Almost 48 hours removed from Kentucky’s first win of the 2019 season, Mark Stoops met with the media to talk about his team’s performance and preview Eastern Michigan. He shared a few revelations from the tape on almost every position group.
After throwing only seven passes in the first half, Terry Wilson completed 19-of-26 passes for 246 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Six passes went for 15 yards or more, three of which gained more than 30 yards.
“I’m encouraged by Terry’s play,” Mark Stoops said. “The big difference is when — he did miss a couple throws, but he knew right away what he did (wrong) fundamentally. One of them was a timing, one of them was resetting his feet, and so he knows it. So they have worked hard. Coach Hinshaw and him have worked hard. And he knows right away, like, it wasn’t like, oh, I just missed the throw. It was fundamentally whether it was his timing, how he set it up, whether he double clutched or didn’t reset his feet on one. And so there’s things that will be, with reps, again, those are easily corrected. And so when you look at it, I was pleased. I thought he really threw some good balls. And the ones he didn’t he can get fixed.”
For the first time in a long time, Stoops was not pleased with the play of the running backs. Statistically, UK’s three backs performed well, combining for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Stoops believes they could have gained more on the ground if the backs hit the right holes on zone reads.
“I thought the running backs did some really good things, but they missed several runs as well. But that’s why we watch the film and we’ll teach off it and get better. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed,” he said.
One run in particular was a drive-killer. Facing second-and-one in four-minute offense before halftime, Kavosiey Smoke bounced a run outside instead of cutting back inside. Kentucky took a three-yard loss and the drive stalled. Smoke and the rest of the backs ran hard, but they didn’t always make the correct decisions. It will come in time.
“I thought they had some tough runs and that position takes some experience as well and some touches and a feel for it and so there’s definitely a lot to build from there.”
“I’m encouraged by the wide receiver position. We had been seeing signs of that through spring and through camp. And I think these guys are working hard. You saw some competitive catches and some guys that have some talent and we need to continue to grow.”
One of those players that particularly stood out was Bryce Oliver. After an excellent spring game performance, the redshirt freshman caught his first career touchdown against Toledo.
“Bryce is learning to play tough and learning to play big and we’re encouraged. We feel like he’s got a bright future,” said Stoops. “He showed up on the field and he made a great catch, competitive catch at an important time when it was second and long.”
The O-line gave Terry Wilson a clean pocket. Toledo sacks the quarterback only once.
“Pass protection-wise very good,” Stoops said. “In the run game the same. I thought they did some really good things, there’s obviously some things that we need to clean up.”
The Cats must carry over that performance into week two. The last time UK played Eastern Michigan, Kentucky surrendered five sacks and ten TFLs. John Schlarman will not let that happen again.
“Coach Schlarman already pointed that out. So they, yeah, definitely, Coach Schlarman was definitely talking about that already this morning and yesterday. So he’ll get their attention, he’ll get them right and they will be ready to play.”
Max Duffy is an animal. In six punts the Aussie averaged 54 yards. He booted one 61 yards.
“You can’t faze him,” said Stoops. “He’s not real worried about anything. I mean that in a good way, like he cares a great deal, he loves the team and he cares, but yeah, he’s a different dude.”
The strength of Kentucky’s defense came ready to play when Toledo tried to run the ball. If you take away the QB scrambles, the Rockets only ran for 108 yards.
“I thought we were pretty stout in the predictable run situations. Coach White did a nice job. He had some things, some tweaks to what we do defensively that made them a little uncomfortable and made them play a little bit left-handed. And then our guys are pretty big and strong in general, so that better be one of our strengths throughout the season, is our run defense.”
The defensive line did not look great when the Toledo quarterback did scramble. The Cats were not disciplined enough in their pass rush.
“They didn’t get to where they need to to cut things off. Our rush lanes were a little sloppy at times. We’re getting past the quarterback a little bit. With a guy like that that can scramble, we got to be a little more disciplined.”
Stoops was proud of the way DeAndre Square and Josh Paschal played. The big time players needed to make big time plays and they did just that. One guy we didn’t expect to have a big game was Jordan Wright. No. 15 had six tackles, one for loss, while playing both outside linebacker positions.
“He did a good job. I was pleased with him. He can play either side we need him to play well and he’s a different type of player than Josh Paschal. So I was really encouraged with the way he played. He’s got to continue to push, so let’s not be too nice to him right now.”
Consistency in practice has never been one of Wright’s strengths. Until they see it regularly, Stoops and White will be hard on outside linebacker.
On the first drive of the game, Kentucky gave up a deep ball on third and long. To everyone at Kroger Field, it looked like Jamari Brown made a huge mistake. It wasn’t all Brown’s fault.
“We could have helped him with the deep pass. Everybody knows he kind of misjudged that ball but it really, what happened was he got bad eyes,” said Stoops.
“He was looking at the inside receiver so it wasn’t like he saw, he just misjudged it. It was just his eyes were wrong. However, that starts up front. We had a guy up front that at outside backer that could have rerouted that guy. He sat there and watched him run right pass him. So our Jack, Josh Paschal, I like Josh’s chances of rerouting that young man if he just plays big. And Josh didn’t play big there, he let the guy run right up the seam…That problem could be fixed easily if we all just do our job.”
Even though things did not go Brown’s way early on, Stoops was happy to see the cornerback, along with the rest of his compadres, did not let any of those mistakes linger.
“You to have some nerve and some thick skin to play that position. And you better have a short memory as well, because nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. We have to put those guys on an island,” he said. “Where’s ways to protect them sometimes and you try to, but in general there’s no hiding. That’s the growing pains that we had early on.”