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September 1, 2014

Mark Stoops

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome to today's news conference.  At this point we will turn it over to Coach Stoops.
COACH STOOPS:  Going back to the UT Martin game, thought we did some good things.  It was a good first step.  Obviously we did a lot of good things.  Very happy about the effort, the attitude.  There's also a lot to improve on.  There's a lot of things we can do better that we will do better.
But like I said, I thought the guys had a good mindset, their attitude was good.  Really felt like the energy was good.  That was good to see.
Offensively I thought we executed well.  Patrick really threw the ball well.  I think we had 14 explosive plays.
Defensively same thing.  There were some moments.  There were some individual efforts.  A.J. Stamps in particular played exceptionally well.  There's some areas where we definitely need to improve.  So it's a starting point.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Right now we're just treating him and seeing.  This morning, felt better.  We'll see.  I think there's a good chance we could get him to play.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Offensively it's runs over 10 and passes over 15.  We had quite a few big plays.  It depends on certain situations and what we're in, as well.
Defensively, I felt like there was really some things I was disappointed in, to be honest with you.  We need to get a few things straightened out defensively.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, that was the ninth play he played when he came in on the sideline and caused that fumble for a touchdown.  He has great energy.  He plays fast.  He's fearless.  We need to get him in the mix.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, again, we were inconsistent.  I think we went to eight or nine possessions with zero points, 150 yards.  There were things there we could improve on.
There was some good, don't get me wrong.  There were some good things.  But there were some things in the run game, some of our fits, just not striking people, being as violent as we need to be.  So there's a lot of areas to improve, and we will.
Like I say, there was some good.  Anytime you go eight, nine possessions with 150 yards and zero points, you'll take it.  But there are still some things we fundamentally need to get better at.
After that I was very discouraged.  We need to get some depth and we need some guys to step up and compete.  To give up two touchdowns and a bunch of yards the last four possessions is something that we can't do and we won't do.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  I don't know if there's areas we played better than I thought we would have.  I think there were some areas that we played like I thought we would.  I don't know about 'better'.
Again, we had plenty of stops, had some turnovers, had some good hits out there, played physical at times.  There were some good possessions.  Just late in the game we were inconsistent.
I think part of that is guys were enthused and they were anxious to play.  That first game, everybody was jacked up.  It's been a long off‑season.  That's the good thing.  I want good energy.  But then we have to maintain it.  We have to come out of the locker room the second half and be a consistent football team.

Q.  (Question regarding run defense.)
COACH STOOPS:  Again, when we're executing and doing the things we want to do well, we're fine.  The first unit, there were areas that we will improve on, just fundamental things.  Some of that was good.
But there's certainly areas we need to improve.  And our depth is an issue.  We need to put it all together, do some things.  In this game I wanted to play very fundamental.  I didn't want to have to scheme a million different ways to stop them.  Our guys need to learn how to play football, learn how to play blocks, learn how to have proper fits, learn how to do tackles and do the fundamental things.

Q.  What did you think of the offensive line?
COACH STOOPS:  I thought they did a good job.  I was impressed with Kyle.  Kyle did a nice job.  He was assignment sharp for a young guy.  That was important because we know he's a talented guy.  A little bit inexperienced obviously making his first start.  But he was assignment sharp, which was an area we were a little concerned about with him.
Then with Ramsey on the same side, Ramsey really did some good things as well.  Ramsey is a guy that tries to be physical.  He brings us a physical presence.  So I was impressed with those two guys.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, he did.  He's a guy that we talked about a week ago.  He is working his way into the rotation.  He brings us a big, physical presence.  He's a big guy.  He brings us a little punch.  We'll continue to look at him and he'll continue to play.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  It's obviously going to be a much bigger challenge for us with Ohio.  Looking forward to playing Ohio.  Coach Solich has been around for a long time and been extremely successful.  He's building a very consistent program there at Ohio.  I believe they went to five straight bowl games.  Very well coached, fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball.  They're a team that's not going to beat themselves.  They're just good and sound.
They return a tremendous amount of experience on defense, a bunch of guys that played very well a year ago.  So they're a good football team.  A real challenge.  I was very impressed with their quarterback.  I believe that was his first start.  He just was very poised, very good quarterback.  He could run it and throw it.
We'll have our hands full this week.  The good thing is that I felt like, as I said after the game, it was a good game.  Our team needed it.  Our fans needed it.  The whole deal just to go out and play well.  Good news is there's a lot of areas I think we'll improve on.

