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Everything Mark Stoops said at his Monday Press Conference

Article written by:On3 imageTyler Thompson

MrsTylerKSR

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Mark Stoops was more positive than you might expect after reviewing the tape of Kentucky’s 22-19 loss at Ole Miss. If you missed it live, check out his Monday press conference below or keep scrolling for the complete transcript.

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Opening statement…

“Obviously, a very difficult loss, as I said after the game. Tough loss, I thought our team did a lot of really good things, and some areas where we fell short. We have to really improve, get back to work, and do the things necessary to put ourselves in a position to win. (We have a) Team that is banged up, we have to get healed, get some rest, have a lighter practice today and then get back to work with a physical practice tomorrow and get ready to play a very good South Carolina team, a team that is much improved. They have had a tough SEC schedule and I am sure are very hungry to come in here and get a victory, and we need to get back to work.”

On how well Chris Rodriguez Jr. physically handled his first game back…

“It was good. I think late in the game, I felt like, his legs were a little bit, I guess, winded or game shape. You can run all the hills you want, run sprints, until you get in there and get in games with the energy, amped up and all that. Just getting a feel for it was good and he responded well.”

On if there is an adjustment period for Rich Scangarello finding ways to use Chris Rodriguez Jr….

“No, I think he knows that. He has watched a ton of film and we had him all spring, all summer, and when things were unknown we’ve been working with him.”

On if the bullseye on Kentucky’s back is any bigger given the team’s success…

“I don’t know about that. Yes, I mean, anytime you’re ranked in the top 10, you’re going to get everybody’s attention and get a great game. I really, how do I say this without getting blasted, I really thought it was a great game even with the mistakes that we made. You know, we made mistakes that I am not proud of, and we need to coach better and do a better job, but it was a great environment, it was a great game, and I thought both teams played their tails off. They played hard, and it was competitive, and stressed each other, and it was a really good football game. It stinks to come up on this end, believe me, but we talked a lot about preparing for the difficult environment and doing all those things. The guys were dialed in. We talked about the pride in our performance. At the end of the day, when we put on the tape, that was off the charts. The third element, most important, was perfect execution and we didn’t have that. The pride in performance I feel because I loved the way our team played. I really do. And the adversity and mistakes and all that, the belief and the ability to drive it right back down there to put ourselves in a position to win that game after some of those unforced errors was great to see our team respond. Again, I wish we would have finished it, and ultimately that is how you’re judged, I know that. At the end of the day, it’s either a win or a loss, and it’s a loss, and nobody feels good about that, but I love the competitive nature of this team.”

On your message to Will Levis after the game…

“Again, I wouldn’t trade him for anybody. I just love his competitive nature, I love his ability, I love the way he is playing, At that moment, I was just wanting to calm him down, put my arm around him and tell him I loved him and I love the way he plays. Just take a moment to breathe and relax because obviously emotions get high. You know, he did some amazing things to put us in position there. If you look at the first play, and this is like I told you a week ago, the throw that was incomplete, and this one, the first play of the last possession, I mean just dropped an absolute dime. We couldn’t reel it in. You can’t possibly throw a better football, so he had, what, six incompletions, and at least two, one 50/50 ball, one 50/50, and two drops.”

On what your defense was doing in the first half vs. the second half at Ole Miss…

“I am not sure what the stats were, but I think the big thing was, in the first half we had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t get off. Then, we sold out on a pressure and got creased on a long run, and when you have dynamic backs like that, that’s one that we can say oh, ok, we took a shot, tried to get off the field and they hit us. And they have very, very talented backs and they do a nice job up front, and they creased us. I think that is the big difference. Obviously, there is always a time when you’re playing tempo teams, to get a feel for it, where we can get lined up, get set and get going. I think the second half we settled in. But we got off when we could. We gave up a couple of critical third downs early, both of those touchdown drives. I am not sure if it was one of those touchdown drives or not, it’s not an excuse, but at one point, we couldn’t relay Brad’s (White) call to the signalers and our guys are sitting there looking at us and it was one of our headsets.  I think guys just settled in and played good. They played really hard. Both sides. Again, it’s just the execution. I’ve been harping on it. I’ve got to look at it. We have to look at the way we coach and everything. You know, we cut down on penalties. I think we had four, but here is the deal, at the end of it, the last three drives, when we all know we came up short, we had a penalty on each drive.”

On how to keep the belief high in the locker room from here on out…

“It’ll be very business-like today. These guys are mature and can handle it. We’ll coach them, we’ll show them the good, the bad and the areas where we fell short. I will coach against it, guard against it, talk about it, but one of the first things I said in the locker room is one can’t become two. Everybody is heated and emotional after a big game like that, and our guys know, the belief is there. I think the intensity needs to come back. As you get into game six, you get into game six without a break, and we’re getting banged up. We have to make sure I find the right balance of continuing to play with that edge, play with the intensity, and continue to try to improve on being physical. I think we are improving. But also, have enough juice in the tank as you get into the middle of this section before we get a break, get a little bye to try and get some guys healed up.”

On giving up tackles for loss…

“There is always a variety of things that fall into that, whether we put them in a position, whether it is the configuration of a play, the set-up, the call, the execution, you name it. There’s a lot of things that go into that. I think there is some give and take. We’re creating more explosives and we need to continue to create explosives. A lot of analytics will tell you that explosive plays are extremely important, too. We’re doing a better job, but we need to continue to create some.”

On an update on Jacquez Jones’, Will Levis’ and J.J. Weaver’s injuries… 

“(On Will Levis) It’s fine. I don’t know. How would your finger be if it was sideways (laughter) and you put it back in? It doesn’t need surgery, let’s put it that way, so that’s a great thing. (On Jacquez Jones) He’s banged up, we’ll see. (J.J. Weaver) He’s getting better, chance is we’ll see him.” 

On turnovers in the red zone… 

“You saw the plays. The run was a great run. It is unfortunate where and how we got hit. We don’t like our runners to ever get spun. I think he knows he was going for the yardage and took a good initial shot, then got turned a little bit. Sometimes those things happen in football. You know that, understand that and see that. There are other times when you’re reckless with the ball. I don’t think he was reckless with the ball at all. I think he got spun in a tough, physical game took a good shot in an unfortunate position. The second one (was) unfortunate. We threw a touchdown pass the play before, and were a half-second late getting set and gave up the pressure. We’ve got to look at that, whether it’s structure or the play we had designed. We had a shot at it.  We chipped to protect the tackle and had a great chip. That’s something we have to look at. Do we lean a little bit longer? Not release at all? Do we give him that time? Does Will throw the ball? There’s a lot of things that go into that.”  

On Josaih Hayes being available… 

“We’ll see how it goes.” 

On evaluating Justin Rogers and Deone Walker at Ole Miss… 

“I thought Justin played one of his better games that he’s played here. He played a lot of snaps and that kind of tempo is always concerning going into the game, because as I mentioned last week, just the tempo, getting the rhythm and getting the D-Linemen, getting their cleats in the ground, and then, getting their proper reads and keys. We weren’t perfect on that by any stretch, but I thought Justin really did some good things. Deone as well, he played a lot of snaps. To see him at that tempo for the first time on the road with a high tempo team, I thought he did some good things.” 

On if it has been holding back pass rushers by playing two run teams (Florida and Ole Miss)… 

“I think there’s a mixture of things. Getting them in predictable pass, getting up (ahead) will help you with getting the pass rush going. First and second down, with the structure of our defense, it’s difficult for us to create pressure unless we have some different movements, pressures and things of that nature. The first play of the game we have an opportunity for a sack and missed it. We never leave our feet, especially with a quarterback that can elude you. So that’s just a situation where again, first play of the game I’m sure we’d like to take a seven-yard loss than a six-yard gain.” 

On what you have seen out of Spencer Rattler on film… 

“Very good player. Watched Spencer for his time at OU (Oklahoma) and his time at South Carolina. Very talented quarterback. I like what they do with him. I like their offense, creating some time off play action. He has a very talented arm and can make all the throws. Very good player.” 

On how you’ve seen South Carolina’s offense develop… 

“I really think a lot of MarShawn (Lloyd) as well. I think he’s a really good player. I think they’re doing a good job creating some movement up front and really laying on some doubles, getting some movement, getting him started. He’s such a talented back and he really just runs hard. He’s just a very good player, complete player, good in the pass game as well. They’re doing a lot of things. Are they different? I’m not sure. They’re getting in some empty, they still use some 11, some 12 personnel. They do a nice job with their play passes on first/second down to give them some time to get the ball down the field, create some space, taking some vertical shots. So, like everybody, they’re going to put pressure on you.” 

On Kentucky’s special teams this season… 

“Well, that’s a difficult question for me to answer. If I say I’m pleased with my special teams y’all would laugh at me and put headlines in the news. There’s a lot of phases to special teams. The four core we call it: kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, pretty darn solid. Pretty impressive. We have two blocked punts, on kickoff return has a chance to go to the house every time, that’s pretty hard to do. Kickoff coverage has been damn good. I think we had one in the YSU game or the other games that spit out a little bit. So, there’s phases of it that are as good as we’ve ever had. Then there’s the snappers, the kickers and the holders. How do you define that? I really don’t know either. You have the four core and they are all part of it. We need to do what we do. Our guys have done it a thousand times correctly, snapped, held and kicked. Very good. That Saturday is not good, kind of embarrassing so we’ve got to get those things cleaned up and do the routine.” 

