COACH STOOPS: Okay, I’ll get started.
Obviously one heck of a football game. You have to credit Virgina Tech, Coach Fuente, their staff. We knew it was going to be a tough, hard?fought game and it certainly was. I’m so proud of our coaching staff and our players to once again find a way to win. And that kind of personifies our year, just there’s ups, there’s downs, there’s good and bad, but keep on fighting through it, grinding through it, finding a way.
I love this football team, our players, their fight and their determination, and once again, just greatly appreciate our staff for what they’ve done.
Our families, my wife, my boys. All of our families sacrifice a great deal throughout the year and really came here and, you know, just wanted to finish this thing right, finish this season right, and that’s kind of poetic the way it happened that way, Just feel fortunate to win the game, but also very proud of our players to find a way.
So I’ll open it up for questions at that point.
Was the call in the final play to go to the air?
COACH STOOPS: Yes.
Any reason to deviate from keeping it on the ground like that?
COACH STOOPS: We had one timeout, so one thing about throwing it, it gives Lynn the opportunity to scramble. With no timeouts left, that would be tough.
We were thinking about running it before Virgina Tech took the timeout, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to take that option from him to be able to create a pass game, but create the play. If we would have taken the ?? if we would have run it there and not gotten in and taken the last timeout, that kind of takes some of that out of his hands for the next couple plays. So I wanted to throw it right there. I had all the faith in the world he was going to complete a touchdown pass.
LYNN BOWDEN: Yes, sir.
What was it like on the sidelines on that final drive where the clock’s ticking, you’re not getting chunk plays but you’re moving it down the field and you’re balancing your timeouts with time and score. What was it like?
COACH STOOPS: You know, honestly, John, when we took the ball over, I want to say 7:30 or 8:30, right?
COACH STOOPS: I thought it was 8:30, and really in my mind I was thinking of an eight?minute drive. I really was. Sure, I would take a chunk play, but you know we’re not built that way. But we’re also built very difficult to stop in four downs when he’s creating like he is and when you have the quarterback run game, if you have four downs and stay ahead of the chains, then we’re hard to stop.
So I was thinking a long drive there. We had a shot early, we were thinking about a shot play, but again, I had confidence that we could drive it down and get it in there, you know, in the process, kill the clock.
The touchdown obviously was big but that first catch that Josh had in that final drive on the fourth down ??
COACH STOOPS: Oh, yeah, the fourth?down play, just a huge play. Again, Lynn creating and buying a little time and making a tough catch. I mean, that was ?? yeah, I mean obviously a huge play.
Lynn’s basically done everything this year except win a game with his arm. What does it say about him that the last game of his college career, to continue to do something that nobody expects out there?
COACH STOOPS: That doesn’t surprise me. Really, nothing he does surprises me. Everything he does, he competes, he cares about his teammates and, you know, you can’t ever count him out.
You know, just so proud of him and how far he’s come. If he would have played like that, if we would have started him at quarterback, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would be in New York at the Heisman. You can’t take away from Joey and people that were there, incredible players, but this guy right here is one of the best players in the country. He showed that. And of course, he won the prestigious award with the Paul Hornung, so deserving for his versatility and that was on full display. He and I have been talking for years about him playing defensive back. He’s been ready to go in there, he was even ready today.
LYNN BOWDEN: Yes, sir.
COACH STOOPS: He really is one of the best players. I mean that with great respect for all the people that were there. That’s what I talked about, when you’re putting the ball in his play ever play, he loves that because the game is running through him, it’s running through him on every play.
I don’t know, that was one of the most impressive displays I’ve seen in a long time. What he did and the way he puts this team on his back and plays for him, it’s amazing. It’s very admirable and we have great appreciation for him.
The defense struggled to get stops early on, but after a couple turnovers, you forced field goals. What changed?
COACH STOOPS: It was tough. I had a chance to visit with Justin for a minute in the hallway there and that’s what I told him, we were off balance. I think that’s a credit to them. He’s a very good coach and they kept some good balance on us today. It was one of the more aggravating games of the year for us. And you have to credit them, they did some good things and kept us off balance.
You know, our guys found some stops in Brad and, you know, the coaches do a great job always and our players dug in and found some opportunities, found some stops, but they did a nice job of keeping us off balance.
