Jen Smith on UK Football

Don’t let Louisville’s 2-9 record fool you. ‘We know what they’re capable of.’

How does Kentucky prepare for Louisville led by an interim coach?

At his press conference on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked about Saturday's game at Louisville. The Cardinals are now under the direction of interim coach Lorenzo Ward, who replaced the fired Bobby Petrino.
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At his press conference on Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops talked about Saturday's game at Louisville. The Cardinals are now under the direction of interim coach Lorenzo Ward, who replaced the fired Bobby Petrino.

MARK STOOPS

“I’ll just start by thanking Kroger. I appreciate you, what you do for our school, our community and this rivalry. Looking forward to a big game here this week. Proud of our team and the way we played this past week and looking forward to another week here this week, trying to finish it off.”

On if it’s different preparing for Louisville after coaching change: “Not really. They did what they did this past week. Obviously play caller is different, but they still stuck with their offense.”

On if there’s anything he does to keep his team mentally focused: “In a rivalry game you can throw the records out the window. We’re worried about ourselves and playing the best football we can. Just finishing — like I said, I felt like our team played with a sense of urgency this past week that we’re striving for. I really liked the way we got out of the gates and started fast and really played with a great sense of urgency. We’re looking to do the same thing here this week. It’s about us and the way we play. We know what they’re capable of and how Louisville can play. They’ve shown signs of that this year.”

On keeping the emotions in check this past week and then doing that in a rivalry game on Saturday: “We need to make sure we do that. It is easy to think about that with the seniors. It was hard for me. But as I told them last week, I didn’t really want to address it because I had my eyes on this week and finishing out. That was very important to me because if I did stop -- they were teasing me and said ‘coach, you’re going to get all sappy and cry on us’ or whatever. I had to play it off because if I really thought about it I could. Those guys mean that much to me. They are a special group, but I really didn’t want to get swept up with it last week knowing we had a big week here this week. It is a lot going on with Thanksgiving, and we do appreciate these seniors and Josh (Paschal) coming back and playing. A lot of good things happened. But we just have to focus on being disciplined and doing the things that have put us in the position to be successful this year.”

On what this senior class has meant to him: “They’ve all been really good kids and fun to work with and we appreciate them all. We’re very close with some of the old ones. I can’t get them out. They’re like my kids now. But this group definitely is special because every one of them, if you look at that group top to bottom, they’ve all contributed. All 16 guys we recognized Saturday were significant for not only this year but for years. We really have a lot of respect for them and appreciate what they’ve done.”

On if he’s coached a season with such emotional moments: “I can’t say I have been a part of anything as emotional as this. You can’t expect some of the things that have happened to us happen. The only thing we’re here to do is support the people who are directly involved in any way we could. It’s never about us or me, it’s about them and their families and what they’re going through and anyway we can support them. I’m proud of our team for rallying in a lot of different ways to many different people. Our team does a lot of good things and that’s what I appreciate about them.”

On how challenging it was hold off Middle Tennessee State at the end: “They presented a really good challenge. Coach Stockstill and Tony Franklin both being from Kentucky, believe they unloaded a playbook on us (laugher). A ton of deception and just really a lot of plays that you can’t necessarily always prepare. After viewing the tape I was very proud of our players because we really were on point and the guys were very physical and competitive and really doing some good things. There’s always things we’ll do better, but I was kind of aggravated after the game with some long drives and I’m still aggravated, but a lot of it was a lot of trick stuff. Overall our guys handled it pretty well. We got the big pick-six on trick play and they got some aggravating yards, but we had some big stops and I really like the mentality and the physically of our team on both sides of the ball Saturday. It was a good victory.”

On if he reviewed film from MTSU’s games the Georgia and Vanderbilt: “Yeah, of course. We look at everything, in particular how they attack power-fives but there was some unique stuff for us in there as well. Seven lineman on one side (laugher).”