On if there is a mechanical issue on the long snapping… 

“Well, I don’t want to get into too many things with that. You know, yeah. He’s been a little banged up too, we need to get him healthy and get him snapping. I think that was more on the hold on the extra point. It was a fraction low, but we do that all the time, we have to make that hold, just got to set it like we always do. Because I thought live it was the snap as well, but really after watching the tape it was right off the ground. Just got to catch it and put it down.” 

On how well Colin Goodfellow did at Ole Miss…

“Yeah, the net was (good) … we only had two punts, I want to say 53 and … yeah, 51.5 (net average is)pretty good.”

On if Barion Brown’s kickoff returns are more speed or more getting blocks …

“There’s areas we need to improve on that is the scary thing, because we felt like there were some guys that didn’t do a good job on that. Then there was enough that gave him the crease and so you know we have to pat the guys on the back that are doing a good job of really giving the guy a chance. Because if you give him a chance, he can hurt you and there are some guys that need to step up and improve.”

On what you saw out of D’Eryk Jackson…

“D-Jack, we have a lot of confidence in him. I thought there were parts of this game that we didn’t play as good as we are capable of. I said that going into it that was a big key was the deception, and with that formation, motion, split zone, all of the fits can be a lot when it’s going fast and I don’t think we were as clean as we have been. Not just with him but with a lot of the guys, a play here, a play there with each of the guys.”

On if you’re concerned about missed kicks getting in the kicker’s head…

“I am and that’s why I don’t overcoach him in the game. You look at it, he hit the kick good. It came a little left. It was very gusty down there and I think all you guys felt that when you were out there. It was very gusty. I thought he hit a good kick, so I don’t want to overreact to that. What am I going to tell him? I mean, kick the damn ball through the uprights (laughter). We are only allowed so many coaches, you know what I mean? It’s not like a golf person can have an expert, you know what I mean? I’m not allowed to have somebody here, just teaching the mechanics of that.”

On how you factor in whether to kick field goals or whether to go on fourth down…

“No, not at that point. There were moments I told you postgame that I was set to go for it on a couple, with just the way the game was going, your thought’s on it, but at that point for sure we would take the three. And I have a lot of confidence in him to make it. He’s had the guts and made a lot of crucial kicks, and to Dick’s point I think you don’t want one thing to get in your mind and creep in with these guys. They’ve done it, they’ve done it well and got to put it behind you and move on.”

On the locker room after Ole Miss…

“I think the guys were, as you would expect, we have strong leadership, they were emotional, it was hard. But really quickly just turns to, they said it before I did, can’t let it hurt us next week, get back to work, our goals are right In front of us. So, they will respond the right way.”

On if it would serve you better to have more coaches…

“Well, I think that is the million-dollar question nationally. I think everybody is always talking about that.  We have plenty of support, our administration is great. With that we have enough guy. No matter how many they give you I’m not sure anybody is going to have an exact person to — kickers have their own kicking coaches that they work with on their own. Kind of like a golfer would on the mechanics and the little things.  Certainly we have guys on our staff that have some expertise and coaching that could help him.  Mostly, that’s on me, so If anybody is looking for someone to blame you can blame me.”

On if it is hard to find impact transfers in the portal for the offensive line or if you were comfortable with who you had returning on the offensive line…

“Well, I think we were obviously exploring options and I think with some of the things we’ve gone through, without going through what we went through with John (Schlarman) was tough and then we had turnover. That doesn’t exactly put you in the best position but that is no excuse. We got guys that are plenty capable, there’s things we can do better, coach better, play better. There’s some things that they are really improving, doing some good things. it was a shame (Jeremy) Flax went down later I thought he was physical as heck and moving people and playing hard and I think that was coming together better.”

On how you thought the offensive line played overall at Ole Miss…

“You look at it and you give up three sacks against a team, again, that was bringing it from all over. It just comes down to, as I tell the team, I’ve told you, there’s one or two plays that can change the outcome of the game. But, it’s not always the most obvious ones. It’s not just the ones that everybody can remember. There are things that happen in that game, like we have a screen, we have pressure, we dump it – we have a hat on hat. I’m not saying it’s a definite touchdown, but there’s a really good chance that it’s going to be a touchdown and it’s not and instead I believe we get zero. So, those are the things you just can’t do. And a really good, two  top-10, top-15, teams playing on the road in the SEC, I know it’s a broken record but it’s true. It’s just the execution of things like that, and that’s routine. When you have a routine played out, upset, and you have to make the routine look routine. It’s just things of that nature and we just fell short.”

