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Mark Stoops Recaps Missouri, Previews Vanderbilt

You know the drill. Mark Stoops sat in for his weekly Monday press conference this morning to recap what happened in this weekend's matchup with Missouri, to update the media on the status of his team, and to preview their opponent in Vanderbilt for this coming weekend. Here's what he had to say.

Transcript


Opening Statement…

“As I mentioned after the game, just very proud of our team to come away with the victory. It’s certainly a challenge, you get late in the year, you’re coming off of the season that we have – a tough loss the week prior, just getting them motivated all week and getting their minds right, getting healed up, physically, mentally, getting prepared to go into another game that you knew was going to be absolutely a hard-fought, tough game. If it wasn’t for their preparation, if it wasn’t for them being 100% committed to each other, we wouldn’t got it done. And each phase came up a play when they had to, so very proud of that effort. Obviously still a lot of things to improve on and that’s what we have to concentrate on. Heading into this week with playing Vandy, then again everybody just thinks that it is not a very good football team – that is not true. Vandy has arguably coming off one of the hardest stretches of any team. If you look at them in the last four/five games and who they’ve had to play in our conference and what they must be going through physically and mentally, it’s just a very tough grind as I have mentioned in the past couple weeks. And so, they’ve had much the same. it’s been very difficult and a tough, tough run but again, you can just look at, I noticed that a week ago knowing we were coming up on Vandy but watching the way they played Missouri and with an opportunity with the ball, late in the fourth quarter with an opportunity to go tie or go win. And again, I know how tough Missouri is at their place and they had every opportunity to go tie or win the game and Missouri made the plays to win it. We’re up against a team that is much better than people perceive. I have a lot of respect for Clark Lea and the way he coaches, and their team and we have to put it back together.

“Much of the message that I had a week ago, we have to continue to do that, continue to stay committed to each other, relentlessly try to improve each and every week. And the big thing for us, all the questions they’re going to start coming is, we need to play cleaner, we understand that and know that and need to coach better in certain areas and need to make the routine look routine. And yes, that comes with snaps. Let me just say that the special teams, we were plus 51 in hidden yards, which is pretty impressive. The snaps, the missed field goals are not ok. We clearly will continue to work at that. We used two snappers in that game. Clay (Perry) has been doing all the punts because Cade (Degraw) had a leg injury and was not able to run very well but Clay’s been doing a great job– that’s actually the first bad snap Clay’s had all year. So, everybody assumes that the other one, that was actually Cade. So, Cade has had one bad snap all year, Clay has had one bad snap all year so we have confidence in both those guys. We’ll continue to work on it and I don’t want to overreact and overcoach. They’ve done a very good job. They need to do it right all the time and we’ll continue to do that. Feel very bad for Colin (Goodfellow) as he made a tremendous play for us at that moment but unfortunately, he took a serious injury and will be out for the remainder of the season. He made a great play, sacrificed for the team, unfortunately he is done and hurt seriously. We’re getting more tests and other evaluations on him today.”


On fans sending Venmo payments to Colin Goodfellow…

“It doesn’t surprise me for the fanbase, and you know that’s awesome. It’s wonderful, our players do a lot and without fanfare or notice but in this case, obviously drew some attention to himself with making a very good play, but unfortunately getting hurt, so as always, we thank everybody for their support and put it to good use for charity.”

On improving the discipline of the team…

“We have to just continue to work and strive to get better. I think, as I mentioned last week, the bounce-back, the commitment to each other to elevate our toughness, our attitude to go on to win, to bounce back, to show that resiliency that we’ve shown through the years, that took a high level. However, it also takes clean play to win and to win at the level we want to win at. So, we’ll never give up on that. I think we just continue to grind on that, continue to coach, continue to show the good things that we have done, and the areas where we need to improve.”

