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Stoops on UK loss to Florida: 'It was a long 24 hours for myself, that’s for sure'

UK head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to discuss Saturday's loss to Florida and to look ahead to a home game against Eastern Michigan. (UK Athletics)

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

Opening Statement

“As I said after the game, a very, very disappointing loss (to Florida). It’s heartbreaking to our team, our fans, a lot of people. It hurts because our team has invested so much and worked extremely hard to get into position to win that game. To play quality football and to come up short hurts a lot of people, but I’m very proud of this team. They’re very resilient. They’re very tough. And we’re really playing the game the right way and it starts with our preparation and our mindset and I’m proud of the team in that way. It’s been like that all year and all offseason. It takes an awful lot of work by those players to put themselves into position to play the way they do.

“There are things we can all do better, starting with myself, that hurt that we have to accept responsibility for and we have to do better. That starts with me. If our team continues to play with that kind of edge and attitude and work and prepare the way they do and continue to get better then good things are in store for us as we move through the season.

“We’ll be excited to get back on the field, put that game behind us and begin our preparations because we really don’t have time to sit and dwell on it. It was a long 24 hours for myself, that’s for sure, very difficult for sure. But today is a new day, a new week and a new opportunity so it’s exciting to get back to work.”

On being up 10 points and whether the offense went into clock-chewing mode too soon…

“I don’t really ever second guess that with Coach Gran and our offensive staff. They have a good feel for that. It’s difficult because you can always second guess yourself after the fact. We all do. I do more than anyone. There are always situations I would surely like to do over so believe me, we beat ourselves up quite a bit but I have great trust in what Coach Gran and Coach Hinshaw do offensively. It’s a tough call because earlier (in the game) we took points off the board because we threw it three straight times and we couldn’t block them. We took three points off the board because we went incomplete, sack, sack (and missed a longer field goal attempt). It’s hard to second guess. We’re not always going to be perfect.”

On the procedure of communication and how breakdowns happened on two uncovered receivers…

“It can’t happen. There is no excuse for it. That starts with me. The ball can’t be snapped unless we have leverage on both sides of the ball. That’s on me. I can’t believe it happened, but it did and I take responsibility for that. That cannot happen. We have plenty of people who can watch (the field) and look for things and it shouldn’t happen. With the second one on the goal line there were a lot of things going on. It was very loud down there. We can’t try to sub at that point. We tried to switch personnel and the two corners got confused on who was coming out and who wasn’t. That can’t happen and it’s on me. I’m ultimately responsible for all that. That’s the way it goes.”

On whether he beats himself up more now that Kentucky is a veteran team with better personnel than in the past…

“Sometimes on Sunday you beat yourself up either way, but yes, it’s extremely difficult because we worked extremely hard to go out and play like that. To have any play that hurts you from winning, it hurts you personally. That’s the deal with the head coach. It’s ultimately under your control and anything you do to take away from winning hurts you a great deal. I said that last week, I haven’t been here 30 years (for the losing streak to Florida) but I feel the passion of the (fans) and we have to be able to shoulder that. That’s just the way it is. These kids don’t, they’re just here trying to compete for the Big Blue Nation and fight their hearts out and they’ve done. We try to put them in the best situation to be successful.”

On whether they use any fail-safes to avoid those issues…

“I do, yes. That is in place and it’s on me. We have to have see somebody specifically looking (for that). I’ve been coaching a long time, what 30 years? Defensive backs have been my primary responsibility and it’s never happened to me before here. It’s inexcusable. In 30 years it’s happened to me three times and three times here, so it’s on me. That should never happen again. I’ll have two people watching and if we’re not in position somebody better be hitting me over the head. I try to manage the game the best I can and that can’t happen. It’s a shame because the players on the team played exceptionally good football for a large portion of that game. That’s the good news. That’s how far this team has come.”

On turning the page from Florida loss to this week’s game…

“Much like we do each and every week, just get right back at it. We can’t enjoy the wins too long and you can’t dwell on the losses. Take a good look around the country, 50 percent of us lose every week. And take a good look at the SEC, a lot of those guys are good friends of mine. And believe me, it’s brutal. We’re not alone. It is what it is and I accept that and I embrace it and I enjoy it. I can’t wait to get back to work today and I’m sure the team is going to be the same way.”

On the maturity of the team to make sure the team turns the page…

“I think it’s a big piece of it, I really do. That’s just the mentality of this group. This team believes it. I just read something this morning about communication. What you say is about seven percent they believe, your body language is a big piece of it, and your belief, whether you believe it or not, is a big piece of it. What you say means very little, but the way you carry yourself and how you go about your business and what they believe is all of it.”

