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UK looking to snap seven-game losing skid to Georgia

UK looking to snap seven-game losing skid to Georgia (UK Athletics)

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKRC) - UK head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to discuss the win over Vanderbilt and to look ahead to a Saturday game at Georgia, which you can watch at 3:30 p.m. on Local 12.

Opening Statement….

“As I said in the postgame press conference, it was a very good team victory. I was very proud of the way our team played in all phases and it was nice to really put it together and play a complete game across the board. Hopefully we can continue to build on that. We’re going to need to this week going on the road and playing such a good team in Georgia. But I was pleased with the way our team responded from a tough loss, as I stated before. It does not surprise me with the character of this football team. Hopefully we can continue to build on this and play our best football here down the homestretch.”

On improvements with confidence of offensive line and impact of center Drake Jackson…

“I think it definitely helps a lot. With Nick (Haynes) being not very healthy and of course Cole (Mosier) going out early threw a wrench in our rotation pretty early in the year. Throughout the course of this season, that last year took us some time to find the right formula as well, and (we had) to develop guys and bring them along. You’re still talking about a freshman and we really appreciate him and it doesn’t surprise us that he’s been so steady. He’s really doing some good things so I appreciate Drake and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

On comparison to last season with offensive line…

“It feels good to be able to have the continuity. It also feels good to keep on developing guys and bringing guys along that can step in and play. That’s important at all positions, but it does feel good that the offensive line is getting that continuity and most importantly I think playing very physical. The run game’s success, as I’ve talked about here throughout the year, it has a lot to do with them, but it also has to do with the tight ends and it also has to do with the discipline of the running backs. They’ve really stepped it up as well. With the development piece, it was good. It was good to have a game like that where we played 10 guys in the secondary; we haven’t done that in a while. We had some young guys really do some good things, so that was important as well.”

On stability of coaching staff affecting program….

“I hope it helps us quite a bit. I really appreciate it. Like I said, I greatly appreciate the support and when I got here I knew it was going to take a lot of commitment from a lot of people and we’ve been given that. The fans, the media, the administration, and everybody – we’re all in this together and it’s a tough grind and continuity is important. We also understand that we have expectations to meet. It’s challenging, but that’s what makes it such a great league and so competitive. That’s why we’re here, that’s why I’m here. It’s a great challenge but it’s something that you embrace each and every day.”

On Tennessee situation…

“I can’t comment on what happened to Butch (Jones), but I can guarantee you that he did not relax. It is alarming to see how things can change so quickly, we all know that and that’s where we talk about that margin, it’s very small for a lot of us. Some of these programs have been recruiting at an elite level for 40 years and there have still been some ups and downs through those programs with a rich tradition. But there’s a fine line there, the margin is very small and when you come up on the short end of those it’s tough. But I know from being around Butch and competing against him, the way they recruit, the way they go about their business – I can’t speak on them and what happened, but I definitely can say they worked their tail off and Butch works extremely hard and recruits at a very high level and other than that I can’t comment on what happened.”

On DBs Davonte Robinson and Chris Westry…

“I am very pleased with both of them. Davonte has been working very hard and we need to get him some reps. I was very pleased to get him some quality reps this past week when the game was still on the line and he played well. We need to continue to do that with him because he’s very athletic and is doing some good things and is getting better and better. We’ve had confidence in Davonte for some time so it’s good to see him get some quality reps. It was really good to see that Chris has responded very well in the past two games. He’s worked hard in practice and he’s getting quality reps in the games. He’s going to continue to get in the games when the game is on the line and get in the rotation. We’re playing all three of those corners quite a bit and he’ll continue to do that, but he’s responded well.”

On team’s response to losses…

“When asked how the team will respond after a tough loss or a blowout loss the answer is always the same because that’s what I believe. The leadership is here, there is great pride within this team and we’re going to go back to work and do the very best we can. It’s not for a lack of effort on anybody’s part, the wins and the losses, and I do like the way we responded this past week.”

On the possibility of currently being 9-1 oppose to 7-3…

“I understand it. Don’t think for a minute it’s very easy. We as coaches never want to look back but don’t think for a minute that there isn’t a human side of me that asks ‘What if?’ I remember bad beats for 20 years, so I’ll never forget bad beats and you always try to learn and grow from them. The only thing I can say to you is that I understand. I’m frustrated and disappointed in some ways as well. Again, it’s not for a lack of effort and we’ll continue to work to put ourselves in the position to win games, but that’s easier said than done.”

On Georgia RB Nick Chubb…

“Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are both just monster running backs. They are two quality players and you have to respect them and the physicality of their team. They want to pound the football, they have a very talented young quarterback and they’re very explosive outside so they always put that stress on you. So those are always teams that are very difficult to defend. It starts with the physicality and unbelievably talented running backs and physical offensive line. And then you load up and they can hurt you outside. Those are tough teams to defend.”

On what kind of effect loss to Auburn might have on Georgia…

“As I’ve mentioned to y’all, to count on a team to play their very best for 12 weeks…I can’t comment on the psyche of Georgia or what happened. I can only comment on our team and what we try to get over. Sometimes things aren’t as drastic as they look. You know, a few plays here and there and things change. It’s not like they were overwhelmed by any stretch. Georgia is a fantastic football team and there is no doubt, just like we have responded, that they will be back at it today. Kirby (head coach Kirby Smart) has done a phenomenal job and he will have their full attention, and they will be back to work. They are a very good football team, very well coached.”

On if he is reassured that Georgia is a beatable team…

“I could never worry at all about another team’s psyche because I can’t control that. I have no idea what they are doing over there. I just know what I see on film and that’s a very good football team that’s very well coached. I’m worried about us and continuing to sustain the good things we’ve done this week and the good things we’ve done all year and to improve on the areas we need to improve.”

On how much you depend on psyche in general…

“Again, I have no idea about them. With us you know you’ve heard me just say that each and every week, whether it was a tough loss or a blowout, like we had at Mississippi State, I had no doubt that our team would get back to work and focus on the next opponent. I’m proud to say they’ve done that. We haven’t followed up with perfection the next week, but we’re always striving for that. We did play one of our better games this past week after a tough loss so hopefully we will build on that.”

On if having seven wins and coming off of a big win amplifies confidence in the kids…

“I hope it sustains the confidence that we’ve had. But it’s about the preparation, it’s about the way we have gone about our work this past week and throughout the season. Our guys are tuned into that. They understand. They understand what it takes to play consistent football across the board in this league for 12 or 13 weeks. It’s very difficult, but that’s what we’re striving for. We did play a good game this past week and hopefully we will be confident and understand that it came with the preparation and the hard work we did last week.”

On what are some of the unique challenges of recruiting quarterbacks…

“Well, I think it’s unique with quarterbacks because a lot of times you develop that relationship early. You get honed in with a certain guy and the quarterbacks are always looking for that perfect fit and you as a program are looking for the perfect fit. I think that’s just in general some of the things that happen at that position.”

On if he wants to take a quarterback with every class…

“Yeah, you would like to. You know, fortunately for us we took two last year, which is a good thing. Walker (Wood), unfortunately for him, had another surgery on that shoulder. He’s doing rehab. But, we have some good quarterbacks here.”

On if this was the most complete game they have played and the things that made them successful…

“I’m not sure if it was the most complete game or not since I’ve been here. I really haven’t looked at it like that. I do think it was one of our more complete games this year. I thought we did some really good things. We talked about that all week and some of the things that we talked about was trying to define what we mean by that edge and that mentality and that preparation. We have some things within our building that we’ve done this past week and just briefly that was about conviction and playing with a great conviction and confidence, and then being committed to each other. Our team is good. They are a good team to coach and they really mean well. It’s just a matter of putting it all together each and every week. We did this past week and hopefully we will build on that.”

On if that was what some of the players meant after the game when they said there was a different vibe…

“I don’t know what anybody can say that perfectly gets your team in that vibe each and every week, because I said, in general, when you look at these kids and you look at their schedule, and you look at what they’ve done since mid-July until now, it’s a lot. They are going to go through some ups and downs. It’s just a matter of trying to get your team in a good spot each and every Saturday. Again, easier said than done. I think you watch college football. You see the scores that are out there. We’re concentrating on us (be)cause that’s who you cover every day. You watch college football in general and that’s why your eyes pop once in a while when you see scores. It’s just the nature of this business. You try to stay as consistent as you can.”

On if Georgia is better this year than last…

“Oh, without a doubt. I don’t think there’s any doubt that they are better. You look at them on film and they are a very good football team.”

On what you have seen from Georgia QB Jake Fromm…

“Very talented player. Making smart decisions. Very talented in a lot of areas.”

On if he every marvels at how smart Stephen Johnson is…

“Yeah, I’ve been very pleased with just his poise and composure. He would be the first one to tell you he’s not perfect either. We left a few (plays) out there again, but that’s to be expected. That’s a tough position to play. Quarterback is a different deal. I think all of us armchair quarterbacks can sit there and look at things, and it’s pretty easy when you’re watching film or you’re watching TV, or watching the game live. But, when the bullets are flying and there is pressure and all the things that are going on and all the moving parts, it’s easier said than done. That’s why that position, until you get out there and get to see live action, you never know how guys are going to respond. Stephen really makes a lot of good decisions. He really has great poise back there, even the way he scrambles to buy time once in a while, and the way he scrambles to run once in a while. He’s making much better decisions with drop back pass and where to go with the football and when. There was one or two out there that we left, but that’s every quarterback every week.”

On how Stephen is holding up physically…

“He’s doing good. He’s tough, as we know. We’ve talked about that. He’s been very durable and has been handling it very well. That’s not to say he’s not beat up, but you ask most quarterbacks in this league and they probably are.”

On if there is more parity in the SEC this year…

“Yes, there is great parity in the SEC. It’s still super competitive and very, very physical. Takes its toll on you.”

On how he has seen Benny Snell mature since his freshman year…

“Benny has been consistent. Any young player is going to go through, again some ups and downs, just like any player young or old. You’re going to go through some ups and downs; you’ve got to constantly strive to improve. It starts with the work ethic and the tough mentality, and he’s had that. He had success early. This year, again you have to credit Eddie, Coach Gran and his coaching abilities. He’s coached some talented running backs. There were some conversations, I don’t want to make too much of it because he’s having a really good year and all that. But, there were some things that it wasn’t as detailed as he has been. Coach Gran brought him in, pointed them out, and showed it to him. The discipline of some things that you have to push sometimes with sophomores because they some great success may all the sudden think you have it all figured out and then you have to rein them back in. I think Coach Gran and his experience has really helped Benny because some of the success the past couple weeks has been going back to some of the details that needed to coach. Coach Gran has done a really good job with him.”

On what it says about Benny to take the advice from Coach Gran…

“Yes, I think it definitely does because that is easy for players once they have some talent and some success they think they have it all figured out. And the great ones want that coaching, they want the medicine, so you know some of the best defensive backs, the best players I’ve been around want to be coached all the way through and were very hungry to get coached and the great ones in the NFL are the same way. You know I haven’t coached there but all the players and coaches I’ve talked to, you give them medicine, even something to help them get better, then they are going to take it.”

On if there is a player in the secondary who really wants it…

“They are all maturing at different rates but you know there is always room for improvement, you know there is. They need to continue to improve, no matter how much game time they have had or game experience they have had. You are constantly learning. I tell the team that all the time. I mean as coaches we’ve been in this business a long time, spent countless hours every day watching this game. There is always things to learn and improve on.”

On if it has been tough to get Davonte Robinson on the field because of Darius West…

“Yeah I think it is. I think it’ll benefit Darius to get Davonte in there some, though. I do feel good about where we are at but you know, as we talked about the long season, and all the reps and all the plays. The more depth you have, the better you’ll be in the long run so I think it’ll help our team with both guys getting some action.”