On what other parts affect how we look at the offensive line…

“It’s true, and we are a better drop-back passing team, certainly in my time here, right? I can’t go back to Tim (Couch) and all the great ones we’ve had here for awhile, but for us and my tenure here, it’s the best drop-back passing we’ve had. That doesn’t mean we’re the best in the world, I’m not saying we’re perfect or anything like that, but we’re far better at throwing the football than we’ve ever been and we have a dynamic quarterback. As a defensive coach, if you have a drop-back pass – you feel like really good teams we’re playing, they’re going to create some problems for you. So, to have three sacks in that game, I’m not going to overreact to that. Now, to get the sack and get the safety, that’s unacceptable. Whether it’s us, it’s play calling, putting them in position where we’re doing, after we get it off the six-inch line, we have to look at that possession. That possession bothers me because we get it off the six-inch line, we get a first down, and then we still get a safety. That’s not good football there.”

On if the hits on Will Levis wear on him…

“I think they would wear on anybody, not just Will, I mean look at our football team. What do you think? How do you think they feel? Do you know what I mean? It’s a tough game and Will is tough as nails, but it takes its toll. Ask any quarterback in our league. Ask (Jaxson) Dart how he feels today and he’s a really good player. They’re (Ole Miss) as hard as anybody in our league to get to, to sack them but it’s still a physical game.”

On if it is important in recruiting that young players are making explosive plays at Kentucky…

“It’s really important. I think that’s what the explosive plays that we’re creating with the ability to throw the ball. Obviously, we want the balance we’re talking about, but for the freshmen to come in and have the impact that they did says a lot about them and also says a lot about Will and what we’re doing. Putting those guys in a position, and Rich, and again there are areas where we all need to be better but there are some areas that are improving drastically. Part of that is drop-back passing, part of that is Will playing at a high level, and some really talented receivers.”

On how quickly coaches are getting fired in today’s game…

“I don’t know other than just maybe – I don’t know. I can’t get in other people’s heads. I do know, I think the social media presence that’s real now is grating on some people. That definitely is real and takes its toll. Takes its toll on decision-makers and takes its toll on people in leadership positions. It can, let’s put it that way.”

On if folks in the profession are on higher alert because of how quickly coaches are getting fired…

 “I don’t think they’re on higher alert. I think everybody knows. Be careful when people pat you on the back and don’t worry when they’re talking negative – no offense, I’ve said that in here before. I hope you aren’t saying bad stuff about me because I don’t read your stuff (laughter). But, if you do, you better bring it to me so I know. I know who I take questions from and who I don’t (laughter). No, I mean, it’s hard on all of us. We all feel the pressure. And again, there’s no amount of pressure that anybody can say, or write, or do that we don’t feel. We live this. For coaches, it’s hard. Yesterday flying back, Saturday, Sunday for me, those are long. Sometimes you like those early games when you win, and you hate them when you lose. You sit there all day and feel like that and it’s tough. So, we as coaches, I think all the pressure – you invest so much for your program for your players and so I think nobody can add to that for us.”

On Big Blue Nation traveling to Ole Miss…

“I thought that was amazing. What a great environment! I said I had never been down there before, but our fans showed up in full force and were loud. We could hear them, and it really helped us. It was amazing and greatly appreciate the support.  It was a lot of fun.”

On how the concussion rules and other medical protocols have changed how you coach…

“It’s very difficult. It’s not difficult with your own players if you have a question about head injury. That’s not difficult. Gabe (Amponsah) will tell you, we don’t play around. If there’s any question at all, they’re going to be evaluated and given time to clear them. But, it’s very confusing on a national level on what we’re allowed to do as defensive players and what you’re not allowed to do. That part of it, with the targeting and all of that, is very confusing at the national level. I thought we were getting away from some of this stuff for the protection for even the defensive players. The way we tackle and hitting with the crown of your helmet – I thought it was supposed to be out, but it’s very hard because of the national rules on that. I can’t even answer how to enforce it anymore. I know as a defensive coach, we are not teaching anything where your eyes are (down) hitting somebody because you’re going to hurt yourself, let alone the player you’re hitting, you’re going to hurt yourself. It could break your neck. I thought we were making progress in getting rid of that, but it doesn’t seem like it anymore. That’s a national thing that we have to look at and try to get it out of the game.”

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2022-12-03