There were plenty of takeaways from Kentucky’s 35-20 victory over Central Michigan on Saturday, but the biggest topic of discussion has to do with the quarterback competition and the rollercoaster performances we saw from both individuals under center.
In his weekly call-in show today, Mark Stoops said there are some obvious things to clean up, but he’s very confident in the quarterback situation as a whole.
He started by mentioning Stephen Johnson’s adjustment to college football in terms of taking care of the ball, and how he chipped away at the turnovers over the course of his career.
“I was really proud of the way our team played for the most part,” Stoops said. “Obviously we can’t have the turnovers, that goes without saying. We had that issue two years ago breaking in a new quarterback with Stephen (Johnson)… Last year we were top-ten in the country until the Tennessee game (in turnover differential).”
And with Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak being first-year players in a live setting, there are going to be some obvious growing pains.
“New quarterback, putting the ball on the ground, we have to clean that up,” he said. “I was proud of the way the team played. I thought it was really big when Gunnar (Hoak) stepped in and led the team down to a touchdown before the half. There’s nothing more demoralizing for an opponent to be up for in turnovers and go into the half down a point. From there, our team never looked back.”
As for Hoak’s big touchdown drive before halftime, Stoops said he thought about running the ball, but opted to take some shots through the air to see what the backup quarterback had up his sleeve. In the end, we had several impressive throws and one beautiful ball to David Bouvier for the score. It was a momentum changer.
“Eddie (Gran) and I talked, we were going to open with a run… But I said put it in the air, let’s throw it. Sure enough, he dropped back and hit his first pass and that gave him a lot of confidence… Led us right down the field on the score. It was an exceptional play on the touchdown… He saw (the pressure) coming, and he hit Bouvier for the touchdown. It was a really big play,” he said.
As a whole, we saw both good and bad with each. And after practice today, Stoops is confident we’ll see a big jump from week one to week two at the quarterback position.
“Both did some good things, and some things that we need to get better, like most players in that game. We have confidence in both of those guys, they had good practices today, so we’ll keep on moving forward,” Stoops said. “I think it’s really good to have both guys. Like I said, Danny Clark was another guy that looked really good in practice today, so we have some options. They’re playing well and they’re developing.”
As for Clark, Stoops says he has made massive leaps over the course of the past year or so, and he has developed into a serious option for the Cats in the future.
“Without a doubt, he’s a guy that is really getting better with every opportunity,” he said. “He’s a guy that made a big jump from last fall to last spring, and he made a big jump this summer through fall camp.
Naasir Watkins and EJ Price both stepped in to fill the major void left by Landon Young’s season-ending knee injury, and according to Stoops, they both did “really well” and “played winning football.” In fact, the Kentucky head coach says that if the line as a whole was able to give Wilson just a hair longer in the pocket, there were several home run balls that would’ve likely been completed, something they’ll work toward going forward.
“There are probably four or five plays that if we had just a fraction longer for the quarterback we’re going to get the ball down the field,” he said. “Those are the things that we’re going to have to keep working on, we were very close to hitting those this past week.
Beyond the quarterbacks and the success of the offensive line on Saturday, Stoops discussed his defense’s impressive performance, giving up just ten points and making Central Michigan quarterback Tony Poljan uncomfortable throughout the second half. He also talked about the linebacker success, Benny Snell and AJ Rose building each other up on and off the field, and the upcoming Florida game.
You can check out the entire call-in show below: