Mark Stoops invited the working press into UK’s practice facility Thursday evening for one last conversation about Kentucky’s upcoming game against UT Martin. The Q&A followed the Cats’ second-to-last practice of the week, and here is what you need to know from Stoops’ comments.
He does not have anyone on a “pitch count” and will work in subs as the situation allows.
“There’s no plan,” Stoops said, when asked about getting some of his starters out of there early. “We want to go in and play a complete football game and that’s our focus and our energy. As always, you know I like to roll guys in. It’s important for our program, it’s just important in the development phase. As many bodies as we can get in, we are always looking to do that. But we’re going in with our starters dialed in and focused and ready to play and hopefully we can get some other guys in. As usual, we will get our rotation going at certain positions.”
It’s always one game at a time, but they’re well aware of the importance of a potential sixth victory on Saturday.
Bowl eligibility should come Saturday evening for a fourth straight year and Stoops knows what it means for the program, especially after his early years in Lexington.
“We don’t take that for granted,” he said of the six-win mark. “We absolutely understand that there is a benchmark there, that you need to get to six (wins). It’s important for your program to continue to grow and to get those extra practices. Our players deserve that type of reward, so we don’t take that for granted, but we absolutely want more. We want to continue to win more and more games, so, I think, six, we’re grateful for the opportunity to get six. We gotta go do it.”
He believes UT Martin will come out swinging.
“This is a team that’s already won seven games and it’s their last opportunity of the year, so it’s pretty easy for them to throw caution to the wind and let it all hang out and play the best they can play. We expect that.”
Remember the Austin Peay game a couple of years ago? A similar situation (although Austin Peay was win-less) of Kentucky needing a win to get bowl eligible. They trailed 13-0 early.
“That was one of the most aggravating games I’ve been a part of it,” Stoops said.
Recruiting looks good, but there are busy times ahead.
When asked about recruiting and the early signing period coming up, Stoops replied, ”I think we’re in a really good position, we’re in a strong position right now. I feel good about the way we’re going to close. I have to be careful and strategic because we don’t have as many to play with as I normally do, (but) I really feel good about where we’re at and the opportunity to get some more down the stretch here. I just want to make sure I have enough scholarships, just have to be careful in that regard.”
Stoops said every minute of every day is already mapped out for two straight weeks after the Louisville game. He doesn’t even see room for a bathroom break.
“I have to get into those homes during that two-week period.”
He loves to run the ball, we know that. But like the fans, he wants to throw it more than they are right now.
“It’s always been the goal since Day 1 for me, to always have a physical football team,” Stoops said of his physical, run-first approach. “Again, I feel like you’re going to be consistent.”
“I also understand it’s important to have balance,” he added. “The fans that want to see the ball in the air, I do too. Relax. I want to be balanced as well. Again, we work extremely hard and will again to have a balanced offense.”