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10 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 Tennessee, how the team is responding, recruiting, and what he’s expecting out of Vanderbilt on Saturday, among other topics.

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

The leaders are helping the younger players move on

After a disappointing loss to Tennessee on Saturday, Stoops said the team had a successful practice on Monday to “get the stench of [the] loss off.”

“It was good,” he said. “Always good to get out there and kick the dust off, get the stench of a loss off you a little bit. Just move on. It was a nice day out there today, weather was good before this nasty stuff came in, everyone was in good spirits.”

A big reason for that? The veterans helping the team move on.

“Without a doubt, that was part of the conversation today,” Stoops said. “It was about picking yourself up,  our leaders stepping forward. We need those guys to because we have to go back on the road and take on an SEC opponent in the East. We need this victory. There’s no time sit back and sulk.”

What did he see from the Tennessee game film?

Stoops said that despite the final result, there were “a lot of good things” to take away from the Tennessee loss.

Still, though, the “critical misses” killed Kentucky’s chances to win at the end of the day.

“I saw a lot of good things. A lot of critical misses and plays in tough times,” he said. “You look at it on both sides, we controlled the game, we just didn’t control the outcome, the score at the end. That’s what’s frustrating. the ball for most of the game. Offensively, you start looking at it, and you don’t see too many games like this except in the NFL. We only had nine possessions. We started with a 17-play, 10 minute drive. Force a three-and-out, get the ball back, score quickly with a two-play score. But after that, we had one three-and-out all night. We moved the ball effectively all night, but the key to the game was getting stalled. We got stalled on our last three possessions with turnovers on downs.”

The kicking game has to improve

Following Kentucky’s third missed extra point attempt in just two games, Stoops said it is obvious they need to take a closer look at the kicking game and who leads the charge moving forward.

“We need to get back to kicking the ball effectively,” he said. “It changes the way we call our plays [when we struggle in the kicking game], it changes where you’re at. When you sit there and miss three extra points in two games, all of a sudden, when you use two different kickers, you’re losing confidence in the kicking game. The missed extra point itself hurt us because at the end of the game, we would have been able to kick a field goal and tie the game.”

And when will he decide that?

“I’ve got to wait to see, we didn’t kick today as far as extra points and field goals go,” Stoops said. “We’ll kick tomorrow and Thursday, live with the kickers, and we’ll see what they look like. We’ll make a decision then.”

Stoops gives Veterans Day shoutout

With today being Veterans Day, Stoops wanted to give a quick shoutout to those who have sacrificed their lives or continue to do so as service members.

“Without a doubt, I said it in my news conference today,” he said. “Thank you to all men and women, past and present, for their service and all they do for our country. We greatly appreciate it, our whole program does. Our players absolutely care so much, guys like Kash [Daniel]. He’s so involved and cares. We talk about it a lot and greatly appreciate your service.”

Lynn Bowden’s interception was “haunting” for the staff

Stoops was not shy about Kentucky’s struggles in the passing game lately, and he also admitted that Bowden’s early interception spooked the coaching staff out a bit moving forward.

It started with the lack of opportunities.

“We didn’t have as many opportunities with that on Saturday,” he said. “As I mentioned during the postgame, against Missouri, with the way they were playing, I felt like there were some opportunities down the field. It just depends on how they play us. Tennessee didn’t commit as many people to the run, so we didn’t have as many clean looks [passing].”

And when he missed on the interception, it lingered a bit.

“He did on that particular throw, and it did float on him and drift a couple yards outside,” Stoops said. “He just missed it. Had we had clear opportunities like that throughout the night, I believe he would have connected on some of them because he can throw it. A critical play was that interception, that’s where I struggle. You talk about haunting yourself and thinking about it, we had them on the ropes, controlling the game at that point. We were driving on them, I believe it was the seventh play of that drive. We just created a big chunk play in the run game, so we take our shot, and the shot was there. He was open. That’s a touch pass, those are hard on quarterbacks that don’t get as many opportunities. But that’s where we struggle [as a coaching staff]. Do we just continue to pound it out? I kick myself over that.”

Speaking of missed opportunities, what did he think about the final offensive play at the goal line that ultimately ended the game?

“There were some plays that we felt we just missed by a fraction. It was just very close,” Stoops began. “We talked it over. Anybody that says they wouldn’t change their mind is [mistaken]. The play before we ran it up the middle on a power play. It was on the goal line so they had another guy lined up there. I can’t blame Chris because it was a tough run. With Lynn on the perimeter, that gave us the option with him to run it or pitch it. We’ve had great success with that over the last several weeks, so that’s why we did it.”

What about putting in Sawyer Smith on obvious passing situations?

With Kentucky struggling in the passing game, could UK decide to insert Smith in on passing situations?

Stoops said it’s possible, but it’s not as cut-and-dry as people make it out to be.

“You can, you can. The other dynamic is this,” Stoops said. “I didn’t go back and look at it exactly, but I want to say at least two three-and-longs, I know at least a third-and-three, we converted running the ball. And with Lynn, it gives you the dual threat, that’s tough on a defense. He converted on [several third-down opportunities]. Those are things we’re thinking about as well. If Sawyer goes in, you have to take the Q-run game out of it. But it’s a fair question to ask, we could possibly look at that this week, certainly putting him in a possession or two in certain games. But like I said, only one three-and-out, it’s tough to take him out when he’s doing so well and we’re moving the ball so effectively. We just have to convert in critical [scoring] moments.”

Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver are close to returning

After telling the media earlier today that Ahmad Wagner and Bryce Oliver would likely play this weekend against Vanderbilt, Stoops provided yet another positive update.

“It’ll definitely help [getting them both back],” he said. “Ahmad was out there today, so that helps. Bryce wasn’t fully practicing, but he was on the sideline moving around. Hopefully we get a good report in the morning.”

