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Ten things we learned during this week’s Mark Stoops Show

While Mark Stoops typically speaks to the media twice a week – once on Monday afternoon for a weekly press conference and another post-practice session on Thursday evening – the Kentucky head coach usually uses weekly call-in radio show on Monday evenings to kick back and relax a bit.

During the hour-long show with Tom Leach, Stoops usually opens up about his team’s performance from the previous week, previews Kentucky’s upcoming opponent, and answers questions via phone and social media from the Big Blue Nation.

This evening, Stoops went in-depth about Kentucky’s recent loss to Georgia, discussed the quarterback situation, and analyzed the Missouri Tigers, among other topics.

Here are the ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:

The team’s first practice post-Georgia went well

In the team’s first practice following their 21-0 loss to Georgia in Athens, the Kentucky head coach said he was happy with how his players responded.

“[Practice] went good. Got into practice before the rain hit, it was a beautiful day out there,” he said. “Always good to get the film cleaned up and work on things on the field. We definitely got some things corrected. We actually got to get into the game prep for Missouri, so that was good.”

Speaking of Georgia, Stoops said a Bulldog position coach approached him prior to their matchup on Saturday and said Kentucky leaves his players feeling the sore year after year.

Though the Bulldogs certainly returned the favor, he was happy to see his players get the respect they deserve in the trenches.

“[That game] was very physical,” he said. “I talked to their offensive line coach before the game, and he was talking about how tough this game was and how physical we were. He said this was always one of the most physical games of the year for them. It’s always a good thing to hear, especially as a defensive-minded coach, that your team [has that reputation].”

Injury updates

As he mentioned during his weekly press conference this afternoon, Stoops said his team was dealing with several minor injuries following the Georgia loss.

He started with the linebackers and pass-rushers.

“[Pass-rusher] Jordan Wright has been doing a good job, but he’s been playing a lot of snaps,” he said. “He’s one of those first-year guys, he’s not used to playing this much and got a little dinged up [on Saturday as a result]. Josh Paschal is a little nicked up, but he’s fine. We’ve been rotating three guys in there. We’re going to work in some new guys, they’ve been right on the cusp as it is.”

A few of the confirmed names being thrown in the rotation? Louisville natives JJ Weaver and Jared Casey.

“That’s the beautiful thing about that [redshirt] rule, the four game redshirt rule really helps,” he said. “Right around this time every year, people start getting hurt. It’s unbelievably physical every week, and everyone needs depth. Around this time of the season, we need some of the other guys to step up.”

In terms of other injuries, running back Kavosiey Smoke has an official diagnosis on his shoulder injury, though he should be okay to play moving forward.

“Yeah, Kavosiey is dealing with an AC joint sprain,” he said. “They are painful, but he can play through it. He’ll be back out there tomorrow playing in a red jersey.”

As for linebacker Kash Daniel?

“Kash is a little dinged up, we need to see how he goes throughout the week [before we know his availability this weekend,” Stoops said.

And the quarterback position? Don’t expect much.

“Nothing new to add,” he said. “Both guys are available and we’ll see where it goes this week.”

Missouri game prep has started

As mentioned in the first section, Kentucky is already moving on to Missouri.

But what has Stoops seen out of Barry Odom’s group?

“They’re a really good football team,” he said. “Didn’t play up to their standards this week, one of those games that just got away from them. They’ve been very, very explosive. Kelly Bryant has done a phenomenal job coming in as a transfer quarterback. Always a tough defensive team. It’s going to be a challenge for us this week.”

Stoops understands that the Missouri offense is going to turn things around this week and give his team all they can handle.

“Kelly can make all the throws,” Stoops said. “They always have fast wide receivers. They like to spread things out. Vandy did a really nice job, took away their bread and butter throws. Really played good in all phases, you’ve got to give it to them.”

Missed scoring opportunities stung on Saturday

As for Kentucky’s offensive unit, he knows they’ll have to play much better this weekend if they want to defeat Missouri.

A big part of that? Converting on scoring opportunities, something they failed to do against Georgia.

“It was really important [to convert on some of those scoring opportunities on Saturday],” he said. “I thought if we could’ve put some points on the board, it would have put a little more pressure on them. We were playing such a phenomenal game on defense. We continued to flip the field with [punter] Max Duffy. Our team really had great field position until that one mis-hit by Max, created a short field for them. Can’t even be too hard on him because he’s been so great all year, one of the best in the entire country.”

Stoops doesn’t feel Logan Stenberg’s penalties are an issue anymore

Senior left guard Logan Stenberg has faced criticism throughout the year for several untimely penalties of varying degrees.

After the Mississippi State game a few weeks back, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said that some of those penalties were “selfish” and hurt the team in crucial situations.

