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TRANSCRIPT: Mark Stoops after Kentucky’s win over MTSU

MARK STOOPS: Obviously very pleased to get the eight victory of the season. Definitely not easy. We knew that going into it. Got a lot of respect for Middle Tennessee and Coach Stockstill and his son and Tony Franklin, the offensive coordinator. They do a really good job and we knew it was going to be a tough, hard fought game. They kind of beat us at our own game, kept the ball, possessed the ball the entire game and it really kind of got a little aggravating. We had some big stops that were critical that we needed, but it really limited possessions for our offense. It really felt like our offense was, you look at the overall numbers and you’re wondering, but the possessions were very low. The first, I think the third quarter, looked up there and we had one possession for a touchdown and they had a possession for a touchdown. There was four minutes left before the second possession of the third quarter. And I thought the possession to start the second half was huge by our offense and just like they did to start the game.

So hard fought victory, 8th victory. When you’re doing things that haven’t been done in 34 years or whatever it is, it’s not meant to be easy, it’s not easy. I have great, great appreciation for this team, but especially this senior group. The way they stepped up again tonight and the way they played and what they have done for this program. There’s some very good players there and greatly appreciate their effort and their leadership and what they have done and you saw it there today.

We need to play better. We really, frustrating really, mostly defensively, just frustrated with the way our position on the ball and leveraging the ball and some of that. And, again, give them credit. There was a ton of deception in there in getting us on our heels a little bit and eye violating a little bit and not playing as good as we can on the perimeter. And so we got to get some things cleaned up. There will be a lot to look at and improve on from this game.

Q. What does it mean to you and the players to see Josh back out there again today?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was, it meant an awful lot to us. You guys know from my, from covering me every day and I’ve been telling you the truth, that he has been working his way in there the last two, three weeks. And I don’t know what he just said to you now, but he was trying to come back a few weeks ago and just the foot was bothering him and in different, from where he had the surgery. And that really disappointed him because he was ready to go a few weeks ago, trying to get back for the Georgia game, I want to say, and just wasn’t ready. And we certainly wouldn’t put him out there until he’s ready to go. We played him at a spot because we were really thin at the outside backer, extremely thin there this week, and so we played him there because it was really a comfort zone for him. It’s a little bit — he played there all year. And to put him back inside where he had never done that before would have been a little bit tough on him, and we needed the help at Jack, so it worked out good. And we gave him the start just because we thought it was right and it was good and it was inspiring to the team and fun and we got off to a really good start with the two turnovers there defensively. And then I just thought we lingered around there a bit after that.

Q. When you say that we need to get some things cleaned up, what in your mind is mostly what you need to be cleaned up?
MARK STOOPS: Well, I just thought we were sloppy on the perimeter. When in basic football, when you leverage the football, tackle the football, stay off cuts, there was some aggravating yards out there that, those are things that we need to do a better job of fundamentally, and just position on the football and little things like that. And, again, it was a, it was a good job by them and they controlled the clock and limited our offense. You look at the drive chart there and in the first half we had one possession where we didn’t score. And in the second half there again, really only four possessions in the second half. The kneel down on the fifth. So that’s a defense and we got to do a better job.

Q. Was it a difficult decision to not suspend Tymere today?
MARK STOOPS: No, it wasn’t a difficult decision. Tymere and I talked about it and I actually gave him an option on a couple games.

Q. Do you expect Mike Edwards to come out and have not only a game, but even a first quarter like he did on senior day?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it doesn’t surprise me with Mike. If you look at him and as I’m out there giving those guys a hug and saying goodbye for their last game here at home, there’s some real players there and guys that have contributed quite a bit and what about Mike? I mean, he is just absolutely consistent for years. One of the better players in the league. Just really consistent player. He’s been very reliable.

Q. I assume their game plan was partially to negate Josh Allen?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah.

Q. Have you ever had a defensive player have a better season than he’s had?
MARK STOOPS: I can’t say that I have. I’ve had a Thorpe winner and a couple runners-up and been in the Thorpe several times. But just the way he impacts the game being a big guy, he’s really remarkable. And he’s so unselfish. You see players so often in situations like that and he won’t blink an eye if we’re not rushing him. And the way their run game was we were stacking them some and couldn’t get him coming off the edges as much as we would like to. It was even aggravating to me. I was like, hey, let’s get Josh going here. But he’s just, he doesn’t even think about it. If he gets, when he gets his opportunities, he’s going to go. And he wanted the record, but not at the expense of our defense and what we’re doing and game planning.

