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Stoops: Missouri will be 'real challenge' for UK

UK head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to discuss the victory over Eastern Michigan and to look ahead to a Saturday game against Missouri. (UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKRC) - UK head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to discuss the victory over Eastern Michigan and to look ahead to a Saturday game against Missouri.

Opening statement...

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the folks in Las Vegas with that terrible tragedy.

“After watching the film, I really thought we did some good things defensively and special teams. Offensively, we’ve got some work to do, but we’ll get back at it this week.”

On Charles Walker and Jordan Jones injury updates…

“Charles is banged up, we’ll have to see. He’s sore today. I have no update on Jordan.”

On number one focus for offense this week…

“Protection and playing physical. We’re not physical in the run game and protection was an issue. Stephen (Johnson) threw the ball well when he had time. I thought the receivers made some good catches at times. There were other times when we needed to be sharper, more crisp, in our route running and getting open for Stephen.”

On playing to the perceived level of competition….

“Any coach worries about how you play every week. I don’t mean to come off condescending with that but that’s a narrative that folks want to write about because we’re not always going to play our best football no matter whom it is. You have to find ways to win. As a coach I never want to believe that we play down to the competition, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say all last week I wasn’t addressing playing at a high level coming off of the emotional loss. I think we all know that comes with the territory. We tried to offset that Monday of last week, but the fact of the matter is that our players were crushed by that (Florida) loss and it was a tough one to shake but you have to. Win or lose you have to get back to work on Monday and get prepared for the next opponent. I think we’d be lying if we didn’t say that sometimes that is easier said than done. I’m glad we got the victory. I thought after the game that it was a struggle, it was a hard fought game, but after watching the film I really was pleased. We did some very good thing defensively and in special teams. Offensively, we’ll get some things fixed. We have to step up and get back to playing the way that we’re capable of and it starts with having a physical mentality.”

On being physical running the ball…

“We show signs of it at times. Even in this past game we had options where Stephen had the opportunity to hand the ball off or throw the bubble and you saw we made some yards with the bubble. But there were also some plays that were going to be good run plays as well. So, it wasn’t all bad but certainly we need to play better and we need to have that attitude that we talked about and that physical mentality and we have to find the right mix with the offensive line. With Drake (Jackson) playing significant snaps that gave us eight men in the rotation. I hope to use all eight this week and I think we need to get those guys healthy and we need to have a great week of practice. I just think that at this point in the season a lot of people are banged up, they’re not feeling good and those guys were banged up a little bit. We just have to push through it and have a great week this week.”

On Eli Brown…

“Eli has done some really good things. He’s another guy that’s getting banged up now which is something we talk about a lot with Eli, which is why he needs to eat right and lift in the offseason and get more physical because he shows flashes that he’s very athletic but he was playing quite a few snaps, he’s getting banged up quite a bit, but he is doing some good things.”

On Drake Jackson…

“He started off slow during the first play. But after that he settled in and really did some good things. He was consistent and he was effective for the rest of the game.”

On Drake playing with nerves…

“I think it just happens faster than practice. You get in that first game and he was prepared for that exact run game and it hit him a little quicker than he realizes.”

On Drake’s strengths…

“It starts with his attitude. He has a great attitude and a great work ethic. He’s very conscientious, he wants to win for this team, and he wants the team to do well. Individual success, sure; but it’s more because he wants the team to be productive when he’s in the game and I think that’s always a great start. He’s been consistent with his snaps and he’s assignment sharp for a young guy and he has good leverage. With his height and his weight as he gets stronger he’ll be more prepared for some of the big body things. Technique is such a big deal at offensive line and in particular at center.”

On Josh Allen and if he is at the level of Bud Dupree when he finished at UK…

“I don’t know. It’s hard for me to make that comparison right now. Bud was a bad dude. (laughter) Josh is a bad dude sometimes. (laughter) I’m teasing. Josh has played really good. I’ll tell you about Josh, the nice thing is that he is so versatile. You guys have heard me say that a bunch. He’s been so good in space as well as just rushing the passer. In that regard I really feel like Josh has the ability to take it to another level even because Josh has been very good in space and understanding the game. I think he’s really taken it to another level. He’s been very conscientious, working extremely hard to be very detailed in all aspects of his game. Pass rushing; you know he can do that. He loves doing that, he and Denzil. You guys have heard me talk about that a hundred times but for big guys like that to play in space is the big key. The instincts to play in space and he’s done that very well.”

On Allen’s first step …

“Getting off on the football in predictable pass situations is always that first thing because it’s getting the offensive lineman uncomfortable. He’s definitely very quick off the ball. He’s also been smart and Coach House and Dean have done a nice job of moving him around as well. So he’s played some position where offensive line can’t get real comfortable in what he’s doing.”