Quarterback gripes are “a legitimate frustration”

One fan called in complaining to Stoops about the quarterback situation, saying the team has to establish some semblance of a passing game if they want to end the season with success.

Stoops didn’t disagree.

“I do not disagree at all, I totally agree,” he said. “It’s a legitimate frustration and comment. You’re correct.”

That being said, the Kentucky head coach was quick to acknowledge that the staff is working hard to correct the mistakes.

“I was having a conversation with a prospect’s father today, and it was interesting because we were discussing all these things and how it’s tough to be in this situation,” Stoops began. “He said, “Listen, coaches are coaches and I’m a parent. You’ll never hear a word from me.” He said, “Believe me, I think you all have a little bit more on your plate than anyone else as far as a vested interest to win.” So when people have frustrations like that, I agree. I’m not saying I have the exact answers on that or that I’m always right. I just promise you, I was not in that office from 9 AM on Sunday morning and left at 10 PM on Sunday night for any other reason but to help us win. I have a very vested interest in us winning football games. This is not a job for me, this is a way of life. I respect [all of the complaints] and I hear you, but the coaches are banging their heads and just as frustrated.”

Recruiting is “through the roof”

Despite the difficult loss on Saturday, Stoops is confident his 2020 recruiting class is solid from top to bottom, and momentum isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

“The amount of recruits at the game was unbelievable,” he said. “There had to have been 20-25 kids there. I had wide receivers, running backs, all different positions are calling me and texting me at 2 o’clock in the morning telling me they were all in. … [Recruiting is] through the roof. This is a unique group. They’re special, they’re solid.”

In fact, the staff feels they got over the hump with some “fringe” guys.

“We had some guys calling that were on the fringe that I think we are now over the top,” he said. “We still have to hold guys and it’s always a battle in this league, but this is a special group. We don’t have a problem getting guys in the boat.”

What do we need to know about Vanderbilt?

Moving on from Tennessee, what does Stoops know about the Vanderbilt Commodores?

“They had a quarterback start for the first time this past week, their starter should be back next week,” he said. “He was in concussion protocol I believe, so he should be back against us. I know the way Derek Mason coaches, I have a lot of respect for him, I know they’ll play hard. We just need to be ready to play. Offensively, we need to build on the things we’re doing well, put the ball in the end zone.”


KSR Football Podcast: Get Outta Here!

Nobody is happy after the Tennessee loss. Once you hear the KSR Football Podcast crew voice their grievances, you might feel better about Kentucky football. Give it a try. Highlights:

— Can Duffy just drop kick extra points?

— What did Kentucky ever do to Guarantano?

— Why Vandy will be ready to play vs. UK.

— Drew’s biggest complaint from the game.

— Good recruiting news.

— Can we blame the loss on the couple who got married at halftime?

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.


LIVE: Mark Stoops’ Pre-Vanderbilt Press Conference

Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference is about to begin. Watch below as he answers questions about Kentucky’s loss to Tennessee and Saturday’s game vs. Vanderbilt in Nashville.


BTI’s Rants and Ramblings: Monday Morning Offensive Breakdown

Every Monday I breakdown the UK offensive performance in down and distance scenarios.  It can give you a good sense of where the Cats were most successful and where they struggled the most.  And you can also get a better view of what the offensive gameplan was.  Against Tennessee, UK continued to show solid production in the ground game in a limited offense.  But the struggles on 3rd and short reared their ugly head again and likely cost UK another game.  Is it playcalling or is it execution?  It’s hard to say.  But the UK offense is limited and it’s hurting them:

1st Down
Run: 24 rushes for 140 yards

Pass: 2-4, 13 yards, 1 INT

Combined Season Stats
Run: 166 rushes for 936 yards, 10 TD (1 fumble lost)
Pass: 41-85, 466 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 sacks allowed

Breakdown: The yardage numbers are decent, with just under 6 yards per carry total.  Overall, UK did a pretty nice job getting good, positive yardage at the beginning of drives and sets of downs and put themselves in decent position.  As with as stat you look at, this production decreased in the 2nd half over the 1st half.

2nd Down
Run: 21 rushes for 99 yards, 2 TD

Pass: 2-2, 12 yards

Combined Season Stats
Run: 125 rushes for 706 yards, 4 TD (1 fumble lost)
Pass: 37-65, 380 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT, 4 sacks allowed (2 fumbles lost)

Breakdown: Production in the 2nd quarter was awesome on 2nd down but the other 3 quarters was pretty bad.  The Cats do get both of their touchdowns on 2nd down, with Smoke’s run being the highlight here.  UK had more negative plays on 2nd down than any other down in the game.

3rd Down and Long (6 yards or more)
Run: 5 rushes for 42 yards (converted 3 of 5)

Pass: 1 sack (converted 0 of 1)

Combined Season Stats
Run: 19 rushes for 207 yards, 1 TD (converted 9 of 19)
Pass: 20-43, 245 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, 6 sacks allowed (converted 11 of 49)

Breakdown: UK was able to convert 3 times on the ground on 3rd and long, so all in all, it was a great success.  They have actually shown more success in 3rd and long than 3rd and short, especially in the ground game since Bowden took over.  It’s a weird stat that almost no other team will have.

3rd Down and Short (5 yards or fewer)
Run: 9 rushes for 27 yards (converted 4 of 9)

Pass: No Plays

Combined Season Stats
Run: 37 rushes for 123 yards, 1 TD, 3 fumbles lost (converted 17 of 37)
Pass: 5-15, 116 yards, 1 TD (converted 5 of 15)

Breakdown: It’s no secret now that this is where UK has declined so significantly from last year and you could point to this game and Florida as games that could have easily won just converting 3rd and short situations.