Q.  (Question regarding first‑time guys.)
COACH STOOPS:  That's generally not a problem with me.  If there's anything, there's one area I got to get them to continue to let it loose and play with that great energy like last week.
But, yeah, that won't be a problem.  It won't be a pleasant film session today, I can promise you that (laughter).

Q.  Would you rather play tougher competition before the Florida game?
COACH STOOPS:  I like the way the schedule sets up.  I think it's good.  We have a lot of young guys that we need to teach how to play football, so...

Q.  Any new points of emphasis this week?
COACH STOOPS:  Just more consistent.  We still need to play faster defensively.  There's things we need to play quicker and trigger faster.  We are somewhat inexperienced at linebacker and we've got to develop that quickly to get to where we want to be.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  It makes you think about how you're going to balance it because you want them to play fast, want them to play fundamental.  To be a great defense, you have to do those things.
We will improve.  There's things that we'll get cleaned up quickly.

(Break in audio.)

       COACH STOOPS:  It puts some indecision on other guys out there playing.  That's not a good thing.  We need to be more precise, need to be more physical at the point of attack and have our linebackers trigger him.

Q.  Are you talking more about the first‑team guys?
COACH STOOPS:  There's a little bit of both.  Later there were certainly some issues that we got to get fixed.  Some of it, you saw it a year ago, I mean, we got guys right there.  Fourth‑and‑13, that should be an interception, instead it goes on to be a touchdown.  You're not going to win a lot of games if you play like that.  You got to go make a play.
But there's enough of it to go around.  First team, second team, third team.

Q.  Is it hard to get them to play like a 0‑0 when it's 42‑0?
COACH STOOPS:  We need to be mature enough and good enough and skilled enough to do it.  We obviously weren't.

Q.  (Question regarding A.J.)
COACH STOOPS:  He has the ability.  He can run.  He has great ball skills, as you saw.  I think what impresses me most is that comfort level, the instincts he has.  Sitting there when you have to read, when you're in a run‑pass conflict, you're sitting there reading it, you're darn near 100% when you're playing run or playing pass.  Those are things that are very difficult to coach, all those little minute little points.
You have to have some feel and some instincts at all positions, but certainly at safety.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  We saw a lot of good things when we recruited him.  We loved him, had to work hard to get him.  There were some good schools that saw that in him, as well.  I'm awfully glad we won that battle because he helps us.

Q.  (Question about aggravation.)
COACH STOOPS:  I am.  But not to just get on the players after a win.  Sometimes it's more difficult after a loss.  There's just things that we have to get fixed, and we will.  They're not major.  There's things that we'll get corrected today.

Q.  Updates on Montgomery?
COACH STOOPS:  Montgomery has been rehabbing, working his way in.  He's out there running quite a bit, cutting.  He's trying to get to a point where he can get on the field.  Not sure when that will be.
Badet, we have an appointment this Thursday, so I don't anticipate that he could play this week.

Q.  (Question regarding Matt.)
COACH STOOPS:  Matt did some good things.  Just like we've been talking about all practice.  How you practice is how you play.  There are times when he was inconsistent, times when he got high, times when he played very well and was dominant and disruptive in there.  Just got to continue to work to get him better.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  They've done a nice job playing a little bit at the end, at the four technique we call it, inside the tackle there.  It gives us some size there.  They've done a nice job in playing that technique.
So we've got to continue to just fundamentally get better in a lot of areas.  But we're getting there.  We'll be all right.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  I saw a couple instances when they were trying to do too much, and that's bound to happen when you have guys that want to be play‑makers and they want to do is what they can do, make big plays.  But you have to do that within the scheme.
Nothing earth shattering or anything like that.  Nothing we can't get corrected.  Simple little things that we'll get fixed.