Q. What have these guys meant to the future of your program, the seniors?
MARK STOOPS: What have they meant to the future? Well, they have just set such a great example for our younger players because of their work ethic, so many things. But they have been leaders, they have been, they have had a great work ethic. They have been very unselfish and really about the team and far from perfect, but they have really, they really have great hearts and their minds are in the right place and they really want to lead and set a great example and set the precedent for the future.

(more…)


LIVE: Mark Stoops on Kentucky’s win over MTSU

LIVE: Mark Stoops on Kentucky’s win over MTSU

Mark Stoops is about to meet with reporters to recap Kentucky’s 34-23 win over Middle Tennessee State. Follow along courtesy of KyWildcatsTV:


Kentucky avoids disaster, beats MTSU 34-23

Kentucky avoids disaster, beats MTSU 34-23

Phew. What was supposed to be a fun, get-back-on-track Senior Day almost ended in disaster for Kentucky.

The Cats beat Middle Tennessee State 34-23, but the Blue Raiders put up a heck of a fight, and the issues on offense AND defense in the second half will do little to quiet the coaching staff’s critics. Kentucky made enough plays to advance to 8-3 on the season, their best record since 1984, but man, that was ugly.

The day had plenty of highs and lows. Mike Edwards got a pick six to start the game and forced a fumble a few plays later. Josh Paschal returned to the field for the first time after battling cancer AND got a big tackle, bringing fans to their feet. Josh Allen broke the Kentucky Football record for career sacks in what may have been the play of the game, stuffing Brent Stockstill on fourth down with the Blue Raiders down eight. He did it again with 39 seconds left to break the single-season sacks record, previously held by Dennis Johnson.

If not for Allen’s heroics, this would be a very different recap. MTSU moved the ball way too easily, outgaining Kentucky in total yards 392-324. Kentucky’s playcalling in the second half was puzzling, most notably the decision to keep Benny Snell on the sidelines on a crucial drive at the start of the fourth quarter. With one game left, Kentucky’s done incredible things this season, but today’s performance will still have fans grumbling.

Again, phew.


WATCH: Senior Day festivities underway at Kroger Field

It’s Senior Day here at Kroger Field, and KSR’s own Nick Roush is on the field to catch all of the action.

Check out his Facebook live from today’s senior day activities. Then, join the live blog and get ready to crush MTSU. Let’s go Cats.


UK vs. MTSU LIVE BLOG, presented by Liquor Barn

Hey BBN! Shop Liquor Barn, Kentucky’s favorite wine, spirits, beer, and cigar store for over 30 years. Go in-store, online, or use the new Liquor Barn app to shop pre-game, post-game or when you just want a drink! Order for pick-up or get it delivered in Lexington and Louisville. Visit LiquorBarn.com and shop now. Keep the party going! GO CATS!

Live Blog UK vs. MTSU LIVE BLOG, presented by Liquor Barn
 


SEC Storylines of Week 12: Cupcake Weekend

The college football season gets another week older, and many eyes will be focused on the SEC. Here is a rundown of the key storylines to watch for in Week 12 as Kentucky takes on Middle Tennessee State in Lexington.

1. Dead Week in the SEC

This is possibly the most infamous week in the SEC every year in college football. It’s the weekend before the last week of the regular season which is otherwise known as rivalry weekend. With so much riding on that last game, SEC teams usually spend Week 12 playing a non-power 5 team that is lacking in talent.

This year is no different as 8 of the 14 teams in the SEC are playing mid-major squads within the friendly confines of their own home stadium. There are only three inner-conference matchups, and only one of those involves a ranked team (Arkansas at No. 21 Mississippi State).

In other words, this should be the most boring week of the entire year in the conference. Unless a monumental upset occurs, 11 SEC Teams will walk away victorious on Saturday. The toughest non-conference opponent today will be UAB when they take on Texas A&M in College Station.

As one can imagine, the rest of the college football world isn’t exactly happy that the SEC is basically taking a week off today. If any conference is to get two teams in the college football playoff, it’s obviously the SEC. Having a weekend this easy this late in the season is rubbing people the wrong way.

No matter what anyone says, that last tweet is correct. This week has yet to hurt the conference at all the past couple of years. So, if it isn’t broke, then why fix it? The SEC smartly plans cupcakes right at the end of the season. That’s just how it is.