On if you can predict if the team will play well or not after a week of practices…

“You do to some degree. I think sometimes it fools you. Again I’ve listened to some coaches in the top five and top 10 this year and seen some clips late at night when you’re watching highlights and listen to them respond and that they have seen or not seen it coming. I think all of us coaches, I don’t know, I mean that has been my experience that sometimes you can see. Sometimes you try to bring them in to get it corrected. You know you have to relay that sense of urgency and other times you feel like it is there all week. But you know it is hard to say 100 percent, things we talk about often are is this routine and our commitment. What’s our standard? It is very easy through a long season to just try to get into a routine or are they truly committed to being attentive at meetings and having great practices. And having that great sense of urgency.”

On the play of special teams…

“Special teams have been solid all year. Again it’s always a nice year when you don’t talk about them in here very much. So you have to credit (Coach) Dean (Hood) with what he’s done. Individual guys have done great like (Charles) Moushey all year. It was nice to see Marcus Walker to make a good play on the kickoff team inside the 20 this past week. Of course Lynn (Bowden) with the great (kickoff) return, I wish he would have got it in the end zone but we were close. But it was at a big point in the game to get that kickoff return. I’m very proud of Miles Butler, the way he punted this past week. I probably hurt him on his average because on the last punt it was just one of those situations where I didn’t know if they were going to wholesale come after him. I didn’t want him to hit a line-drive right to them and give them an opportunity for a return as well. At that point we were in pretty good shape with the game and really just told him to be smart. Just get it and kick it out of bounds. I’d take it. He listened to me but I hurt his average. He probably could have hit it a little further down on that one but all three of his punts were inside the 20.”

On if WR Garrett Johnson is overlooked by opposing defenses and makes big third down catches…

“Yeah he has. He did and has all year. You’re right because a lot of his catches are big catches. Throughout this season there has been some critical third down plays he has made. It was nice to see him get as many catches as he did this past weekend and get some yards. So he has done a really good job and has been solid all year. It was nice to see him get some catches.”

On the play and leadership of DE Denzil Ware…

“Yeah, Denzil has been really good. He’s another one of those guys that I think really took it to heart this past week. Just like last week some of the things I talked about was easy to see mistakes in the secondary. People don’t always see all the mistakes that are going on and he is one of those guys, I’m not calling him out but just saying in general when you talk about pass defense, two minute drills, all of those things. I mean (the) defensive line plays run defense effectively, keeping contain (and) doing all the things, it all fits. I think he is one of those guys that takes things to heart and understands it. And that is a sign of maturity, a leader and wants to do right by the team. He is a guy that cares and it is nice to see the production. He didn’t even have as many plays as he normally does this past week. He was a little banged up, he should be fine today. Little leg injury but nothing major, but he didn’t have as many plays and he still had really good production.”

On winning five of the last seven games on the road…

“I think we talked about it Monday, again coming off a loss we had their attention, but it is just about having that mentality and that mindset all week. You have to be strong, be tough to go on the road and win in the SEC. We did talk about that all week but I think the confidence only comes from preparation. I kind of talk a lot about that, but everyone wants to win on Saturday, but what are we going to do all week to put yourself in a position to win?”

On DB Kendall Randolph’s injury…

“I’m pleased I got a good report this morning from (athletic trainer) Jim Madaleno. He should be out there practicing today, which did surprise me a little bit, and I’m pleased. It was just the nature of the injury, it wasn’t head it was more shoulder. It was one of those injuries that scares you more than anything because sometimes when you get a stinger, it numbs you, it is painful and scary but you get that calmed down and you come back from it pretty good.”

On the redshirt players this season…

“We really feel good, guys that have been around for a while, again Madaleno and TK (equipment manager Tom Kalinowski) and some of the guys who have been around here for 20-30 years. Jim always comments to me, haven’t seen guys like this, so I think that is a good sign. I think we all see some very good players that are redshirt and having an opportunity to get bigger and stronger, get some extra weightlifting. I feel good about all of those guys.”

On relationship with Kirby Smart…

“No, I don’t know Kirby like that. It’s not like I go back with (him) like I do with some of the other guys in this league. But just know him through the profession and have great respect for Kirby and he has been a great addition to the league. When we are in the league meetings and all of that, you know he is a pleasant guy to be around. I really enjoy watching another defensive guy and does a great job and that is evident with his team this year.”

Information courtesy UK Athletics

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