On a third and six to start the second half, Lynn Bowden scrambled for a tough first down, only to be erased and moved back ten yards following a holding call on Logan Stenberg.

After examining the play on film, Stoops vehemently disagreed with the call during his press conference this afternoon.

“I need an explanation,” Stoops said. “I don’t know. I mean, so it’s just very frustrating. There was some holds later that were no-brainers, they were holding. But the one early on Logan, I need an explanation. And then — because it happens to us all game.”

And then this evening, Stoops followed up on that, saying the criticism was deserved early in the year, but not anymore.

“Logan has gotten a lot of that rectified,” he said. “Some of the early fouls were inexcusable and we’ve addressed that. It’s a mentality with the offensive line, there’s a fine line there. He always wants to win. That wasn’t one of those times where he was being negligent or selfish. It was a questionable call, at best.”

Continued fan support is needed

Yesterday, Lynn Bowden called on the Big Blue Nation to support the Kentucky football program during the team’s final five games of the regular season.

Tonight, Stoops stressed that same notion again, saying he really hopes Kentucky fans come out and support the Wildcats this weekend against Missouri.

“It’s important, fun to get back home, playing in this environment,” he said. “The fans have been so great all year long. We’re going to need them again this week, and we’re going to need them again on Saturday.

Growth of the defense is evident

Following the team’s 21-0 loss on Saturday, Kentucky now holds the longest active streak among FBS schools with 21 consecutive games of 34 points allowed or less.

According to Corey Price of UK Athletics, UK’s impressive defensive outing was also the fewest points allowed (21) by the Wildcats against an AP Top 10 opponent Kentucky since October 4th, 2008 at No. 2 Alabama (17) and the fewest yards allowed (270) against an AP Top 10 opponent since November 29th, 2003 vs. No. 7 Tennessee (270).

There’s no question the defensive unit is improving by the week, and Stoops wanted to show his appreciation this evening.

“I’ve been pleased with them and the way they’re growing,” the Kentucky head coach said. “You can see they’re playing more and more confident. They’re understanding our standards on how hard we need to be playing on every snap. They’re playing physical. Now we need them to remove what Coach [Brad] White calls a “glitch play” where they miss one play here and one play there. We forced six punts and forced a turnover on downs in the first seven possessions. I don’t think they ran a play in our territory for a good portion of the game.”

The quarterback situation is tough

With Terry Wilson out for the year with a torn patellar tendon, Nik Scalzo out for the year with a torn ACL, and Sawyer Smith missing the last two weeks with multiple injuries, Stoops understands that while it’s not ideal to play a wide receiver at quarterback, he’s only playing the hands he’s dealt.

And with that disadvantage, he knows he has to throw the scent off a bit and play it coy in the lead-up to compensate for it, even if it’s inconvenient for the media and fans.

“It’s hard for anyone to be 100% [at this point in the season]. It’s hard for us,” he said. “As I tell the media during my press conferences, it’s not like we’re playing games or trying to withhold information. The quarterback situation is what it is. We have to keep our opponents [on their toes], makes things difficult for them.”

When asked why Sawyer Smith didn’t take any snaps, despite Eddie Gran saying he was “100%” in the week leading up to the game, Stoops said the situation just wasn’t right yet for him, especially given the conditions.”

“Jake Fromm, a Heisman contender going into the year, threw for 35 yards against our defense. Our quarterback threw for 17,” he said. “Given the conditions and [who we were playing] it just wasn’t the best opportunity for Sawyer, we just didn’t want him to potentially get hurt again.”

The secondary is improving

Seen as one of the major question marks going into the season, Stoops is thrilled with how much his secondary has improved from the start of the year to now.

“They did, they played good [against Georgia],” he said. “They had good coverage, they have been playing tighter coverage. They’ve been playing tighter in the pass over the last several weeks, but they’ve been even better in run support. Overall, I’m pleased with their progress. I’m very pleased with the progress of the secondary.”

More specifically, Stoops says sophomore defensive back Yusuf Corker put on a show against Georgia.

“Yusuf played really well, he was our most valuable player, internally,” he said.

Stoops is happy D’Andre Swift is likely headed to the NFL

Following his 179-yard, two-touchdown performance against Kentucky, Mark Stoops is thrilled that Georgia star running back is likely headed to the NFL after this season.

“I sought him out after the game, told him “good luck at the next level. I hope I don’t have to see you no more,” Stoops said tonight.

He also talked about this interaction during his postgame press conference on Saturday evening.

“Give (Georgia) credit— D’Andre Swift is an impressive player,” he said. “I just gave him a ‘congratulations’ after the game and wished him ‘goodbye,’ because he needs to go to the NFL. He’s an elite player.”