Q.  Is that nothing having enough faith in the guys around him?
COACH STOOPS:  I think amped up and wanting to do well.  They're very unselfish players.  You have to be to play defensive line.  I think that's not going to be an issue.  I think they just wanted to do some good things, and fundamentally got a little bit irresponsible.

Q.  (Question regarding Patrick with the offense.)
COACH STOOPS:  More plays?  Yeah, I mean, I think Neal did a very good job of in the opener.  What we've got to continue to watch is kind of zeroing in on what we're doing because we got a lot of young guys.  Not so much Patrick.  I think he can handle more.  He's been around for a while.  With playing that many freshmen wide receivers, some young guys on the O‑line, you got to be careful about doing too much.  I thought he did a very good job of putting together a nice game plan, something they were able to execute.
So that will be a little bit of a balancing act as we move forward.  Certainly there will always be some new things, though.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, the only thing that maybe it set you back a little bit was getting reset there and really let him open it up.  You don't want to be disrespectful at that point.  That's the only thing that hurt us a little bit.  You wanted to let him go out there, and that was the plan.  We wanted to get Patrick a couple series in the second half, then go with Reese.  Patrick needs the experience, too.  He needed to go play.  So we just got to continue to get better.
Then, again, defensively it doesn't help us when we're trying to back off the ones and some important twos, and you're scoring either quickly or going three‑and‑out quickly, only once or twice, then we get a fumble recovery, so you're right back on the field.
Statistically it's not always going to be pretty.  But I hope we're in that situation.  I hope we're up a whole bunch and the defense has to be up there, we score quickly.  But statistically it's not always going to look pretty, I promise you that.  I think the longest drive was three minutes.  That's an awful lot of possessions.  Don't look for great statistics defensively.  Poor Coach Eliot, he's got to go out there about every minute.  It's tough that way.

Q.  (Question regarding special teams, kickoffs.)
COACH STOOPS:  I think he tried to overkick one.  Other than that, he was very good.  After he tried to overkick it, we said, Hey, go do what you do.  Don't worry about it, loosen up.  He hit it.  He looked a little bit nervous on his field goals.  When we had it down there, normal situation, I may go for that.  But I wanted to get him a field goal.  I didn't want to go into this week without him making one.

Q.  What went wrong on the one miss?
COACH STOOPS:  You'd have to ask coach.  I'm not sure.  I don't mess with those guys too much (laughter).  It's just like the golf swing.  I did tell him on the kickoffs, he was trying to hit it too hard.  Just loosen it up, go hit it.

Q.  What did you think of the crowd?
COACH STOOPS:  I thought it was good.  I know it was hot.  I appreciate everybody coming.  I know we have some obstacles with all the construction going on.  I just greatly appreciate the support.  Seemed like they were very enthusiastic early on.  Appreciate it and encourage to keep everybody coming because we're getting better.  Our team appreciates them being there and some good things are ahead of us.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, I think it's very important because you never really know how somebody's going to respond to a game‑like situation.  There were some very good things and then there were some things that we will get corrected.  Even things, run plays, things people don't see to the naked eye, till you put on the film, just being disciplined, staying with the reads, the progressions.
Young guys, they're so eager sometimes to just make a play, they forget all the fundamental issues.  That doesn't change overnight.  It's not going to change between week one and week two.  We will get better, but it's still going to be a work in progress.

Q.  Is the locker room any different at 1‑0?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah.  I thought the guys' mentality was good all week.  All through camp, I've told you they've been working, they've been a fun group to coach.  I thought game week guys were excited.  We felt the energy going up.  I felt the guys were really ready to play.  For a noon game, they were ready to go.  Just like I said afterwards, I mean, I hope that's always the case.
I'd rather have to have them calmed down a little bit than to have to get them amped up to play.  They were excited and ready to go, now we just have to be consistent.

