Kentucky’s improbable victory over Missouri injected confidence into the fan base ahead of Saturday’s SEC East showdown with Georgia, but the Cats were not perfect.
“It was a fun moment for our team, there’s no question, just the way it ended, but it was far from a complete game for us,” Mark Stoops said at today’s press conference.
Kentucky’s head coach detailed the progress of players at a variety of positions throughout the 30-minute conversation with the media.
A Confident Terry Wilson
While juggling Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark with Terry Wilson, Kentucky’s starter shined. Wilson completed 70 percent of his passes for 267 yards and orchestrated a game-winning 88-yard touchdown drive in the final minute.
“I know it did a lot for his confidence and I know it did a lot for his team’s confidence in him,” Stoops said. “It’s a hard position to play. Everybody loves the backup quarterback. It’s a hard position to play. You need some reps, you need some time. I feel like he responded the way we wanted him to, both in the game and certainly in that last drive.”
Why Danny Clark?
Kentucky’s big third string quarterback only got one rep vs. Missouri. The power-run gave UK a first down, but Clark put the ball on the ground. Luckily, Kentucky kept the ball after a review. Stoops explained why they used Clark in that role.
“It’s not like a true ‘wildcat.’ You got a big, strong guy back there where you can do some Q run game but he also has a very live arm. He can throw the football. You could build a little package here and there off of that,” he said.
They might have stuck with Danny a little longer if he didn’t put the ball on the turf.
“We wish we could’ve got him in there a little more. Sometimes you get him in there if you rip off a good run or play-action or whatever you do off of it. Then you can maybe let him go a little bit.”
More Chance Poore
The freshman placekicker only had one field goal opportunity, a make from 31 yards. Stoops will stick with Chance Poore again this week.
More Chris Oats
Kash Daniel played in his first game since injuring his left hand. Kash had three tackles and a pass break up, but Stoops could tell a difference in the way he played with a clubbed left hand.
“It bothers him. Those are big, powerful guys and he doesn’t have the ability to grab, tackle and things like that. But it’s not going to slow him down. He’s a tough guy. He’s inspirational. You’d have to cut it off to keep him out of there.”
Kash brings an infectious energy that motivates his teammates. To sideline him completely would not be wise, but Stoops acknowledged they need to get Chris Oats more involved after the freshman only played eight snaps at Missouri.
Come on, Wide Receivers
Lynn Bowden was terrific against Missouri, catching all 13 targets for 166 yards, but you could not say the same about his pass-catching teammates.
“Obviously we need to improve. I thought Tavin (Richardson) came back and became more like him and played really hard and did some really good things. He had a drop or two and Dorian’s (Baker) play, his drop, obviously it’s inexcusable at that point. It’s third and five against that football team and we have an opportunity to split them right there. It’s a big play and it limits them another opportunity. You can’t do that, you can’t do that. We overcame it this week but you can’t do that as you move forward.”
A Fine Line
There were a few heated moments on the sidelines between players and coaches. Two instances (Benny Snell and Darius West) were the result of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. Stoops welcomes the open dialogue because the coaches and players have cultivated a relationship that can withstand those heated moments.
“There’s always going to be a line. Those players know that and respect that,” Stoops said. “We trust and respect our players and we know darn well that they respect their coaches. There’s always, in this business and that kind of competitiveness, there’s going to be people flaring up tempers and different things. But you can’t be thin-skinned and soft. You take it and you move on.”
Josh Allen took his medicine, moved on and had one of the best games in his career. Tempers will flare, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.