2. Kentucky Tries to Stop Its Free Fall

Every season in college football there is a surprise team that will come out of nowhere in the first half season and be ranked in the top 10 only to then quickly fall from grace.

Sadly, for the Big Blue Nation this year it was the Kentucky Wildcats. In just a matter of two weeks the Wildcats went from possibly making the SEC Championship game to losing to Tennessee by double digits. Yikes.

Despite this crushing fall back to Earth, things are still looking up in Lexington. Despite two straight losses and a 7-3 record, the committee still has the Wildcats ranked in their top 25 at No. 17 overall in the nation.

With only Middle Tennessee State and Louisville left on their schedule, there is no excuses for why UK should not finish the regular season 9-3 overall. Despite a terrible offense, the Wildcat defense led by Josh Allen is still one of the best in the nation.

Even if you are frustrated with how Kentucky has performed over the last month, tune in to watch Allen go to work. His NFL Draft hype is at an all-time high right now as many have him pegged to be selected in the first 15 picks.

3. Tennessee and Vanderbilt Fight for Bowl Eligibility

In the most underrated storyline of the weekend, Tennessee and Vanderbilt will continue their fight for bowl eligibility. The Volunteers currently sit at 5-5 on the year as the Commodores have a 4-6 record.

This week Tennessee plays at home in a very interesting matchup against Missouri as Vanderbilt will also be playing at home against Ole Miss. The Volunteers and Commodores will then end their regular season in a huge conference matchup in Nashville.

Theoretically, it’s still possible for both teams to be bowl eligible. Both squads would have to win today against capable opponents, then Vanderbilt would have to beat Tennessee in the finale and both teams would finish 6-6.

It isn’t the most likely scenario, but it would be a very good look for the SEC if both teams make bowl games. On the flip side, it would be a terrible look if neither one makes a bowl as that is a possible scenario as well.

While the Volunteers are just happy to be considerably better than last season, there is a lot riding on Vanderbilt’s performance in these last two weeks. Head Coach Derek Mason is squarely on the hot seat and finishing with a 4-8 record may just do the trick for the Commodore faithful.

Personally, I’m hoping the best for Mason, but if he coaches as bad as he did last Saturday then his days in Nashville are certainly numbered.

4. Georgia Prepares for a Showdown With ‘Bama

Last week I wrote that if Georgia took care of business against Auburn, then their regular season is basically over, and that’s exactly what happened.

Now, the Bulldogs just have to play UMass today (snore), then Georgia Tech next weekend (also snore) and they will play in the SEC Championship Game with a chance to make the Playoff.

Georgia is one of the teams to watch out for in the weeks leading to the committee Selection Sunday. First off, there is a very real chance that if Georgia pulls off the upset and defeats the Crimson Tide that the committee will put both the Bulldogs and Alabama in the playoff.

Someone else may have to lose a game in order for that to happen, but I think the committee would love to put two SEC teams in the playoff once again. Also, if Georgia was to slip up then this would open the door for one loss teams like Oklahoma, Ohio State, or West Virginia to make a huge run and get into the final four.

Either way, Georgia controls its own destiny at the present moment. If they take care of business in their next two games then defeat Alabama, the Bulldogs will be in the playoff for a second consecutive year. With D’Andre Swift back to playing like the best running back in the SEC, anything is possible for Georgia.

5. Tua’s Death Grip on Offensive Player of the Year

In case you live underneath a rock, Tua Tagovailoa is winning SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2018. He is easily the best overall player in the conference, and there isn’t a close second.

No other offensive player in the SEC has had near the impact that Tua has had on the Crimson Tide this season. The only other quarterback that’s comparable stat-wise is Ole Miss’s Jordan Ta’amu and the Rebels has dropped five SEC games this season.

While that race is all but settled, what will be very interesting to watch is how the Heisman Trophy race will wrap up. At this point, it’s really a three-man battle between Kyler Murray, Will Grier, and Tua.

Considering that Oklahoma and West Virginia play each other twice in the next three weeks, whoever plays better in those matchups will have the best chance of beating out Tua for the trophy.

All Tagovailoa has to do is put up solid numbers against The Citadel today then have nice performances in victories over Auburn and Georgia and the award will be his no matter what.

However, after aggravating his knee against Mississippi State Tagovailoa’s health will be something to watch moving forward. Either way, the best player in college football is currently in the SEC so enjoy watching him while you can.