On what the offense did well to score on the first possession and if there was any difference with Coach Rich Scangarello calling that upstairs…

“Well, I wouldn’t say on that drive you can say was different from being upstairs just because a lot of that we have set up throughout the week, but I think clearly creating an explosive (play) early that set that up – gave us a big opportunity at hitting that explosive. Will (Levis) threw an absolute beautiful pass and Barion (Brown) made the explosive play that got the momentum going. It also helped, I contemplated going both ways with somebody asking me that question the week before, whether to receive or defer (after winning the coin toss) and I was thinking about it again, just to be aggressive and take the ball. But with the wind the way it was, I’m glad I deferred, and we had a huge stop. If I’m not mistaken the first two plays were negative yardage plays and then they got some yards but to create that kind of energy on defense and then get the ball, and then create the explosive play. Now that’s what you want and so finally, that played out the way we’re looking for as well.”

On Trevin Wallace’s performance…

“I mentioned that last week on Monday in here, I mentioned it in my wrap-up Thursday, I wasn’t worried about Trevin’s play. I really wasn’t because he’s a heck of a football player. And again, you always want to compliment DeAndre (Square) because he has a big impact even when he’s not playing. That’s a special player, a special leader, very unselfish, when you have guys like that, you’re excited for their (new players) opportunity because you want to let them go eat, let them go see what they can do and sure enough he was prepared, and he’s done that because when you’re a really good player and you’re biding your time, it easier said than done to stay in that – to continue to prepare. So, when you go in there and he gets that start, now he was our defensive player of the game, and that just says a lot about him as well.”

On if you’re expecting DeAndre Square to be back this week…

“He has a chance. We’ll see, we’ll know more today but he’s definitely better and he’s going to go out there and do some things later this afternoon, test it out.”

On Coach White wanting Trevin to “pull the pin” and turning him loose…

“When we’re talking about triggering and trusting your training, your coaching, and he did that. He showed that early. He triggered and he trusted his play, trusted his training and he made plays. Going back to the first person that asked me about some of the things that stood out, we’re confident in his play, confident in his ability but also what stood out is how stout he is. When he gets somebody, he gets them, there’s no oozing. A lot of times, most of the time, they go the other way when he’s making a tackle, so it just shows you his abilities, his explosiveness and his strength.”

On Andru Phillips…

“I’m very impressed. He did some really good things at Tennessee as well and we all know, it’s tough. I think he’s gaining some confidence in playing good at that position and the nickel spot. I’ve talked about over the years it’s one of those spots that take some rep s– that there’s just a lot of different techniques that come into play and I feel like he’s doing a really good job.”

On what it says about Will Levis continuing to play at a high level while injured and with limited mobility…

“First of all, it doesn’t surprise anyone that he’s going to tough his way out. Again, I’ve said it many times in different ways to people. Will’s not reckless, just because he’s tough and physical, and fights through things, he’s not a reckless person. He’s very intelligent. There’s nothing that we would let him play with that we felt like could get worse – that’s not the case. There’s a difference between hurting and being injured, and we would never let him play injured. He’s hurting but if you ask 95% of our football team right now, they’re hurting and it’s a tough game. It doesn’t surprise me with Will. Yes, the mobility is unfortunate for himself and for us because we’ve seen what he’s done in the past with his mobility. But Will will continue to work extremely hard to get treatment and be as ready as he can be to help his team.”

On the chippiness on the sideline, if it shows how emotionally engaged the team was and if it’s something that will carry over…

“I will for sure talk to that about the team because if we didn’t have that mindset, if we weren’t prepared like that, we wouldn’t have won the game. Because there’s emotional swings, there’s ups, there’s downs, there’s going to be good and there’s going to be bad but our team was resilient and they were tough and I thought we were very unselfish. I think we learned. Again, I showed them, two years ago we were in that same situation and went up there and it was the opposite. And not that they (Missouri) weren’t ready to play because they were. They played very hard, I have a lot of respect for the way they played, how hard they played and how well they coach them to be that way, but we had to match that or exceed it and I was proud of our team’s effort because one of the things we talk about, you learn from those scars. You learn from the things you do wrong, your mistakes and we were ready for it.”

On getting touchdowns in the red zone at Missouri...

