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September 29, 2014

Mark Stoops

THE MODERATOR:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Welcome to today's news conference.  To preview the Kentucky football game, we'll be hosting South Carolina Saturday night at 7:30 at Commonwealth Stadium.
At this time, we will turn it over to Coach Stoops.  He'll be up momentarily.
COACH MARK STOOPS:  After watching film, proud of the guys' victory.  It was a hard fought win.  I thought we did some good things.  Starting fast again was important.  Both sides of the ball need to be more consistent.
I'm proud of the effort and looking forward to a great challenge here this week with South Carolina.

Q.  Did you watch their game yesterday?

Q.  What was your thoughts on this?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† They're a good team.¬† They're‑‑ at times they look absolutely dominant.¬† Just like a lot of teams, they have great potential.

Q.  Is it an indication of huge strides for the defense happening here?  What is the [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I think a big part of it is being more familiar with what you're doing systematically.  But a big part of it is just fundamentally playing better.  That's what I've always prided myself on is teaching the guys how to play.
Believe me, we're as guilty as anybody with trying to do a lot of things and trying to be as creative as you can be with all your schemes and all that stuff.  But it comes down to playing football.
We're far from where we want to be, but we are drastically improved on fundamentally how to play football.  I think we need to continue to work on that.

Q.  Coach, you must be doing some good fundamental things on defense.  [No microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Actually, South Carolina, really, if you were able to put it on the defense, they really only gave up 20 with two on special teams.  So I'm sure, with that 20, South Carolina wasn't happy with that as well.
Like I said, at times they've played good‑‑ great football around South Carolina for the past several years on both sides of the ball.¬† And they have this year.¬† I know coach Spurrier and their staff, they've been unhappy with inconsistent play at times, but that's us as well.¬† They certainly looked dynamic on both sides of the ball.
Certain games in particular, you look at the Georgia game and how good they played.¬† So they‑‑ I'm sure they're mad and ready to improve on all sides, just like we are.¬† That's the good thing about us.¬† In the last game, I thought we did some good things.¬† I thought we were very resilient in hanging in there and getting the victory.¬† I thought we started fast, but we need to be more consistent, and I've said it over and over.
Our team is starting to get that at times, but it comes down to being a fundamental football team on both sides of the ball and on special teams.  We just need to continue to improve and worry about ourselves and get better at what we're trying to do.

Q.  South Carolina's lost twice at home already this year.  How important is it when you're trying to win a division to protect the team?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I think it's very important.  We're trying to play as best we can every week, no matter where it is.  You heard me talk about it a couple weeks ago.  Sometimes we're playing some of our better football on the road at times.  We've got to get back to playing the best we can here.
I thought, again, we did some good things, but just too many mistakes in the last game.  We really had a chance to dominate that game and didn't do it.

Q.  The football account tweeted out they want fans to come dressed in black.  Will the players also be wearing black?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I'm not sure yet.  I'll get with T.K. and some of the guys in the office here sometime here this week and get a plan.

Q.  Have you basically said, maybe for recruiting purposes, that guys don't have to wear the same thing every week [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  We have a lot of options.  Some of the people in our office and some of the people in marketing did a nice job in the summer and took some pictures of a lot of different options with our players in it so we could look at it and just see what we want to do with that particular week.
It is good to change it up.  I think our players like it.  It's good for recruiting.  It's been good for us to spice it up a bit.

Q.  Some of the things you alluded to as the reason why you [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  At that point, it's all you're trying to do is get a victory.  Of course, we're up ten with the ball, and we're just trying to get some first downs and get a win.  So yeah.

Q.  South Carolina's great in the red zone.  What makes them so effective when they're down there?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† Like any great offensive team,¬† their balance. ¬†They're extremely talented at running backs and tight ends.¬† They have a bunch of wideouts.¬† And playing good at quarterback.¬† Coach Spurrier's been around a long time and been very successful for a long time.¬† Very creative.¬† They're just a good football team.¬† They're just‑‑ I don't know the real reason why they‑‑ maybe they're more locked in or making good plays.¬† They've got good players.¬† The tight end, he's a great one, and I love the running back, Davis.

Q.  [No microphone] what did you see offensively?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Missed opportunities.  When you play a team like Vandy that likes to control the ball and run it and use up a lot of clock, even though it really wasn't too much of the case.  We were getting off the field relatively quick.  But you're not going to have as many possessions, and you got to make them count.
We got behind the chains with certain things, you know.¬† Whether it be a fumble or a penalty and just silly things.¬† Just got behind the chains, and we missed some shots.¬† We had our opportunities, and we just missed them slightly.¬† It's just like when you're driving, had good field position‑‑ I forget what possession it was, second half, in the fourth quarter, maybe early in the fourth quarter, we were driving it nice, running the ball.¬† We had our shot and had them set up.¬† Took a shot at first down and missed it, just slightly out of bounds.¬† Now you're behind the chains, second and ten, third down, punt.
So we've just got to be more precise and execute better.  We left a lot of runs on the field as well.