What’s it say about the culture of physicality that you built that on that last drive, a very good defense, Virginia Tech, 8, 9, 10 in the box, couldn’t stop them from running?
COACH STOOPS: We all know what we’re going to do, everybody in the stadium knew what we were going to do. However, there are some creative advantages when you have a guy like Lynn playing quarterback. It does put a lot of pressure on defenses. You feel like you have to defend 12 guys, and with him, the way he makes people miss, it’s like 13 really. Because with the quarterback and the ability to throw it and just create like he does and make people miss, it puts a lot of pressure on defenses.
What was your vantage point of the incident before the game and what conversations did you have with the officiating crew about any ramifications?
COACH STOOPS: There was very little discussions with the officials, you know, other than let’s get ahold of this from the start and make sure we cannot carry that over to game time.
We talked to our players and they did a good job. We were amped up a little bit early and shot ourselves in the foot with some penalties and we can’t do that. We were lucky to overcome that.
They gave us a break with a penalty as well that extended a drive that led to our first score, if I’m not mistaken, and we did the same thing.
You know, let’s just leave it at when you’re down here for a week and there’s some things, there’s some crossover and things happen. These guys are competitive, but we do respect Coach Fuente and their program. We wanted to, you know, do the talking on the field today and we were fortunate to come out on top, but that doesn’t surprise me with our guys’ competitive nature.
So I don’t want to get too far into it. Things happened throughout the week and that just happens. There’s not a bowl game, you know, that I’ve been to that that doesn’t happen every now and then.
But we greatly appreciate this bowl and the leadership from this bowl, and our experience here has been wonderful and we thank everybody involved.
Recognizing that this is Lynn’s last game and all the things that he’s been able to do as a Kentucky Wildcat, how hard is it going to be to replace a guy like that next year?
COACH STOOPS: I don’t know if you can replace a guy like this, you really can’t. You have to get a bunch of good players around him and continue to develop the program.
But the legacy that he leaves and the example that he set for all these young guys, you know, that’s what we need to hang onto. I’m not sure you could get another guy like this. I don’t know how long we’ve been playing football at Kentucky, a long time, but he’s certainly one of the best that’s ever played at the university. And this performance tonight, to go out this way, you know, just is amazing and just says an awful lot for him and I’m just so happy for Lynn and all of our players and coaches.
Mark, Josh Allen (inaudible) left a legacies. What exactly is Lynn’s legacy to the program?
COACH STOOPS: Can we borrow the name Beast Mode from my man? I don’t know, we’ll have to create one for him, but I just think you just see his competitive nature on full display every snap. Lynn is one tough guy. You know, on the field, off the field, you name it, he’s tough. He’s had circumstances in his life that he’s had to overcome, he’s done that, and we’re just very proud of him. Just ultra?competitive, the way he plays. It’s just great respect.
The drives you all had to win today, those were the kind of things that used to happen with regularity ??
COACH STOOPS: A what?
A winning drive, just getting ground out, those are the kind of things that used to happen to Kentucky before you guys got here. How do you build that mentality to where you don’t put yourselves in a position to feel like that’s going ?? it’s just inevitable?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don’t know. I’m trying to gather myself there, I’m having a hard time understanding your question.
But for us, you know, to make that drive at the end, to score to win, you know, I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our players to know that, you know, we can grind it out and needed to go score a touchdown to go win the game and we were able to do that against a quality team with a great defensive coordinator that I have a lot of respect for. Great program. And do that and to win in that dramatic fashion, it says a lot about our players and how far we have come.
What’s it say about Josh (inaudible) particularly about your receivers in general given the role they’ve had to fill for most of the year and when they got that opportunity on the last drive, they still made those (inaudible)?
COACH STOOPS: Again, it doesn’t surprise me. Lynn’s done a great job with them. They have respect for Lynn and know that we have to do what we have to do to win the game.
And I noticed it even throughout this game, just keep on hanging in there, keep on hanging in there. You don’t know when they’re going to have to go up and make a competitive catch, a 50/50 ball or whatever and just do it, and they did it. That’s what Ahmad, he and I just shared a hug in there. He’s like, “I love you, Coach, I love our experience.” I said, “Man, I’m sorry I couldn’t get you the ball.” He goes, “I don’t care,” you know what I mean? And that’s ?? you’ve got to love that and have great appreciation for all those guys.