with their punt return. We know how electric he was, and we really wanted to put that — we wanted to place that better. Max has done a super job, but one thing you can’t do is out-kick your coverage right down the middle of the field against that return guy. That was not in our game plan, so we’ve got to do a better job.