On what Josh Paschal’s primary responsibilities are…

“He’s done a lot of things. He’s done a lot. The long and short of it is he’s played defensive end, he’s played Sam and Jack linebacker, outside backer, he’s played an interior defensive line at times too as three technique. That’s the versatility that’s honestly very rare.”

On if he’s leaning towards redshirting freshman OL Naasir Watkins…

“Yes. I am not making any decision right now. We did consider it again last week, playing him. We have a lot of reps invested in some of these other guys. We’ll see with seven (games) left, we’ll see what happens.”

On Lynn Bowden and if he will use him more even though he is young…

“Yes and no. I think it’s always fair as you’re a freshman, learning everything all the nuances of the all plays is a lot. We have our base plays and then there are always adjustments every week, so you can imagine there is a whole lot of offense at this point. The nice thing is Lynn is very instinctual and he’s smart, so he picks things up. As you hear me say, as we get moving and get a lot of plays, some of these games are very difficult. We had a lot more three and outs this past week on offense then we’d like. As you get more play and get moving the ball, there are more opportunities there. We trust him. He played 20 snaps this past week just on offense alone and I look for that to increase, to 30 to 40 more. As he’s playing more and understanding more, more touches will happen. We did have some things we would like to get to him, and as the season goes on you’ll see that.”

On Bowden and if he’s seeing more from him in practice…

“Yeah, definitely. He’s just a guy that you can see. You see those guys that there’s just something about them when he gets the ball it seems effortless. He has great balance and he is running fast. It’s just all the nuances. He’s also very new to the position, he’s not used to playing wide receiver. We all know he’s good with the ball in his hands but he’s learning things and blocking. I love his attitude. He wants to do well. He is one of those guys that want to block hard and be efficient whether he is getting the ball or not. There are some technique things he will get better and better at.”

On difficulty of balancing playing time for the four freshman wide receivers vs. Eastern Michigan…

“We felt like we wanted to play fast and some of those guys give us a little bit of juice and can get open. I thought Isaiah (Epps) he drew the pass inference. He was getting open there. We had one other opportunity for him where he needs to do better, he slipped up. Had a big play waiting to happen so experience is a factor for those guys.”

On biggest concerns against Missouri…

“The number one thing you are always concerned about when you play them is their offense and the tempo at which they play. Their quarterback (Drew) Lock is as good as there is. Seems like we have been seeing a slew of good quarterbacks lately and he’s another one that can make all the throws. And I think they have great speed at wide receiver. They have a young talented back, a sophomore back (Damarea Crockett). Well, both of their backs are very, very good and they are capable of breaking out at any time. It will be a real challenge for us this week and we have a lot of respect for Barry (Odom) and what he does. I know the season got off tough for them, I can relate to that. I’m sure they had their bye week and had a chance to hit the reset button and want to start their second part of their season much different. I anticipate them coming out and playing extremely fast and backs against the wall. I know they’ll play well.”

On if it is a factor that Missouri is more rested coming off a bye week…

“It can’t be.”

On playing five games if it takes a toll on team or shows you confidence that they can overcome it…

“It does but you drive your car until its empty and then you refill it, right? So that is what we are going to do. We are going to run it empty this week and then we will refuel.”

On if the plan is to redshirt freshman RB Bryant Koback…

“Yes, the plays haven’t presented (to play him). It is not worth it at this point because we do feel like we have some good backs and we are staying relatively healthy there.”

On being 4-1 and what remains out there for the team this season…

“You must be new in here (laughter). You can’t say anything like that. Don’t you dare say anything positive. Don’t let these guys corrupt you. No it is always one week, you know it really is. You hear me say it often but it is the truth. There is no getting around it. The highs in this business are very high and the lows are very low. And somehow you have to get back to par on Monday. So you know I think we are in a good spot this week. I think we are in a good spot to lay it on the line this week. To have a really good week of preparation and to run the tank dry this weekend. Play exceptionally hard and practice exceptionally hard, then hit the reset button in the middle of the season. We won’t look any further than that.”

On Benny Snell’s performance this season…

“He is doing good. Benny had some really tough runs, the touchdown run the other night. You know he is still Benny. There are still things he can do better. He and Sihiem (King) both missed a protection so you know it’s always obvious sometimes with o-line when they get beat but there were two of them where it was on the running backs. There are times where we need to be more patient but you know there was some frustration that set in. I’m not just saying with Benny but just with the team that we have to address and work around and get better because you can’t ever panic. Our guys know and have the confidence to know that we just got to get back on the sidelines, get some things corrected and move forward both offensively, defensively and special teams. There are some times when guys want things to happen so quickly and when they don’t they get frustrated. That can’t happen so we got to address some of those things.”

On if previous statement was about the last game…

“I saw it in this last game quite a bit and I think our players they felt it on Saturday. They wanted to do better, some things were happening. Sometimes I address that early in the year because early in the year that always pops up. You know maybe after a tough loss or a team that everybody perceives that we should be doing a lot better and the players they get frustrated at times.”