Q.  Coach Spurrier is known [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† No, there's really not.¬† I think that makes him so successful.¬† Coach obviously has done an unbelievable job for many years at getting his teams ready to play and doing what he has to do to win games.¬† Whether that be offense, defense, special teams, you know, he's done it all and does a great job of getting his teams ready to play.¬† You got to be‑‑ just like you said, you've got to be very locked in when you play him across the board.¬† Certainly, that's how you feel as a defensive coordinator playing against him.
Because if he knows what you're in, it's going to be a long day for you.¬† You've got to be very‑‑ you've got to really watch what you do and change things up on him because he's so great at play calling.

Q.  Mark, last year your team played real well at South Carolina.
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† Well, I'd like to start better.¬† We talked about it last year.¬† You know, we watched them, and I remember going into the game last year thinking they really can strike you fast.¬† You've really got to withstand that.¬† We've got to start better.¬† They really got out to a big start on us a year ago.¬† That can happen.¬† You know, it's not something that's uncommon for me when I watch Coach Spurrier and the way he plays‑‑ calls plays and the way they execute offensively.
So you've got to be very careful of that.  You've got to make sure you get off to a better start.  Once we settled in, we started playing better and got some momentum.  I think, at that point, we really played pretty good on all phases.  The offense was moving the ball and keeping us off the field some.
You know I talk about that often.  If we play good on all sides, we've got a chance.  We're not dominant enough on any one side, just to win a game against a team like South Carolina.

Q.  Coach Spurrier has been on record saying before that he doesn't really think Kentucky is the best team in the state.  I don't know how serious he is when he says something like that.  Does that kind of offend you?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† I've really got no comment on that.¬† We all know Kentucky is a great SEC state.¬† That's how I feel.¬† So ‑‑
Q.Coach, when you looked at film this week at the game in Central Florida, what really jumped out at you?  Who played well?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I thought defensively, there were a bunch of guys.  Obviously, when you play that kind of performance defensively, there was a bunch of guys doing good things.
I'd like to point out J.D. Harmon on special teams really did a good job.  Did okay, did some good things, got in on defense as well, but really played excellent on special teams, as most of our guys did.
It was a real challenge going into that week on kickoff with the great success that Vandy had the week before.  I thought the guys really stepped up and played well on special teams.
On defense, Bud had some good numbers again.¬† It was good to see him.¬† He's been active all year.¬† Za'Darius played well.¬† Melvin inside‑‑ those guys don't get enough credit inside.¬† But Melvin's really playing well inside defensively.¬† Starting to do some better things on the second and third levels at linebacker and the secondary.

Q.  Mark, talking with Neal about offense and balance, how does your philosophy, in terms of run and pass evolve?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  You hear me talk about it all the time, when I'm sitting here from a defensive point of view and you're trying to defend somebody, and you're always worried about somebody, that's balance.  At the end of the day, you've got to have some physicality about you.  And I think we're doing a good job of trying to become as balanced as we can be.  We want to throw the football.  We do throw the football.
We've thrown it around, and I thought Patrick started the game extremely efficient, and the timing of his throws and the accuracy of his throws early was awesome.  So we're really throwing it well and doing some good things, but you've got to have some balance.
I like the way Neal's calling the game.¬† I like what we're doing.¬† It's easy to say on either side of the ball‑‑ I called plays defensively for a long time.¬† It's easy to say afterwards, I would have done this different or that different.¬† But during the game, it's a little bit different.
I think we are doing a good job.  I think he's really keeping them off balance, and we're working to be better in all areas, running and throwing.

Q.¬† Is there like a kind of percentage‑‑ like a‑‑
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† It fluctuates. ¬†It does.¬† It changes a little bit.¬† Sometimes, I think, over the years it's been my experience‑‑ you know, I don't like to talk myself out of something during the week.¬† Maybe not give‑‑ you have to do what you do, and you have to stay true to who you are and what you want to do.¬† Sometimes you may blitz more.¬† Sometimes you may play coverage.¬† Sometimes offensively you want to run it more or pass it.
Sometimes coaches can talk themselves in to thinking they're too good on this area or that area and stay away from it.  You have to make him accountable.  You have to make him stop the run to throw it.  If you don't try, then eventually you're going to get in trouble.

Q.  Now does D.J. really come into play there?  Try to talk each other into it?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Yeah, I think it does.  We do a nice job of talking about things and communicating what we want to do, in particular, on the big downs, on the third downs.