KSR Football Podcast: A Moral Victory?

The KSR Football Podcast is back in action after Kentucky’s 21-0 loss to Georgia. Can we consider it a moral victory? Drew Franklin certainly thinks so. Listen in to hear what Austin, Charles and Nick think. Highlights:

— Is Mizzou a must-win?

— The meat sweats on a red eye.

— Numbers prove UK’s pass defense is very, very good.

— Worst weather ever?

— This weekend in college football was stupid, but in a fun way.

— Attrition is normal, just ask the guys in Chuck’s 2014 class.

Get the podcast delivered to your phone by subscribing to “KSR Football Podcast” on iTunes. You can stream the show online or on your Android phone through Spotify.


Mark Stoops doesn’t believe Logan Stenberg should have been penalized for holding

One play completely crushed Kentucky’s offensive momentum and changed the direction of their duel with Georgia at soggy Sanford Stadium.

After recording only two first downs in the first half, Lynn Bowden rushed for three first downs on consecutive plays to start the second half, putting the Wildcats in field goal range. Two plays later on third and six, Bowden scrambled, fought and clawed to get a first down. His heroic effort was all for not as a yellow flag flew from an official’s hand.

Logan Stenberg was penalized for holding. The ten-yard penalty erased the first down run and pushed Kentucky out of field goal range, eliminating the best scoring opportunity for either team to that point. After examining the play on film, Mark Stoops vehemently disagrees with the call.

I need an explanation,” UK’s coach said at his weekly press conference. “I don’t know. I mean, so it’s just very frustrating. There was some holds later that were no-brainers, they were holding. But the one early on Logan, I need an explanation. And then — because it happens to us all game.”

It was not the only comment Stoops had about SEC officials during his 20-minute press conference.

“I could say some things right now that wouldn’t be good,” he said through a clinched jaw. “I’m worried about us getting a call.”

The SEC office probably could reprimand Stoops for questioning the conference’s officials, but they’re too busy dealing with Will Muschamp and the “gutless” officiating in South Carolina’s loss to Florida.


LIVE: Mark Stoops’ Monday press conference

Tune in now to hear Mark Stoops’ post-Georgia/pre-Mizzou comments during his Monday press conference.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Monday Morning Offensive Breakdown

Dale Zanine | USA TODAY Sports

Every Monday I break down the UK offensive performance on down and distance situations.  The Georgia game was certainly one of the more unique offensive performances in UK history.  The lack of a quarterback combined with the weather situation led to UK basically unable to throw the ball in any situation.  And with the running game lacking the big play abilities that it showed against Arkansas, the odds were just far too high for a UK victory.  While not pretty, here is the breakdown from Saturday:

1st Down
Run: 16 rushes for 68 yards
Pass: 1-2, 8 yards, 1 sack allowed

Combined Season Stats
Run: 120 rushes for 690 yards, 7 TD (1 fumble lost)
Pass: 38-79, 409 yards, 2 TD, 2 sacks allowed

Breakdown: Over four yards per carry isn’t terrible but Georgia knew what was coming and UK only had two rushed go for over 10 yards the entire game on 1st down.  UK didn’t kill themselves but also wasn’t making any significant progress in front of the chains.  They continue to be a horrific passing team on 1st down.

2nd Down
Run: 12 rushes for 78 yards
Pass: 0-4

Combined Season Stats
Run: 88 rushes for 541 yards, 2 TD
Pass: 33-61, 358 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 4 sacks allowed (2 fumbles lost)

Breakdown: UK actually was quite productive on the ground on 2nd down, with over six yards per carry.  But much like all situations, they were not breaking the big plays most of the game and the steady progress would be eliminated by penalty or bad play and then drives would stall.

3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Run: 2 rushes for 15 yards (converted 1 of 2)
Pass: 0-5 (converted 0 of 5)

Combined Season Stats
Run: 9 rushes for 74 yards (converted 4 of 9)
Pass: 19-41, 236 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 5 sacks allowed (converted 11 of 46)

Breakdown: Not that surprising Bowden wasn’t completing passes on 3rd and long since he isn’t an actual quarterback and it was a monsoon.  But UK hasn’t been good all year in this situation, even more so than the national averages.  As long as UK has problems at quarterback, they will struggle mightly converting very many of these situations, making 1st and 2nd down so much more important.

3rd Down and Short (5 yards or fewer)
Run: 3 rushes for 7 yards, 1 fumble lost (converted 1 of 3)
Pass: 1-3, 9 yards (converted 1 of 3)

Combined Season Stats
Run: 25 rushes for 91 yards, 1 TD, 2 fumbles lost (converted 12 of 25)
Pass: 5-13, 116 yards, 1 TD (converted 5 of 13)

Breakdown: UK continued converting less than 50% of these plays and that is an absolute disaster.


