Mark Stoops sat in to recap the Tennessee loss and the third straight for the Kentucky Wildcats. In routine fashion, he was not happy and he expressed his frustrations as of late.
MARK STOOPS: "It is very disappointing to come up on the wrong side of that game. What a great night, great atmosphere, great football game. Very disappointed that our coaches and I couldn't find a few more plays to pull off the victory. I am very proud of our team for their commitment to getting better. The past couple of weeks, you know, during my sessions with you guys I've talked about the team preparing and having a focus about them and work ethic about them and growing and getting better. I thought that showed up tonight. You know, that doesn't mean that we're happy with that. I'm happy with the growth, but very disappointed with the outcome. But I'm proud of our football team for their approach and the way they are working and the commitment that we gave for the past couple of weeks. As a staff, we have got to look at everything and find a way to make those plays. It is a game of inches. This is a game that was separated by several plays, not always the obvious ones that jump out at you, but there are plays in there that we had and could have made that could have changed the outcome. So, you know, we accept that. I am not playing the would have, could have, should have game. It is the truth. It is two very good football teams going at it out there and playing very hard. You know, we have to go back to work and find a way to make critical plays in critical moments."
Q: Walk us through your thought process on the two fourth downs. MARK STOOPS: "The going for it early, very -- yeah, that -- I don't -- yeah, I mean, you know, if I pressed early, do you know what I mean, the first one, you know, we had two fourth and one's, you know fourth and a yard or a half yard right at the start of the game there and punted it away. They scored quickly. You know, probably got impatient and went for it with the second one. That's on me. So that was it. And then the other one, John, you saw the other. I mean, we kicked the same distance. It is right on his limit. I wouldn't guarantee. You know, if I knew he was going to make it, I would kick it. But we had the same distance, and it wasn't close. Those are not give-me's, you know, when they are over 50. With them, you need to score points, you know. So, I don't -- I don't regret the ones down in the high red. I regret the early one, pressing a little bit."
Q: To see the passing game finally take off, how encouraging is that? MARK STOOPS: "It is very encouraging because they worked hard and you are starting to see some growth, and that I'm happy with. And, you know, we have just got to continue to work hard. I mean, this is a difficult league, in case you didn't know. And our guys understand that, and they need to continue to have the same approach. And we will get better."
Q: We talked Thursday about how tough it is to stop the running game. It didn't seem that you could get a handle on that all night. MARK STOOPS: "No. It was -- yeah, it was frustrating. The tempo at which they go gets some of the guys, their eyes a little dirty, you know. And credit them, you know, they have a very good scheme. The tempo adds to the vision of your players with the fits. And if you are not very precise, they will make you pay. And it is just like early, with the one that split us, we were in a pressure and our guy thought he came as tight as he needed to, but things move fast and differently. And we didn't have a good handle on it, John, all night. And I think -- you know..."
Q: Mark, in the past you have equated tackling to being out of position. It seemed like you over-ran guys and missed tackling today. How would you account for that? MARK STOOPS: "Well, I think that is probably fair to say. And you've heard us talk about it all week why? This team puts you in a space that not everybody does. So, therefore, you are going to see some of that; you know, and we talked all week about having to win some one-on-one’s and we won some and lost some. And you are in much more space with a team like this, and their backs are elite. And, you know, so I think that is some of it. No excuse. It is just to credit them. And they are good players and they put you in some precarious positions to make plays; they stress you."
Q: Mark, offensively it felt like every big play was followed quickly on the line of scrimmage. Did that let Devon get a little bit into a rhythm? MARK STOOPS: "We are trying, trying to get faster and get to the line and, you know, create some tempo ourselves and get him comfortable. Yeah, hopefully, it helped him."
Q: Mark, the last few weeks it seemed like after a penalty or two in follow-up you keep fumbling there. You got two false starts on the second drive. How do you feel like they responded to that? MARK STOOPS: "We overcame that one, if I am not mistaken, we scored a touchdown or at least three. I think we overcame that and scored. But you don't want to do that all day, and I don't think we did. Our stat sheet, we have a problem with it. It is a lot better. It is an improvement. So, you know, we talked about that, you know, one of our points of emphasis was playing much smarter, you know, and foolish penalties, and, you know, we didn't have any of those, I don't think, no."
Q: Did you get an explanation on what they saw on the review right before the half? MARK STOOPS: "No."
Q: Did you feel like your team, the kind of point assists you put over the last few weeks, they picked up on a lot of that? MARK STOOPS: "I do. I definitely do. I think, you know, for us we talked a lot about, you know, being very dedicated to focusing, do you know what I mean, and being very focused and execute and work on the details. And I know we talk about those things all the time and coach speak, but it is true. We just need to block out all the noise and, you know, really focus on your job. And I felt like the players did that. And I always -- I also wanted them to be much more selfless, do you know what I mean, you know, and just play more united. And I felt like we were that way, you know, we were pulling for each other. And a tough game. And I think the team responded offensively. When we fell behind, they picked it up and scored. And the defense had a couple of big stops. We didn't get some at critical moments, I know. But it felt like we grew in that area. And then we talked about playing smarter as well as the third point of emphasis and we are better in that area."
Q: Did Kenneth re-acclimate an injury? I think he was a starter. MARK STOOPS: "Yeah. No, it was not the same injury. It is something else."
Q: Mark, I pretty much know what you are going to say to this, but I will ask it anyway. You lost three in a row. Where do you go from here? MARK STOOPS: "Go back to work. You know, you think -- are you going to feel bad for me? "Ha! Ha!" I appreciate that. I don't need it. I don't need any motivation to get back to work tomorrow and neither does our team and our staff. It hurts because we invest a lot, our players invest a lot, and our fans invest a lot. And so, it hurts. And very disappointed. But not discouraged one bit."
Q: Mark, follow-up to that, I think you talked about finding leaders on this team. Do you see some guys do that? MARK STOOPS: "Yeah, definitely. You know, just, you know, I think the whole group was resilient and showed some resolve. And we talked a little bit about that as well. And, you know, that's what I want us to look like, with that. I mean, I would like us to make enough plays and be more detailed, and us as coaches find those few plays that can make a difference in a game like that. But I'm proud of the team."
Q: Mark, Dane Key, and Devon, what exactly, specifically with their relationship? MARK STOOPS: "Well, you can ask Dane that and Devon. I'm sure they will give you honest answers. For me it is a perfect example of a young man we talked about earlier, maybe he was in a tough -- he was in a tough spot, you know, he was kind of frustrated and he just went to work, bottom-line. He will tell you, and I've told him, and we talked about it the past couple of weeks. He went to work. Instead of putting his head down and pouting and feeling like somebody would feel sorry for him, he went to work, and I appreciate that. I think I said that after the Georgia game, in which there were not many positives, but somebody asked me if there were any positives and I noticed that his work from the practice field carried over to the game field."
Q: Coach, does even the loss get (inaudible) and the game going and how do you deal with that? MARK STOOPS: "Yeah, I think, you know, those guys, they are true sophomores and have high expectations coming into it and we are in a rough league, you know, and growth. You see growth and maturity, you see them fighting, making plays in games like that, and that is what we need out of both of them."
Q: Mark, what do you say to Alex Rainier? Going into this game he had not missed a nonblocked field goal. It was a tough one, 50 yards out. Do you have to say much to him? MARK STOOPS: "I don't have to say much to him. We have a lot of confidence. It was tough. I believe it may have been one yard further. But he can hit those. But he probably tried to over hit it. And it was not a great snap, if I recall, it was a little high, so the timing may be a little off. But we will be okay. He will be solid."