While most of America was off for Labor Day, Mark Stoops took 30 minutes out of his busy day to speak with the media about the Cats’ first win of the season and the upcoming road trip to Gainesville. You’ve already seen what he had to say about The Streak, but he touched on many more significant topics.
1. Mum on the Quarterbacks
Terry Wilson remained atop Kentucky’s depth chart, even though he committed three turnovers in the first half against Central Michigan. Stoops said after the game he doesn’t know if both QBs will continue to play, but he said today he liked seeing them fight through adversity.
“Both guys did some really good things and both did some things you would expect from first time playing. I really enjoy having both guys” Stoops said.
“I appreciate Gunnar stepping in a difficult situation, making some plays and putting it in the end zone. That was really important for us, at that point, to go in leading (at halftime) after giving up four turnovers in the first half. That doesn’t happen very often. That was a big touchdown for him and really sparked us. It was also good to get Terry back in the second half and play well.”
2. Mark Stoops and Nick Saban, Kindred Spirits
You might be hard-pressed to find some commonalities between the Kentucky and Alabama head coaches, but after Saban’s Saturday night outburst, Stoops understands Saban’s plight.
Nick Saban got testy with Maria in the postgame interview. https://t.co/MKDju0dHOY
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) September 2, 2018
“Well I don’t think I could get after you like he can,” he joked. “I mean I could, but I don’t know how well that’s going to go over. I know seven days later I’ll have a big bullseye on my chest.”
All joking aside, Stoops can relate to how Saban has publicly dealt with a quarterback competition.
“It was very poignant in that I don’t want to talk anything negative about either of our guys, any of our guys, including Danny [Clark]. When people try to get you to ask what one guy’s doing, it’s insinuating that the other one’s not doing that. I can relate to that and just want to be very positive about our guys. And what better example than this past Saturday for us? With the way Gunnar went in, again that is a very big moment. It’s a great teaching moment for our team. For our young guys because he could have gone in the tank and moped, cried or complained or pointed fingers, but he just worried about himself and preparing and went in in a very difficult situation and performed. I’m proud of him for that.”
3. These Cats are Close
When fans think of position competitions, we tend to believe each player is at the other’s throat as they try to take the top spot. That has not been the case at Kentucky.
After the game, A.J. Rose said he was prepared to be at his best when he learned his roommate, Benny Snell, was sick with a viral infection.
“They are very close. That’s a lot like our team right now,” Stoops said. “I think the team is a lot like that. There was zero panic on the sideline Saturday. There was no finger pointing. Everybody’s just going to move on to the next play and that’s what the team did, so I was very pleased with that.”
4. Stoops is Not Over the Targeting Penalty
The head coach was pretty pleased with his defense’s first performance of the season. When the offense put them in a bad situation, they held the line. He had only positive things to say about the defense across the board, except for two plays.
One was a missed tackle on third down that extended a Central Michigan drive. The other infuriating moment was Chris Westry’s third down hit. Instead of getting the ball back after a third and long, Westry hit the CMU receiver directly in the head. On those two scoring drives the Kentucky defense did not take advantage of an opportunity to get off the field. That must change on Saturday.
5. Bouvier Finds Hidden Yards
David Bouvier showed how he earned a scholarship on Saturday. The slot receiver caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown. As UK’s punt returner, he put the offense in good positions when the punter didn’t completely knock him out of the play.
“He saved us yards by fielding (the ball). Get what he can and get down, not try to do too much. He probably already saved 15 yards in hidden yardage right there by fielding that ball.”
Stoops estimates Kentucky gained about 60 yards on hidden yardage in special teams. Bouvier put one on the dirt, but it’s the first time Stoops has ever seen him cough up the ball. Hopefully Bouvier’s nerves are gone for good.
6. Feleipe Franks is Better
The Florida quarterback posted gaudy numbers in the Gators’ first victory of the season. Franks completed 16-of-24 passes for 219 yards and 5 touchdowns in the 53-6 win over Charleston Southern.
“He just looked much more comfortable,” Stoops said. “I think they gave him just enough reads and quarterback runs where he was comfortable in his decisions. Threw some very accurate passes. He’s got some good weapons to throw to. So, he just looked like a year older and very comfortable.”
7. Can you Prepare Newcomers for The Swamp?
“No. No. No.”
Noise will be piped in during practice, but it cannot replicate what the atmosphere will be like when the Cats take the field Saturday night. Stoops is emphasizing all week to start fast and focus on the details.
“You do the little things right over and over and over, big things will happen. We have some unbelievable clips of the past game where if we just do the little things, big plays were going to happen…When you’re in that environment, you have to embrace it, but you have to concentrate on what you have to do.”