When Kentucky’s defense plays well, the offense struggles. When Kentucky’s offense figures it out, the defense fails to get stops. The Wildcats have not been in sync in 2020 and it is frustrating the hell out of Mark Stoops.
“If I had the answer to that, I would have a lot less stress on me, that’s for sure. It’s been hard to put my finger on it,” Kentucky’s head coach said Monday afternoon.
“Again, I really love our players. I think it’s a different year. I’m not giving them an option; you can’t give them any excuse at all. There’s no excuse. We need to put it together. We need to play as a team. We need to play the very best we can on all sides and it doesn’t seem like we’re going that and that’s very frustrating to me. That’s not the way it’s been for us for years, but it is this year. We’re terribly inconsistent on one side or the other. We’ve not put it all together and for a coach that’s frustrating.”
He used the word “frustrating,” but that’s putting it lightly. When he turned his attention to UK’s defensive play, Stoops got as mad as I’ve seen him in a media setting. I’m not exactly sure what set him off when rewatching the film of the Vanderbilt game, but at least one player had the head coach fuming.
“I think the urgency needs to be greater, the attention to detail throughout an entire game needs to be greater. I know defensively for me, there’s no excuse. I sit there and watch us and at times I see a group of young men they want somebody else to make the play. They want some miraculous call to stop the play. ‘Coach, you call something good so we can stop this play because I don’t want to stop it. I’m not going to make a play. I want my neighbor to make a play but I don’t want to make the play. Or I want to do my own thing. I don’t want to execute the defense. I just wanna do my own thing so I can get a stat.’ That’s what I see and it’s pissing me off to be honest with you.”
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) November 16, 2020
Stoops’ anger was amplified even more against Vanderbilt because the offense was finally clicking. It was a rare opportunity to let the talented younger players get game reps and see what success looks like after putting in a couple weeks’ worth of hard work.
“I felt like offensively when we had the bye week we went back, looked at some things, looked at some of the basics, looked at concepts that were comfortable for the guys that we can execute. They’ve worked hard at it, “Stoops said.
“I thought offensively they all played hard and they played united. They really had a lot more opportunities out there had we been able to play better defense and be able to have more stops and not allow them to have 80 plays. I think it really could’ve been a big day offensively.”
The good news for Kentucky is that Stoops does not see a systemic defensive problem. Things can be turned around quickly. The problem is that the defense must do it against consecutive opponents that have two of the best offenses in all of college football.
“It can be fixed with an attitude, and a work ethic and a great sense of urgency and a passion to play. It can be fixed,” he said. “Believe me, the challenge is going to be great. We all understand that. We’re probably playing one of the greatest offenses you’ve seen in a long time. Then after that we’ll see one just the same.”