“It was important, we hit the explosive (touchdown pass to Barion Brown), unfortunately, we got the penalty and had to be called back but we continued to bang away. The protection was there, Will stood in the pocket, trusted it, hit Dane (Key) and Dane finished it off. That’s a great team play, because the protection was there, it was a good call. Will went to the right guy, it’s hard also when the quarterback is getting hit. As a defensive coach, there’s a term we use a lot is ‘affecting the quarterback.’ That doesn’t mean it’s always sacks. When you’re getting that kind of pressure and mixing things up it affects the play, can’t help but not. To Will’s credit, as he was coming off the field, we as a team weren’t doing our job. I would grab him from time to time and say, ‘Hey, hang in there we’re going to need you, we’re going to need you to be you,’ and make plays when we have to, and he certainly did that. That says a lot, too, it says a lot about his character and his mental toughness, trusting and believing that we were going to be able to do that.”

On striking a balance in recruiting players and transfer players...

“You have to. I think the culture of your team helps and matters. That’s each other, the players in locker room and how they treat each other. In this day and age, it is inevitable that we are going to have turnover and going to have guys that enter the transfer portal. There’s going to be guys that we hopefully add. It just happens, it’s part of this new world, sometimes it’s for the better and sometimes it’s not. As coaches, we open ourselves up, we just want to continue to help people grow. Sometimes it is absolutely essential, it’s the right thing for both places. It’s the right thing for a player and the right thing for the program. Other times there’s young men that you say, ‘Let me help continue to help develop you mentally, physically and give them the tough love that sometimes we all need.”

On how name-image-likeness plays a role in recruiting...

“NIL is a major factor, it is. I don’t think I need to expand on that anymore. It’s a player. It’s a major player.”

On if Kentucky is where it needs to be in the NIL world...

“I think any program would say they want more. The Yankees probably want more money (laughter). Everybody needs that. I’ll say this without getting too much into it. We’ve worked our way through that as an administration, as an institution, as a program, to find the balance, to make sure it’s right, make sure it’s clean, make sure it’s legal, fair, ethical, moral. We’ve worked through all of that. Our administration has helped us as a program and all of our student-athletes and coaches to get through some of that. And, yes, without making this (news conference) about that today, yes, we need support from the community, from the state, it is what it is. If we want to compete at the highest level, we’ve got to have money in the bank. That’s legal, there’s collectives and we have collectives in place that are supported, that are cleared from our administration (that) you’re allowed to put money into. So, donate.”

On being bowl-eligible and not becoming complacent ...

“That’s not an issue. Bowl eligibility, I want to say this very clear, we don’t ever take that for granted. It’s very hard, it’s very difficult. Once again, I don’t have to look at it now, I get that SEC information every week on Sunday sitting on my desk and take a look around (the league) and things are hard, things are tough. There are very good, proud programs that we’re all fighting and we don’t take that for granted. Things can take a tick up or a tick down very easily, very quickly nowadays, so we don’t take it for granted. Complacency or any of that won’t cross our minds. It’s about continuing to, as you mentioned earlier, with three games left in November, we still have to be relentless in our improvement. We’ve got to finish strong. That old saying ‘remember November’ is no joke. You want to remember how you finish.”

On the offensive line...

“It’s always a team effort, a group effort. There were some things in there that could be improved. There were some mistakes, whether it be technique, or strain or finishing, just doing their job. There was a couple where they were doing their job and trying to do a little bit extra and it exposed us. There’s time when the protection has been there but maybe Will doesn’t trust it because he has been hit. There’s plays and things that we could do better. We’re all in it together. We have to continue, just like I just mentioned over and over. We have got to get better this week and continue to have everyone doing their piece, doing their part. There were moments in there Saturday just enough to help us win the game. Sure, we need to be clean across the board. That comes from coaching, teaching and making sure we get the ball out of the right spot. Having the right play calls, when we are max protection, slide protection, do it, do your job, and trust that the person next to you is going to do theirs. There’s a lot of things that contribute to that.”

On injuries disrupting the continuity of the offensive line and playing time for other players…

“I’m not sure. We’ve got to continue to work at that and continue to get guys ready. Both Deondre (Buford) and Kiyaunta (Goodwin) were close to getting into the game Saturday and try to continue to get them where they need to be.”

On playing Kiyaunta Goodwin or redshirting him…

“We just felt like there would be a time when he would be ready to play. So, we want to continue to get him (ready). We were moments from putting him in there Saturday. You feel a guy like that is definitely going to be what you want him to be and if they are, they’re not going to be here for five years anyway.”