On if players lost their focus on the sidelines…

“It is whether it is panicking or frustration or seeing too much as we talked about before. Just zeroing in on your job and doing it the best you can so those are things we have to address and fix.”

On how changes in communication went vs. Eastern Michigan…

“Smooth. I mean, it’s never perfect and there’s never an excuse for that. Covering all the receivers is expected. Substitution and things, watch football. It’s not always perfect. That’s where you might take offense to people, organization, there’s a lot of things that go into it. Watch games. Again, I point out that those pro quarterbacks get 12 guys on the field every play, every game, at least once a game so there’s substitution things that, match ups, that you have to work through that gets difficult. It was good this past week. Not perfect, I wouldn’t say. There were times when we wanted to get a different grouping in, but we didn’t so we didn’t have those issues. This week will be a real problem because you know there’s no time to substitute. There’s no time. You try to put a guy on the field and they’re going to snap it and you’re going to have 12 on the field. We have to be very, very disciplined this week.”

On DT Phil Hoskins play last week …

“Phil, we think, we feel very good about. We feel he’s going to be a very good player. He’s coming off some surgeries, so his strength (is still developing). But we feel like he’s got the size, and he’s very twitchy. He’s very fast. He’s athletic for a big guy, and once he gets a whole season we’ve got two years left with him, so we’ll get some strength on him and he’s exactly what we’re looking for.”

On DB Kendall Randolph …

“I thought he’s been very versatile, very good. Made a great play on the football the other night. He’s a guy that’s been around. We feel like there’s great value in guys like that. Whether you use them at dime, nickel, safety, corner, even before, he can do a lot of things. He’s another one that got a little impatient and frustrated. We had two penalties this past week that we can’t have, and he had one of them. Bunchy had the other. Those are some frustration things we’ve got to get fixed. But overall he’s played really solid this year.”

On Stephen Johnson getting hit hard the past few weeks …

“He is. He’s been hit a bunch. He’s banged up a little bit, and he’s got to limit some reps today. But we expect, Stephen being Stephen, that he’ll be back out there I’m sure tomorrow full go.”

On C.J. Conrad playing time …

“You know, I don’t have his rep count in front of me. I’m not sure. I want to say he played in the 30s. 30 something snaps. Between 30 and 40. He’s been banged up. It was good to see Greg (Hart) have a nice catch. We had C.J. open in the corner. Kid made a nice play. We had a couple targets for him. We had a target on 3rd and medium that we probably, it’s one of the throws that Stephen, if he had a do-over would go back. He had C.J. open down the field for incomplete, 3rd and medium.”

On the offense working to develop and still being 4-1 …

“Well, it’s very good. It’s good for the program. I felt the same way probably you all felt, and a lot of fans after that game. You come in here and you’re frustrated and my offense is what everybody looks at, but there’s three phases last time I checked. I thought, again, after watching the film that we played very good on defense and very good on special teams. Offensively, we’ll get it fixed, but you’re right there’s no panic button. You just look at the things and get them fixed and move on. Some are easy and some are difficult. There’s going to be games when we’re going to have to outscore people. Heck, just look at the week before (Florida game). It should have been enough (points) and defensively we didn’t get the stops, so we’re in this together. We know that in that building we’re all in this together. It’s a team effort. If anything, one side just feels for the other. It’s not any type of finger pointing. There’s new opportunities every week, and like I said a couple weeks ago you have every seven days to get humbled in this business.”

On how important special teams has been with the team this season …

“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I think Coach (Dean) Hood has done an unbelievable job. He’s got a great demeanor. The players really respond well to him, and I think it’s a sign of your team being unselfish. Those guys work hard. Like I said, extra meeting times, extra practice, they do a lot. They take great pride in what they do. Guys knowing their role. There’s certain guys like (Charles) Moushey that just is on special teams, and it’s such an impact. Our team sees it all the time. I think fans and media; you pay attention to it when it stands out one way or the other. Fortunately, we’ve been on the right end of that most of this year. Certainly this past week with the blocked punt, we haven’t had one of those in a long time. That’s a big time impact play there. Those are game changers, so I appreciate what Coach Hood’s done and all the players. We’re working hard at it. Whatever it takes.”

On Charles Moushey …

“He brings great speed. He’s got great speed. He’s strong. He’s getting better each and every year. He’s done some good things on offense as wel. He’s brought a great passion to do, a great desire to do, to make plays on special teams. He brings great speed.”

On it being a great respect to have two guys being assigned to Charles Moushey during the game Saturday …

“That’s what I told him. That’s exactly what I said to him Saturday because he was all frustrated because they ambushed him and he was getting all frustrated. I said, ‘now you know it’s coming. Keep your cool. That is a sign of respect. They’re going to put two guys. They’re not going to let you make every play.’ We got some things corrected and he beat it the next time. He’s done well.”

Information courtesy UK Athletics

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