Q.  Why are you so much better on first down?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  We're covering better, and we're executing better.  Everyone wants to talk about the pressures that we had this past week, and we had some good ones.  It comes down to executing them.  Sometimes you could have all the grand schemes and all that other stuff, players have to do it.
They played really well.  They played, like I told you after the game, I felt like they played with good energy, but I felt like we just played very precise.  We executed things very well.

Q.¬† It was probably your best day since you've been here on defense.¬† What‑‑ I know you're always working on defense.¬† What areas are you still not satisfied in?
What areas are you working to improve?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† In this pass game, there's two runs we gave up that were just‑‑ that were our fault, that were unforced errors.¬† We didn't give‑‑ not to take nothing away from them or anything, but there's things we could have done easily by being sharper in the mind.
So that aggravates you right there.  We're better, but we talk about all the time, one loss we had this year, you don't know what game it is, what play it is that changes a game.  It could be something early in the game that you have a chance to have a second and ten instead of a first and ten.  How do you know that's not the difference in the game.
So we're just constantly trying to do the best we can and get them‑‑ and our players‑‑ I think they're doing a good job of preparing.¬† I patted them on the back and told you all the time how I like coaching them on both sides of the ball, and their attitude's right and their heart's right.¬† We've just got to be better.¬† We've got to be stronger and more fundamental.¬† You know like you hear me talk about it, it's true.
It's a routine game.  You've got to block.  You've got to run.  You've got to get off blocks.  There's things we left on the field and we continue to leave on the field that we can't do as we move forward in this season.

Q.  [No microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Yeah, Nick started a little slow, and that's been his MO.  So I thought he's got to come in and settle down a little bit.
So he was a little shaky at first, but he settled in good and played a good football game and really battled, I think.¬† All those O‑linemen were getting thin.¬† They played the whole game and gave great effort and were very physical at the end of the game when we needed them to be on, what, 80 snaps or whatever it was.¬† So those guys are really battling hard.
We need to get some guys healthy, and we'll be close.  We were very close last week with Cole and Zach.  We anticipate that they'll be out there sometime this week and helping us.

Q.  [No microphone] is it just happening in the game flow?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† It is.¬† It's just‑‑ we need to get him involved.¬† They need to do some things better too.¬† They need to block better when they have opportunities and keeps them in the game.¬† We'll get him the ball here and there.¬† We need to.

Q.  When you talk about plays being fundamentally sound, but having playmakers helps too.
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† No question.¬† No doubt about it.¬† That's always‑‑ I'll never deny that.¬† You know that.¬† That's why we recruit so hard.¬† But it's been really nice to see the play makers out there.¬† We need to continue to develop these guys and continue to make plays and need to continue to bring along Javess and DeMarco, some of our older wide receivers, and get them more involved and get them some more catches.
We had some opportunities Saturday and just missed on them.  And the young guys need to continue to improve.  A guy like Blake missed an awful lot of practice the last two weeks, and that shows.  That shows on a Saturday.  We've got to get him out there on the practice field and continue to develop him.
So it was good to see Boom get the ball, good to see Mikel get the ball, and made some really nice runs, both of them.

Q.  Where are you with Montgomery?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Montgomery is questionable.  Doubtful, I would say right now. Unless something happens this week.  We'll see.

Q.  How far do you go with those guys before you start?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  We're in that range right now because we're better.  We're better at that area.  If we're not 100 percent, then the other guys can handle it.  We need them back.  We want them back.  We need them both back at 100 percent.

Q.  What kind of problems does Cooper present to you?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  He's a good football player, strong.  They do a nice job of getting him the ball, whether it's rushing or throwing.  He's just a good football player.

Q.  Persons of interest have come out about the [inaudible].  One of them looks like he's wearing a [inaudible] shirt that Coach Snyder made.
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I have been about five minutes ago before this press conference, honestly.  Let me gather some information on that and go from there.

Q.  Any more comments on what he's doing with an SEC game?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† We're confident, and we felt like that all year, I'd say.¬† Just in‑‑ you know, it's always to say early in the year we're confident.¬† We know we're better, but you still need to go see it, and you need to go prove it.¬† That's the beautiful thing about this game.¬† We've got another opportunity to prove it.
I expect us to continue to improve.  I really do.  I felt like we did some good things in the first few games.  We've got a lot that we can improve on.

Q.¬† Mark, you said before‑‑ how much of that have you seen?¬† How much of that [no microphone]?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I think, you know, it's most important, you know, is the accountability within our program and the leadership development within our program and just the attitude of our team.  We're not perfect, but we're vastly improved than when we got here on campus.
Just the sign of that is like Jojo, and I pointed that out after the game, but it's true.  A guy like him that didn't get his carries throughout the game and just stayed positive on the sidelines.  Stayed with it, was locked in.  Got his opportunity late in the game and did very well.  There's several guys that can learn from that.