On Josh Paschal’s performance: “He did a good job, he really did. He’s – as I mentioned after the game, with playing him at the jack, because we needed him, we were really thin. But obviously – I was joking with him throughout the week, I said ‘I wouldn’t of had you gain all that weight.’ He looked a little funny at that weight, standing up on his feet but he can do it. As you know he’s really athletic. Just getting back playing football for Josh. With the injury that he had, the lifting and some of the conditioning he could like in a pool and on a bike, but on his feet because the surgery was on the bottom of his foot, that is hard. Then you put a 280 man up there playing jack, playing in coverage and doing those things, it’s not easy because you guys have heard me talk about that for a long time. Josh Allen makes it look easy at 260 but that’s uncommon. Josh did some good things and he’d be the first one to tell you that as he gets on his feet, he’ll get better and better with every opportunity, every practice. I noticed it last week between Tuesday and Wednesday’s practice, his comfort level.”

On how many snaps Paschal played and what his role is going forward: “He played I want to say – I can’t remember. I want to say in the neighborhood of 18 plays, somewhere in there. We’ll just see how it goes, we’ll see how he is this week and what he can do to contribute but yeah, he’ll be in there playing.”

On if Paschal will play jack more this season: “Just for this season, yeah. Just for this season.”

On if Jordan Wright is out and when he’s coming back: “Yeah. Jordan should be coming back here this week. He’s been a little bit iffy with a minor knee injury but he should be back.”

On if Tymere Dubose will return: “Yes he will.”

On what he expects from Louisville: “Again, we’re worried about us, but Louisville is going to do what they do on both sides of the ball. They’re not going to re-invent the wheel in the last week, they’re going to play the system that they’ve played and they’re going to play hard. You see it in every game that they’ve played, they’ve play hard and they play aggressive and some big plays or some trick plays and things like that have gotten out of their comfort zone as well. We just worry about us and our execution and playing a discipline football game. They beat us last time here, I wasn’t very proud of that after a year ago and we’re looking to just improve and we have a lot to play for. We got our eighth victory this past week and trying to play for nine. That’s our concentration on obviously preparing for them, but control the things we can control and that’s us and how we play.”

On if a coach getting fired can light a fire under a team: “Sure. I would think so. I don’t know, I mean I’m not there but I’ve seen example of that in the past, yes.”

On how they avoid letting emotions take over in the rivalry after last year’s fight: “I think that’s always a fine line and that’s where our guys have been around. They’ve been through this rivalry. Those 16 guys that I mentioned, they’ve been through it a few times, so they’ve got to keep that in mind and, again, play disciplined. We always have to play with that edge and that mentality and play physical, but we have to play disciplined football.”

On his message to people who wanted to watch UK beat up on Bobby Petrino this year: “That doesn’t do me no good to comment on that. You know I always answer things. It is what it is. Hypotheticals, I really can’t win in those situations.”

On Fr. OT Darian Kinnard and rest of offensive line played Saturday: “Darian did a really good job. I was very pleased with Darian. We’re excited about him. He’s versatile. He can play a lot of different positions. We were unsure if he could play left, and he really did. He did a good job. So, Darian is doing well, and overall the offensive line played good. I thought we got back to being very physical. They had a mentality about them. We gave up a few things here and there. They did a lot. They did a lot of different twists and pressures. We knew that going into the game, that there would be a bit of feast or famine in there. They created a few negative-yardage plays at critical moments to their credit. But our offensive line for most part did a really good job of picking up a lot of their movements and stunts.”

On if recruiting Louisville is any different that recruiting the rest of the state: “Yeah, I definitely think it is. It is. It’s year to year where all the players are in state. It’s definitely different.”

On what most concerns him about Louisville: “I can’t concern myself with Louisville other than preparing for the plays and preparing for their schemes, but I have to get my team right and our team right. We have the right mentality and have a great week of preparation.”

On how Jordan Jones has carried himself since fight last year: “As I mentioned, it’s always week-to-week now with him. (Laughter). I always tell you you’ve got every seven days to prove yourself around here, but Jordan is the same way. So, I have a few conversations with him weekly, but I am very proud of him. Because I mentioned it, but that wasn’t a very good moment for any of us but we’ve all learned from it and that’s where sometimes it’s a lot easier on me to say, hey, dismiss somebody. Everybody thinks that’s tough and that’s discipline, but no, that’s the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do is continue to work with them every day and help him and not give up on him and not quit on him. So, very pleased with his effort.”