On trying to affect the opponent quarterback this week...

“It’s always important. I’m not sure what’s going on with AJ (VU quarterback AJ Swann), something happened to him it looks like physically Saturday, so we’re not sure if he’ll play or (Mike) Wright, but we have to be ready for either/or. Anytime I think it’s always important and you know that. Any defense, you want to affect them, whether it’s coverage, change-ups, pressure, disciplined rush lanes. I thought our guys played really hard Saturday. Brad (White) had a really good plan, defensive coaches. Even at times when we maybe lost contain or something, it affected him the way he had to move up, move out of the pocket and not be in rhythm and in timing.”



On Andru Phillips and Trevin Wallace getting their number called... “You just have to continue as we go through the year. You want to continue to develop and bring guys along and get them ready. That is an individual responsibility as well. Not just going through the motions, but making sure they are truly prepared when their number is called to be able to come in and not just play, but play effectively. I think that is kind of a big deal. A guy like Trevin is a really good example of that. I think he said it, and somebody pointed it out to me, that he said he was nervous and DeAndre really helped him and talked him through it. That tells me two things, number one, the leadership of DeAndre doesn’t surprise me and the unselfishness of DeAndre doesn’t surprise me, but what is also great to see is that nervousness comes from performing for his team. Not just being out there because I want to play, I want to start, but it’s I want to play and be effective. I say this a lot to the team, it is not about how you play. Yes, we take pride in our individual responsibility to perform, but more importantly how does the team play when you’re in the game.”



On the overall communication with the back seven in the defense ... “They were solid, not perfect, but solid, really good. Good structure, we had good position on the ball. As I mentioned, early in the game we got away from coming under one block, but we had guys rallying to it and they were a little off, a little slip and it helped us maybe. But other than that, the structure, the leverage was important because they will try to circle you. They will pin and pull and get different blocking schemes to get on the perimeter and that is part of their game. They do it well. They block well on the perimeter and they try to get on the edges. Offensively, you are going to attack the perimeter and you are going to attack inside (with) zone schemes, gap schemes, but also on the perimeter and our structure was really solid and our guys were flying around and putting good hat placement. Early, we missed one, but luckily we got away with it and guys were running hard to the ball. Later, you saw that even when we were up, just had really good position. You are not going to miss many tackles when you have a lot of guys in good position on the ball.”



On Trevin Wallace making the tackle on the very first play... “Without a doubt, you are just kind of in the moment, ready for the next play, but I thought the first and second play kind of set the tone for guys. I felt again, we really pushed hard. I said it in here, if I am not mistaken last Monday, but it had to be team-led and player-led. I could get up there and say whatever motivation and I do and I try, but ultimately it has to come from within. I felt like they were certainly ready.”


On if you will consider other options at kicker... “Matt (Ruffolo) is the starting kicker right now. I think it is fair to say we constantly are working other guys and getting them ready. I don’t know why I use golf a lot as an analogy with kickers, but you know they have it in them and I have trust in him. That second one, that was from 47 yards, it came up a yard or two short and really a big gust hit it. He had to hit it high. That’s a combination of things. Like I talk about quarterback play or sacks, it’s not just all O-linemen, there are tight ends, backs, quarterbacks, everybody is in it. It is kind of the same with kicking. He was afraid to drive it because we have been giving up a little bit of penetration, but the protection this week was really good. We put Justin Rogers in, put him in to the right side and Kiyaunta (Goodwin) to the left and Kiyonta felt much more sturdy on the left, probably his right foot is anchoring (him) and he was really good. Justin came in and helped us, so the protection was good. I think the first miss, his operation was so fast. We have worked on getting the operation faster, it was just a fraction too fast. The second one, he probably tried to get it up but it got up into that wind. He could have made that, he was confident, he told me point blank, and he wouldn’t do that. He’s going to be honest. He knows me well enough. He would tell me, he told me point blank, ‘I can go this way 50, no problem.’ You hit a gust, you hit a gust, and he hit it a little high. I can’t blame him for that. I thought it was a good kick. I think he was worried about getting the ball up and not get it blocked because in other games we were getting some leakage. You put all that together and those are all things you constantly work at and get better. We need to continue to work the op time, continue to work the snaps. Again, I defend some of the special teams because there is some stuff we do really well. We had two (punts downed) inside the 10. We were plus 51 (on “hidden yardage”). Our kickoff return team, nobody’s kicking us the ball, that is pretty dangerous. That is a high degree of respect in the SEC when they are not kicking you the ball. You don’t see that very often, certainly from the No. 1 team in the country two weeks ago and this team. We are doing some really good things. Is it OK to snap the ball over someone’s head when the game is on the line, I think we all know that answer is no (laughter). Again, to Clay’s (Perry) defense, I think every one of his snaps this year and I want to say six games last year when Cade (Degraw) got hurt, have been perfect. That is not the same thing. Cade’s been good, he had one field goal (bad snap). So it is not OK, I want to be 100 percent, certainly when the game is on the line. But to lump it all together, is not right. That is where we have to look at those things. I am not making an excuse for that. It is not good football. That is not something I want to look at. That is not good and not clean. I am the head football coach and they are snapping the ball over our head with the game on the line, that’s not good. Again, I am not going to bring him in my office and break his arm (laughter).”



