While Mark Stoops typically speaks to the media a few times per week during the season – once on Monday afternoon for a weekly press conference and another post-practice session on Thursday evening – the Kentucky head coach usually uses his weekly call-in radio show on Monday evenings to kick back and relax a bit.
During the hour-long show with Tom Leach, Stoops usually opens up about his team’s performance from the previous week, previews Kentucky’s upcoming opponent, and answers questions via phone and social media from the Big Blue Nation.
Following Kentucky’s big win over Tennessee, Stoops used this evening’s edition of the call-in show to discuss the team’s dominant defensive performance, break down specific standouts, and preview the Missouri game, among other topics.
Here are ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:
How did the team respond Monday?
After a historic victory at Tennessee this past weekend, how did the Wildcats respond in practice to open the week?
“Monday went good, good meetings, good practice,” Stoops said. “It’s always good to get off to a good start for the week. Sometimes it’s much easier to make corrections off of a victory. These guys did a lot of good things [against Tennessee], a lot to build on there. Our guys are in good spirits, we got off to a good start for Missouri.”
Stoops looking to avoid a letdown
Despite the massive win this past weekend, the UK head coach is pushing the Wildcats to hit the reset button and turn their attention to Missouri. With six SEC games to go, it’s a long season and there is still work to be done.
“Well, you’ve certainly got to be guarded,” he said. “Gotta take care of business, you don’t want the good things that come from success to tear you back down. All the ‘attaboys’ and that sort of thing, you’ve got to hit the reset button every week, win or lose. Go back to a new challenge. We’ve got a rough schedule.”
With Quinton Bohanna out, young defensive linemen need to step up
As Stoops mentioned during his press conference earlier today, he confirmed Quinton Bohanna was out for the Missouri game, at minimum.
“I don’t know how long he’ll be out, but he’s out for this game, at least.”
Now, UK’s young standouts on the defensive line will have to do their part to make up for the significant loss up front.
“Marquan McCall [is next in line]. Justin [Rogers], he’ll get a great opportunity and we’ll see what he can do. Some of the other young guys, they’ll get some reps, as well. They realized very quickly [against Tennessee] that they need the work. The young players have great attitudes. Josaih Hayes is another guy that will play, as well.
“They realized really quick that it’s a different level, different speed. That’s one position that’s very fundamentally driven. You get closer to the football on the inside, things happen very fast. They did some good things, but they have a long way to go.”
What about Missouri?
With the SEC changing the schedule up a bit, Kentucky will now take on the Missouri Tigers on Saturday instead of the Georgia Bulldogs.
“That put us a bit behind in our preparation, but that’s okay. We were able to make up that time Saturday night and Sunday, get caught up. Had a great practice today, got to get going on Missouri.”
What does he like about the Tigers?
“You see a team you’d expect, they’re well-coached, getting better with every opportunity. Got better this past game two Saturdays ago with LSU, with a quarterback change. They’re very creative offensively and play very hard defensively.”
What did Stoops drink to celebrate?
After the victory over Tennessee, Stoops called into the KSR Postgame Show and said he was looking forward to getting home, drinking a glass of bourbon, and smoking a cigar.
Which bottle did he reach for in the liquor cabinet?
“When I got home, I sipped on some Old William Tarr,” Stoops said. “Old William Tarr is being revived with Manchester Reserve, phenomenal stuff. Got my hands on a bottle of that and had a few sips.”
Don’t blame you, Coach.
Mike Drennen and Vito Tisdale impress against the Vols
Two of Kentucky’s true freshmen made plays on Saturday, and Stoops noticed.
For Drennen, he made his first career reception late in the game, and it came on a tough 3rd down, allowing the Kentucky defense to stay off the field and rest.
“The nice thing about Drennen is that Joey and Mike had a good connection there on that 3rd down and 3,” Stoops said. “It doesn’t go in the stat book, but what helps the defense is sitting over there on the bench. At that point we were in pretty good command. When you convert a 3rd and 3, that goes on to kill the whole rest of the clock. You don’t have to go back and stress again, it was a seven-minute drive that Michael flattened off.
“It was a 3rd and 3, they were playing tight coverage, and he learned through camp and with reps there, he went nice and flat, Joey put it right on him and he made a nice, competitive catch. Probably had a chance to go down and score again the way we were moving it, but we just ran out the clock at that point. Just a great catch by Mike, really nice throw by Joey.”