On the players who have stepped up after this loss…

“Quite a few, that’s the great thing, quite a few. Quite a few guys really stepped up. It was good to see growth in so many ways. I tried to offset that last Monday about the atmosphere and focusing and seeing what we need to see, and not looking at the big picture. There’s many things we can learn from that environment where we need to execute better. The next time we are in that situation we need to play better in certain situations, all of us. We are constantly striving to improve in that area but I also saw great leadership because I saw frustration and guys wanted it so bad that there is frustration in there. Then I saw the guys regroup and become player-led. The leadership comes from the players. That is great to see. That is growth. None of us are perfect. You know the guys you would normally think. Courtney (Love) is a guy that automatically stands out. I think all of the guys, Nick (Haynes) is always a great leader, Stephen (Johnson). But, you know the nice thing is you are seeing more and more of them. It’s their team, but we constantly have to teach them to be player led.”

On the shotgun snaps and how to fix them…

“We will continue to work all options. Obviously we know we can’t have that. As I said after the game (Bunchy Stallings) was very hot, he was very sweaty. There’s times I think when his grip is an issue, we have to continue to look at all options. We will look at Drake (Jackson) a little bit this week to and see if we can move Bunchy to guard a little bit. We have to continue to tweak that to try to be as perfect as we can be.”

On an update on playing status Derrick Baity and Jordan Jones…

“There’s no update at this point.”

On Sihiem King and if the staff wants him to be a bigger part of the game…

“We do. We said that, we wanted to. Even in the South Carolina game we had situations where we wanted to get him in the game more. The way it unfolded on a couple series, the way we were backed up going in it didn’t go that way. But, you see what he can do. We talked about it all camp. I was really happy for him to get in there and get some opportunities and do well. That’s a great lesson for some of our other players. These guys work hard and frustration sets in because they want the ball, they want to play. He is a guy that has earned our trust the way he’s gone about his business this past camp and year. When he went in there he produced. If you want to play make us play you and if he does things like that then we have to get him in there. So that’s a good thing.”

On conversation in locker room about eagerness to get back to practice…

“Today is a new day. We will be in there and I have no doubt that the guys will respond. But no, I haven’t seen them since I left that locker room the other day. And that was a locker room that was filled with disappointment. Those guys left it on the field, that’s for sure.”

On having confidence that the players will be ready to practice…

“I’m sure there will be disappointment when they walk in the door today. But that’s why we watch the film and we’ll get back on the practice field and we’ll kick the dust off us and when we walk out today we will be focused and ready to go. The coaches already had an opportunity to do that because we had to come in on Sunday and get to work. You don’t have much time to sit around and pout, that’s over. The players will feel better once they leave today and they see the game.”

What impresses him about Eastern Michigan…

“Very well coached. Very sound. Just a very good football team. They have had some impressive games this year. You know, winning on the road at Rutgers is a big win and I thought, you know, I really know and watch Ohio and the fact that they took them in such a close game and really had some great opportunities to win that game. That's impressive. We all saw what Ohio did against Kansas. So, these are good, sound, tough football teams and I like the way they play. They are just very sound. They know what they're doing and they know what they do. They do it well. They don't try to be too cute on either side of the ball. They just play good, sound fundamental football and their players play really hard. ”

On emphasis on third downs…

“It is always an emphasis. It is always a big point of whether you win or lose games. It is how you win in critical situations and we need to get back on the right track of that.”

On Charles Walker…

“He's always been important and he is just such a good football player and he is reliable. He makes big plays and it doesn't surprise me with him.”

On Wildcat formation plays…

“There are always some things that you can pull away with that, and that is always the nice thing. Again, it doesn't, it is just formations and most of the plays are plays we run in some form or fashion. But, it's a lot to a defense when you start looking at different sets and different formations and different personnel groupings and what you are doing with it. So, there is still some things we could get going. But, when you play in games like that, even just in the last two alone, those are tough, hard fought yards and they are very difficult. So, you know, the wide-open space is hard to come by in these games. So, if we can get lose and get going, there is some creativity there that we just have to get rolling. But, those are tough yards against Florida. ”

On team communication and crowd involvement …

"On defense, we talked about all last week and we need to continue to get better at it. We are going to practice with some serious crowd noise defensively to help us, make us communicate better with hand signals and not just the two plays that everybody thinks... that is not communication. That was just a mistake, that again, I take. You know what I mean, that can't happen. But those are not communication. The errors in communication are on our fourths and when they're getting yards and when we were doing things that were wrong in our rotation. Knowing if it is out of bounds or knowing when safeties are coming down. Those are communication issues that are happening on the field that come. You may or may not understand what is going on there. Everybody knows when a guy is not covered. So, that is totally different. But, it is very hard when it is that loud. I mean, it is total chaos out there for those players. They are changing personnel. They are changing. They're shifting. They're motioning, creating new sets. There is a lot for these players to be dialed into and sometimes we were very good at it and sometimes we weren't. It is an urgency to communicate. So, we will continue to get better in certain areas. ”

On 50th anniversary of Kentucky breaking the color barrier…

“Just honored to be a part of it, to be a small piece of it, and to have Nate (Northington) back and to recognize Nate and the other three gentlemen and that is wonderful for the University of Kentucky. I am proud just to be a small part of it. Our players love seeing them and having them around and being a part of our program. We are proud of Nate and everybody that has been a part of this in recognizing them. It is a big year with the 50th anniversary and he will be at the SEC championship game and here this week. So, we're proud of him."