On the communication from the pressbox to the players ... “I think it is important and that is where, as I mentioned after the game as I was talking and was like, ‘You can talk to Rich (Scangarello),’ because he was right about to take the place before he and I ever talked. After the game, doing our thing, I was talking to the team, coming down to talk to y’all, but I think for him, and I told you from my experience as a coordinator, there are things you love about being up there and there are certain things you love about being down, because you want to look guys in the eyes and talk to them and talk them through things. So, there is good and bad with that. For him to be up and see the game, if that helps him, and again up there you can write things down, you can have it at your fingertips, to have things or plays you want to come back to. You also can see the big picture. You can see exactly what went wrong and communicate it down and then you have to trust and make sure the people down below are getting it and talking to (the players). We can put the headsets on Will and guys like that and have him talk to them from up there. I think it will help us. When you have a quarterback as mature as Will and he can listen to those things and he can understand and process them. I think it is the right thing for right now.”



On what you see in C.J. Conrad as a staff member... “C.J. is just a solid guy, very smart and very bright, has a very clear head on his shoulders and can communicate those things. Anytime Rich is saying to C.J., ‘Make sure and have him look here or look there,’ or we are coming out of a TV timeout, ‘Here’s the play, here is option one and here is the first read and here’s the second read.’ C.J. communicates that with him and it helps. We have restrictions on how many guys are allowed to have headsets on. So, we have some really talented guys that are allowed to do things in the office that are really good. But they are not allowed to communicate during the games as far as back-and-forth with the headsets.”



On if you had ever encountered a ruling related to being in or outside of the tackle box... “It doesn’t catch you by surprise, you know that because you know that rule. Here is what I think he (Missouri Coach Eliah Drinkwitz) was referring to and he knows this and understands that too, when you have rugby with Max (Duffy) last year and other Aussies. If you are rolling, you are not protected. That is clear. So, in our rules, it protects American punters, so to speak. If you are rolling, because you can run it, you see it all the time on rugby guys, if they are not attacking you and they feel that, they can pull down and run. They are not protected, you can tackle them or you can rough them, because you don’t know if they are a runner or a kicker. We were fortunate that it went directly back. I will be the first to admit that. And Colin made one heck of a play. But he was clearly in the tackle box and we were fortunate. If he is in the tackle box, he’s protected. If he rolls out like the Aussie punters, you are not protected. You could say the same thing about a quarterback if the ball is snapped over his head and they intentionally ground it. Twenty-five yards back, you cannot intentionally ground it, unless it gets across the line of scrimmage and you’re outside the tackle box. Same thing, again, weird play. I will be the first one to admit that Colin made a heads-up play and we were fortunate to get it off. If he just nips it a little bit, the punter is not protected either.”



On if you have a Veterans Day message... “Always appreciate you and the veterans, can’t thank you enough. I mean that. I am close to a lot of them, most selfless people in the world. So, thank you.”

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