Q.  How familiar are you with Coach Spurrier?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  I'm very familiar with Coach Spurrier.  From playing him several times, but we go back a long way.  It's pretty well documented that him and Bob are very close friends.  Steve Spurrier Jr. And I work together.  I know the family and have an awful lot of respect for Coach Spurrier and what he's done.  So it will be fun.  It will be a real challenge this week.

Q.¬† Going back to the question of you being in the SEC. ¬†Spurrier says a lot of things, and I know you have a lot of respect for him, but when he says stuff like that‑‑
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† I think he told you‑‑ if you listen to him in the summer, he tells you.¬† He's just having fun.¬† He's like that.
But some of the things‑‑ I'm not saying that in particular, but some of the things he says is true, and some people don't like hearing the truth.¬† He's a very honest guy, and as a coach, you respect that.¬† He calls it the way it is.
A lot of times, I try to do that.  If we get our butts beat, I say it the way it is.  Don't try to make excuses.  It is what it is.  That part of it, if you'd really know him, you really respect what he's saying.  Some of it is just having fun and throwing barbs, I'm sure.
By the way, I want to stay away from that with a 10 foot pole, yeah.

Q.  [No microphone]?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Oh, yeah.  They both gave me a call after the game.  They had a bye week last week.  They both gave me a call and were happy for me.

Q.  [No microphone]?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Not really, no.

Q.  After the victory, [inaudible] said that the difference between last year's defense was sometimes guys were waiting for other guys to make plays.  He said now it's like everybody wants to make plays.  Do you get that feeling from them?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Yeah, definitely, and you have to have that feeling.  And that's a mindset that we really try to instill in them right away.
I think, if you ask my players that played for me defensively for many years, back at Florida State or wherever I've been, I get pretty heated or pretty passionate about don't look to me for a call.  You make it right.  There have been stretches when I was at Florida State, and my players laugh years later that I wouldn't give them a call.  I'd say, you call it because I'd be so frustrated, you know what I mean?
You line up and play.  Everything I'm calling is not working.  You do it.  They know what this meant.  They're like, oh, shit.  They knew what to call.  They knew what to call.  They really did.  That's the truth.  I'd get so disgusted, that's it, I'm done.
We got to a point where we were pretty fundamental there.

Q.  Anyone on defense that you thought, maybe going into the fall, that they'd really come through for you?
COACH MARK STOOPS:  Well, certainly Cole.  Cole would be one that played very well.  I don't know.  We were counting on all those guys.  I knew the year we were coming off, and I was hoping those guys would be players.
I knew Cole would be one.  I think Mike Douglas.  I kind of anticipated him having a good year.  He's played really well.  Melvin's really improved.

Q.  You mentioned the Davis, the running back for South Carolina.  What sort of challenges does he present?  Your linebackers seem to be playing better.
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† We did play better.¬† We ran out of there, one mental mistake.¬† We had a backer just over pursue, just lack of discipline, just‑‑ so once we got that corrected and got it cleaned up pretty quick.
Mike is just a very good football player, always going forward.  Very difficult to tackle.  He's got everything you want in a running back, just the balance, the speed, the vision.  Very good player.

Q.  When you guys recruited Stamps out of junior college, did you know like right away that he would be a key contributor to your team?
COACH MARK STOOPS:¬† Yeah, he was a guy we had to have.¬† When we're recruiting, there's‑‑ you know, obviously, some targets that you really feel the need to come in and fill a void in your team.¬† Certainly, when you're recruiting junior college players, you have to hit on those guys.
So we knew he was an excellent football player.  When we recruited him, we knew he could play inside, and I had even had the idea he could possibly help us outside as well because we have some guys like Blake and now Kendall that are versatile, that can play possibly corner, nickel, dime, safety, and I thought A.J. was a guy like that, but we had such a need at that spot that he's come in and filled it big time.
His instincts have been maybe a little bit better than I anticipated at that spot because that usually comes from experience due to playing a lot of positions as well.  But having the defensive background helps him as well.

Q.  Are you pleased with [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  That's good.  I didn't realize that, but that is good.  We are trying to generate pressures from a lot of different ways, and that's good to hear that statistic.  I didn't realize it, but we're doing what we do.  Each week we try to build different pressures in each week.  We have a lot of things kind of in the bank that you may pull out at certain times.
That's where, kind of getting back to the question somebody asked me earlier about the second year, just being able to execute what you need to under pressure, that's the big thing.  I think we're better.  We're not perfect, but we're better.

Q.  Some of your playerstold us that you're [no microphone].
COACH MARK STOOPS:  We have to go there?  I hope not.  I was right in the middle of a big old mosh pit.  So I hope there's no video of that out there.  That's for sure.
No, we're going to enjoy victories.  Our players have worked extremely hard for a long time.  They're happy, so it's good just to have a moment and have a little fun.  Back to work today.

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