On fine line between fire and going overboard with emotions: “I think a big piece of that is emotion only goes so far. How emotional are we going to be on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday when we’re prepping for us and how we play? That’s where you can’t turn it on on Saturday. You’ve got to have the edge and the attitude all week. It’s the end of the year, and our players are beat up and put a lot into it and all that, but they have to find that balance of the proper preparation. I think it helps with experienced teams. Sometimes younger guys, it’s too emotional and that’s only going to carry you so far. So, we’ll talk a lot about that here this week throughout the week.”

On what kind of UK fan turnout he expects in Louisville: “We’d love to see them. Absolutely. It seems like we have a great nucleus that’s with us home or away. We’d love to see those folks on the road as well.

“Again, thank you to Kroger. Appreciate what you do. We have a great relationship with you. I personally get my coffee there. Thanks for what you do for the rivalry and our communities and our state. Appreciate you all. Thank you.”

On success in the red zone Saturday: “I think a lot of it just you can’t get behind the chains again, a play here a play there. And a big piece of it for us as you know is the physical piece of it. Obviously Terry made a nice play ad-libbing and scrambling and throwing it to C.J. there. But a big piece of that is when we’re on track physically, that helps us in the red zone. In those games when we weren’t those were games when we were struggling in general. Still gets down to — I think we netted 209, I want to say we rushed it or handed it off for 230, 240 — and that’s gonna be a successful day. So it kind of correlates there.”

On where Wilson has made biggest jump: “He’s just been more efficient and the completion percentage is up because he’s decisive with where he’s going with the ball and when. Making quicker decisions with that. And we were on track in this game. We were able to be balanced. It wasn’t just him throwing the ball or just running it. We had some balance. We only had nine possessions. Like I said, the aggravating piece of that for us is defensively, didn’t give the offense enough opportunities. They had it for almost 34 minutes, I think. Too many long drives, so when the offense only gets nine possessions, they scored on five of them. So we’ve got to — that’s where team football comes in. At one point when the game got close, the defense gave up a long drive and the offense went three-and-out on the next possession. That we can’t do, nor can the defense give up an 11-play drive for a touchdown.”

On if Wilson would’ve made that Conrad TD throw a few weeks ago: “I’m not sure. I’m not sure. I think early in the year, he ad-libbed a little bit and it bit him and he got a little bit conservative. As he gets comfortable and sees the field and make good decisions and let him be him and let him have confidence to make some plays.”

On if Miles Butler played because of improvement in practice or if it was about the redshirt situation: “It had a little to do with both. It really did. Like I told you earlier, if Chance was just knocking it out of the park, then we’d roll with it. He was struggling a little bit and Miles came in and did a really good job for us. As you know, he had a really critical kick for us in that game with a lot of pressure on him. That says a lot about him on Senior Day and I had confidence in him. He’s been successful. Then earlier in the year when he’s struggled a little bit, we put in Chance and he did a good job. That’s the nice thing about a team. You have other guys to rely on and each of them has stepped up a bit. We’ll see how it goes this week.”

On development of Josh Allen and if there was a time when he knew Allen could be a special player and if there are others: “Early on, I’ve mentioned it, right away we knew we had a good player in Josh. Even at the weight he was at and how long he was, and his versatility, early on we knew he was going to be a good player. That’s when we reached out to his high school coach and said, ‘Thanks. Josh is going to be all right.’ And so to this extent, I didn’t know that, but I knew he had a lot of potential and you saw him getting better. Anybody that has that athletic ability and all the intangibles that he has — he’s really developed himself into the player that he is. He’s put in the work. I think our coaches gave him good medicine, but he’s taken it and really worked extremely hard. Appreciate him and what he’s done. With our team, there’s always examples of that, whether they go on to be a first-round draft pick, I don’t know, there’s definitely some good talent here. You can see a lot of those guys watching him, just guys that play with him every day just because of the linebacking position. But you look at DeAndre and Chris and those guys, both very raw, but athletic guys and have good frames on them as well.”

On who has benefitted most from watching Conrad and Allen: “That’s hard to say. I don’t know. I think in general, I think all of them have made a great impact on this program and certainly on a lot of players from our team. Who would be really hard for me to say.”

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