Kentucky opened the 2016 season with the worst loss of the Mark Stoops era. After building a 35-10 first half, Southern Miss scored 34 unanswered points to stun UK on their home turf.
Stoops learned from that all-time low.
“One bad thing led to another, guys trying to do too much. We have a lot to learn from, we learned last year from the loss and we have to do our best as a coaching staff to offset that before it happens this year.”
To start, he has one message for his players during game week: “do your job.” The trick is making sure his players still do their job when those responsibilities change in the middle of the game.
“The fact that we’re going on the road, we always have a plan, but things change very quickly. We’re going to make sure we adapt much better than we did a year ago in the opener and play a more sound football game.”
Much has changed on the Kentucky football team since they took the season-opening L to the Golden Eagles. The Cats are deeper and more experienced than ever before, but there are still some unknowns.
“Anytime you head into week one, there’s a lot of unknowns. You feel good about your team, you feel like you put in a lot of good work, but the first game is the first game.” Stoops added, “I think we’re a much different team now than we were week one last year, but again, it’s week one. There are a lot of unknowns. There’s players that are going to be playing that have not played a significant role.”
The UK secondary is filled with new players who must replace three impact seniors — J.D. Harmon, Marcus McWilson and Blake McClain. Jordan Griffin, Darius West and Davonte Robinson have the talent to complete the task at hand, but lack the experience. They will be facing a new Southern Miss quarterback. Who that is has yet to be determined. Even though USM lost Nick Mullens, Stoops knows they will be challenged in Hattiesburg.
“A very good football team, a team that beat us a year ago in our home stadium. We know it’s going to be a real challenge going on the road and playing them. A team that won a bowl game a year ago, won seven games, so we’ll have our hands full. We have great respect for Southern Miss.”
Kentucky was humbled by last season’s loss to Southern Miss. Stoops said his team learned from the all-time low, but we will not know how much they learned until Saturday’s rematch.