SEC Football Takeaways from Week 8

Another week has come and gone in the college football season. The SEC consistently gives the sport amazing games, moments, and players. Here are my five biggest takeaways in the conference from week eight.

1. A Win For Derek Mason

It was a mostly quiet weekend in SEC Football as six out of seven favored teams won on Saturday. However, this is still college football, where the unpredictable always happens.

It just so happens that Vanderbilt got a huge win over heavily favored No. 22 Missouri on Saturday by a score of 21-14.

Make no mistake, this was a must-win for head coach Derek Mason, and he delivered big time. The Commodores came into the contest with a terrible 1-5 record and no hope. Yet, somehow, Vanderbilt found a way to win one for their coach who was essentially trying to protect his job.

Mason gave quite possibly the best postgame interview of the season after the victory:

On the flip side, what an utter disappointment for Missouri. They came into the game leading the SEC East and as a newly ranked team, then they just laid a huge egg. That’s twice this season the Tigers have done this (hello, Wyoming).

This is a very talented team, but they come out on some Saturdays not ready to play on the road. Also, the SEC East is still an absolute dumpster fire, and Mizzou’s loss doesn’t help with that.

Overall, chalk this one up as just another weird SEC East upset.

2. Florida Passes Another Test

The Gators had the tough challenge of playing at South Carolina on Saturday. To make matters worse, they were actually trailing the Gamecocks heading into the fourth quarter.

Thankfully for Florida, there are four quarters in a football game. Dan Mullen’s team would go on to score 21 points in the final quarter to defeat South Carolina by double digits.

It was a very typical win for the Gators as quarterback Kyle Trask had another solid outing as a game manager; their rushing attack was dominant, and their defense played well when it mattered. Florida is just a very perplexing team. It’s obvious they aren’t one of the best squads in the country this season, but they find ways to win due to fielding a true, complete team.

The offense is just good enough, the defense does what it takes to win, and their special teams are not a major hindrance at all. However, the road ahead gets much tougher. After a bye week, they will play Georgia in their annual rivalry game which will most likely determine the SEC East.

The Bulldogs should win, but with Mullen as head coach of the Gators, they will have a real shot at the upset.

3. Speaking of Georgia…

Well, Kentucky played right with the Bulldogs for right at two and a half quarters. Georgia’s fans were so upset with their offense putting up zero points in the first half that many fans booed and even left the stadium before the start of the third quarter.

Of course, the game was played in a monsoon which is part of the reason why so many fans left. The Bulldogs eventually got its offense going as they defeated the Wildcats by 21 points thanks to the play of running back D’Andre Swift. The star back ran for over 175 yards and two scores.

Overall, it was an admirable effort by Kentucky to make the contest as competitive as it was. However, its obvious that UK is extremely depleted right now. The Lynn Bowden experiment at quarterback was fun for a game against a bad team, but it didn’t go very well against Georgia. Bowden only completed two passes for 17 yards.

Yes, he had a good game on the ground, but you just aren’t winning football games in today’s game by completing only two passes. It will be interesting to see how Kentucky handles its quarterback situation heading into their matchup with Missouri next weekend.

Personally, I believe that a healthy Sawyer Smith is better than what UK fans had to sit through last night, but that’s a big “if.” Either way, this an extremely serious problem for the Wildcats, and they must find an answer soon.

4. Tua Banged Up

Of course, Alabama crushed Tennessee yesterday. But the big story from the game is the injury to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s ankle. Once he exited the contest, the Crimson Tide offense just wasn’t the same at all. Quarterback Mac Jones (a former Kentucky commit) only threw for 72 yards in Tua’s absence.

The good news is that the injury is not that significant as the star quarterback was having a good time celebrating in the locker room after the game.

One has to wonder about his durability though. This is the second time he has been injured over the past 10 months. Again, he will be fine, but it is curious that he has had multiple lower-body injuries. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on moving forward.

5. Burrow Does What Burrow Does

To absolutely no surprise, LSU thrashed Mississippi State thanks to another great performance from quarterback Joe Burrow. In true Burrow fashion, he passed for over 300 yards and four touchdowns without throwing a single interception.

So far Burrow stats look like this: Passing completion rate of 79.4%, 2,484 passing yards, and 29TD/3INT.

The fact that he has already broken LSU’s season record for passing touchdowns through just seven weeks speaks for itself. He HAS to be the Heisman Trophy favorite as of today. I know Jalen Hurts has had a great year, but Burrow has just been better this season.

I still think that this is the biggest story in college football so far this year. I’ll keep beating this drum until Burrow proves otherwise. With another week down, we are just one more week closer to that mammoth Alabama-LSU showdown.