On the statue being by the practice facility…

“It is wonderful for us to embrace that piece of it in recognition of them and the positive recognition that we should be talking about. It is tough times right now and it is nice for us to be able to recognize them in discuss that. "

On the speed of Charles Moushey on special teams…

“We realized it for a while because he was super-fast. He’s taking great pride in it and that is a great thing and something we constantly talk about. Not seeing too much, doing your job. He embraces that. He embraces his role on the team and he’s a difference maker. He’s had a great impact and takes great pride in what he is doing.”

On C.J. Conrad season so far…

“Yeah C.J. has been really doing a great job. He’s playing well. Making some big catches. He had another one of course we covered him up on the illegal formation. He had that other good catch that set us up in the red zone but he’s really playing well and doing some good things. Hopefully we continue to hit him and use him.”

On depth of players to throw the ball to…

“It is important and we need to continue to do that. We need to improve. Somebody was asking me about the pass game in general, when they are in certain sets Florida covered us pretty good. We have got to create some space for Stephen and our quarterbacks. So we have to get some outside receivers who are getting open.”

On what players played well vs. Florida…

“I think Charles (Walker) obviously is a guy who we talked about. Defensively, Darius West played a very good game. Mike (Edwards) played well, he had a play or two that we wished he could have come off. These are one of the guys I was discussing afterwards when somebody asked me about fatigue late in that game. He’s a guy that just plays a lot of snaps and plays so hard and is so valuable to us. We have got to find a way to give him a little bit of rest here and there because those critical games like that when the game is on the line and you’d like to have him a little bit more fresh there. Offensively I think Sihiem (King) played very well. Benny (Snell) had some tough yards as well. Obviously, Stephen (Johnson) did some very good things. There plays there or two that he will see that we left some on the field. And that is just about being efficient and running the offense. And I think early he may have pressed some down the field that the way they covered it, we had no shot. We were covered and we had some easy throws that were built into the call that we have just got to execute. That are just simple little routes, bubbles and things that are there. Like all of us, he’ll see them and get better.”

On why Florida was successful at running the ball in the fourth quarter…

“Some of it was fatigue, some of it was in certain sets we weren’t getting it lined up exactly right. We were a gap off, start getting soft it starts creating issues. When that stuff starts happening then breakdowns start happening. So there are things we can fix and we will. The nice thing is for our players, they’ll come in and look at it, the light bulb will go on and they’ll say oh ok, we can fix that immediately. And so that’s the good part about it. We will get it fixed quickly and we’ll move on.”

On how they’ll watch the game film from the Florida game…

“It’s interesting you brought that up. We do it a variety of ways. It depends on how we feel and we were just discussing that defensively. We discussed it last night as well late and we were all tired and obviously beat up so I said lets discuss it tomorrow. And we discussed it today, this morning. We do it a variety of ways. A lot of times I like getting all the defense together because there can’t be issues. You can’t panic because there are yards. I like everybody to see and trust if we just do our jobs that there is a fix. Immediate fix. So it does not create other problems. But again with this team I don’t worry about them with that. They don’t hit the panic button, they don’t flinch. So we can separate and honestly get to the root of our positions and really dig in fundamentally and get better position wise. So that is what we will do. We always come together and go over a few things as a group, obviously as a team and then offense and defense as a unit. And then we separate into position. So today to answer your question will primarily be position. Maybe five to ten minutes as a group and so that is how we will do it.”

On positives of final drive even though there was a penalty after not being able to move the ball on the previous possessions…

“I do feel good about that and I really had great confidence that we would do that. As long as we got the protection which we did. We got good protection but you know they have good cover guys. So predictable pass can be dangerous against them. And I was proud of the fact that we had some options even though just barely their defender got in the way to Juice. And that was designed well and that was a big chunk play that was setup that we were inches off from completing. And obviously Charles (Walker) was a big play and I thought it was a great call for us. The operation was perfect the way we converted in field goal range and that’s why we ran the ball. And it was perfect because they were setup with two high playing a match coverage underneath with two safeties. So the box was perfect for us to run the ball. All we was really looking for was five yards maybe and we split it. Whatever we got 10 or 15, couldn’t have worked out any better.”

Information courtesy UK Athletics

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