As for Tisdale, he continues to make plays on special teams and in the secondary.
“Vito is definitely coming, he’s a guy that has shown some flashes. He’s very sudden. He’s got sudden and he’s got power. He’s only going to get better, great instincts for a young guy. I just want him to continue to grow and work hard, mature in all areas of his life. I love him, I love his ability. He’s got a great opportunity, he’s just got to keep making the most of it.”
Kelvin Joseph responds with a bang
After struggling in back-to-back games to open the season, cornerback Kelvin Joseph has responded with two interceptions in two games, with one being a pick-six against Tennessee.
Beyond the highlight plays, Joseph has been solid in coverage and as a tackler, a response Stoops is thrilled with.
“I think with him it’s about getting game reps under his belt,” he said. “He was pressing very very hard early in the season. Having to sit out an entire season last year has to be hard for a competitive guy like him. At that position, you can’t force it, you’re only going to have a certain amount of opportunities each game. You either make them, or they make them on you. It’s a position where, at times, you can’t hide. He’s made some competitive plays and I love the way he’s responded.”
The secondary as a whole has played great football over the last two weeks.
“They’re in great position. We could talk about the turnovers till we’re blue in the face. We’ve been fortunate, played great team defense. It’s true. Great vision, good underneath, held them to about 280 yards and had two pick-sixes.”
Stoops appreciates what Terry Wilson brings to the team
Despite Wilson’s 14-5 overall record as Kentucky’s starter and his status as the lone quarterback in school history with wins at Florida, Tennessee and Louisville, Stoops knows the senior quarterback still has his critics.
Does he agree? No, not at all.
“Early in the season, game one, he was coming back from injury. Since then, he’s played like a warrior,” Stoops said. “Has he made some mistakes? Sure, but you could say that about every player. He plays a tough position, it’s very difficult at times. A couple reads he could have done better, one or two this week. But there was one where he pulled it and made an explosive run later in the game. Decisive in his decision-making. I’m proud of him, he’s laying it on the line for his teammates. He did not have a good game two weeks ago, but we’re past that now. We’re on to bragging about what he did lately. I’m appreciative for Terry and the way he played this past week.
“It’s such a hard position to play and he is a classy young man. He has handled himself the right way, takes criticism, takes it on the chin. He looks at himself and tries to get better just like we try to teach him.”
Wide receivers step up
After a week of missed blocks, incorrect routes, and penalties, Stoops believes Kentucky’s wideouts stepped up on the outside against Tennessee.
“They really did. Our wide receivers took it upon themselves to step up,” he said. “We’ve bragged on them with their attitude and effort, but the fact of the matter is, we missed some blocks against Mississippi State. Should’ve been what we call ‘free cheese,’ easy plays, they were there. A week before, we had a hold that killed a drive. Those [screens] are an extension of the run game.
“If they’re cheating on numbers, we have to be able to throw it on the perimeter and get those yards. We did that, and I’m very appreciative of the wide receivers just cleaning things up, attention to detail, angles on their blocks.”
Players got “mentally fresh” with stop at the Cumberlands
After losing in disappointing fashion down in Knoxville two years ago, Stoops wanted to change things up this time around. Instead of a busy Friday with the full three-hour drive down south, the team stopped at the University of the Cumberlands for a quick practice to break things up a bit.
“I wasn’t too pleased with how I had them prepared two years ago,” he said. “I had to make some changes and I did. We went up there with a stronger mentality, played much better.
“We have things to do on Friday, and I just feel when you’re doing that here, go in meetings for a good bit, go on the field and practice, get showered up, eat some lunch and go, it can be a long day for our players, especially sitting three hours on the bus.”
By breaking things up and having a little bit of fun with it, it allowed the Wildcats to be “mentally fresh” for the game on Saturday.
“Really appreciate the folks at the Cumberlands, they did a fantastic job with their hospitality, so good to us,” Stoops said. “We caught a beautiful day, it was a lot of fun. It was good for our players to get out, stretch out a little bit. We ran around, had an hour practice. I felt like it broke things up a little bit. We’re just trying to put them in position to be mentally fresh.”