Q.  (Question regarding Henderson.)
COACH STOOPS:  He has.  He handled it very well.  Khalid has a lot of pride, worked extremely hard, wants to win that job.  He has a competition going on there.  But Khalid handled it very well and said he's going to go out there, take care of his business and try to improve.  Khalid did some good things, Ryan did some good things, and they both made some mistakes as well.
I think with Ryan, you see the wheels turning a little bit.  As you get into playing games, you're playing an opponent that's adjusting, we need to adjust.  That's where experience comes in and all that because in camp it's hard to simulate all that offensively, defensively.  We're not always playing to win the drill, we're playing to fundamentally get better.
Now you start getting into the opponents, and they're adjusting and tweaking things, and we have to do that as well.  That's where inexperience really hurts you, especially at that position.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  No.  Depending on how these injuries play out during the week, we'll let you know as we go.  With ankles, Jim likes to tell me, Give me 48 hours to see how they respond.  So we'll see how that plays out with the ankles.  Jim felt like today most of the guys with the ankles felt better.  Braylon would be a question mark, I'd say.  He's the one that was still a little sore.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Not too much.  Just from being in the business a long time, crossing paths once when a while.  I know he's a great person.  I know some friends that worked for him, loved working for him.  We had an opportunity to play them way back when for a national championship when I was at Miami.  We competed against each other.
But, no, I just have a lot of respect for him because he's been around a long time, doing things right for a long time, and obviously winning.  It will be a fun opportunity and a big challenge.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Desperately we need wins (laughter).  Take them against anybody, so...
No, I don't really look at it that way.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Some good things and some bad things.  It was certainly good to see the talent.  They're going to be everything we thought they were going to be.  Nice thing, Mikel, he made one bad read early, came back, ran it very well after that.  Got a little anxious with his first carry, a little bit undisciplined.  After that he came back and ran exceptionally well.  Then made somebody miss, got in the end zone, really ran the ball well.  So that was good.  I think Boom will get better.  Boom is a very talented guy.  Mentally he needs to push himself a little bit and we'll help him there.

Q.  (Question regarding Ohio being fundamental.)
COACH STOOPS:  Absolutely.  You got to be very sound in what you do.  All these teams we play.  UT Martin was a well coached football team.  You saw them executing in that second half, the last four possessions.  Give them credit as well.  They made some plays.  It wasn't just us.  There's things we need to do better and will do better, but they did some good things.  We were trying to stop them.  They executed and did a nice job.
So with Ohio, they're obviously more talented, have some great experience.  They're good football players, they really are.  Five straight bowl games, return eight starters on defense, a team that plays sound, good, tough football.  They're not going to give you things easy.  You have to go earn them.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Absolutely.  It's definitely easier to be hard on the guys and be critical.  The good things, we'll praise them for them as well.  There was a lot of good.  There's just a lot of things we know we need to get better at.

Q.  (Question regarding upsets.)
COACH STOOPS:  There's no doubt.  You have heard me say it before.  My team, myself, we definitely can't take anybody for granted.  We're at that stage where we need to play well no matter who we're playing.  This is a good football team, so...

Q.  (Question regarding Ohio's loss in a bowl game.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, you don't stick around that long unless you don't adapt, always be willing to grow and try some different things.  But you still see the fundamental principles of him.  That's tough, well coached football.  That's why he's been around a long time and been successful.
That game a year ago, the bowl game against East Carolina, East Carolina is a good football team.  That was a great game with Ohio and ECU.  We'll have our hands full.
It ultimately comes down to us, what we're going to do.  We need to improve.  That's why I say no matter who we're playing, we're really not worried about the opponent.  We're really worried about ourselves and getting better.
But that's what's fun about it.  That's what's encouraging, that I know we will get better.  Guys will go back to work.  We'll look at this film.  There's a lot of good and a lot of bad.  That's what's enjoyable about it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, I'd like to see him make that play at the end of the game.  Has a chance to make an interception, instead we give up 7 points.  He'll continue to work and get better.
Thank you.

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