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September 5, 2015

Mark Stoops

Lexington, Kentucky

Louisiana-Lafayette - 33
Kentucky - 40

COACH STOOPS: I know it didn't always show out there tonight, but that's why you play. It's an opener. It's a start. There's going to be so many opportunities for us to learn from this. But just very proud of everybody involved.

Again, I thought that, since the moment I arrived on campus, that it was going to take a big commitment from a lot of people to have us be successful. It was evident that there was very much support from a lot of people tonight. The people that have worked on this stadium, Mitch Barnhart, Russ Pear, and just all the coaches and support staff and people that have volunteered to help and put in all this hard work and just have this environment.

Special thanks to the fans. To have a sellout -- I've asked them to come, and they did. And the catwalk, walking in here, and the atmosphere this afternoon, late this afternoon and this evening, when we walked in here, the atmosphere on that catwalk was amazing. Believe me, that is a building block for our program. That kind of passion, that kind of energy from our fan base will do nothing but help us, help build this program, help attract top quality athletes, and inspire the players that we have here right now.

So I thank them from the bottom of my heart. We felt a big obligation to play a good football game and win this game. So I'm not going to let the fact that it got a little sloppy in the second half take away from that. It's a victory. We're always going to be grateful for victories. It was a good start. But I'm just proud of everybody and just appreciative of everybody's support.

It's been a long time coming. We are going to work. We're going to enjoy this tonight. We're going back to work, and we're going to become a good football team. So that's a good starting point.

Q. How much was the game plan to go deep early with Patrick? It seemed like in the first half especially, you hit a bunch of those passes.
COACH STOOPS: We did hit some, and then we started missing them. As we started missing them, they started daring us to gang up on the run and load the box and making us throw it downfield, and we started missing them.

We always have the approach, if they're taking things away, if they're loading it up, we have to be able to get the ball down the field. If we make people play with numbers, then we have to take some shots and hit them, and we did that.

Again, all the credit to Louisiana, but we have some other shots that we missed, and we've just got to make them.

Q. Mark, how did you feel Patrick played overall?
COACH STOOPS: I'm sure -- he did some very good things, but I'm sure there's a lot of plays we need to improve on. I think he got a little out of sync when he maybe overthrew a couple early, and then he started under throwing it and just got off a little bit.

But it's not all on him. He'll improve. It's a good starting point. You know what, it's good to be in a tough game like that and let him go through some adversity and some tough plays and then come back and do what we have to do to win.

Q. How much did you sense you're down a couple key linebackers tonight. There were some plays that got away from you. Could you tell you missed those guys?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it did. I told you all along I was anxious and excited to watch some young guys play. There were some moments out there where it was difficult to watch. So we need to improve, but that's why you play.

We have some -- we have some young guys. We have some freshmen that were put in a position that we needed them to win this game, and they did some good things, and they did some things we need to do a lot better.

Q. Mark, you recruited a big back. Is that what you expect out of him?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely. The run by Mikel at the end of the game there was impressive. He had a great desire to get in the end zone. We felt like we were close on the play before and came back, and we even ran the same play. I think it was the same play. We made him come back with power. We hit it, and then he finished off the last guy and got in the end zone. That was great.

Q. You guys have talked to him about that. Don't try to run like a little guy, run like a big guy. He really lowered his shoulder.
COACH STOOPS: He did. Lowered his shoulder, and he finished the run. The thing that's a little bit nice and deceiving about him is that he is light on his feet and he does have good vision. If you noticed, he got through there, and then he finished the run.

Yeah, there's a time for all of it because he really can be a complete back. It was certainly great to see him finish like that.

Q. When you talk about the sense of responsibility everyone felt to come out and win tonight, when they roar back and it's a tie game and they have the ball with six minutes to go, I guess, feeling that, what's going through your mind?
COACH STOOPS: We talked about it -- I can talk about it all week. I can talk about it to the players all the time. Things don't always happen the way you want. We come out, and we run 75, 80 yards on the first play of the game and get ahead of them early and really had things in pretty good control. Then they flipped the script on us.

You know, that's what happens. The game is never going to go exactly as planned. Very rarely does that happen, and that's where you have to learn from that.

I believe that the moment you're talking about, we came back with a stop, a score, and a stop. So that's a character builder again. I think that's good. Sure, I wish we could have pulled away from them and made some plays and played a little bit cleaner, but in certain ways, in some ways, that's even better, to have to come back and do it that way.

Q. Khalid Henderson filled in for Ryan Flanagan tonight. Can you talk about his performance?
COACH STOOPS: I thought he did some good things. All along, Khalid has been practicing and playing for a few years now. I thought he did some good things, it looked like to me. When I notice him, that's a bad thing sometimes. So some of the other guys I noticed, and we've got to get some things corrected. That's what happens with some real young guys.

Q. It seemed like J.D. Harmon made a couple of big plays tonight. What kind of progress has he made?
COACH STOOPS: He's been making progress. Again, he's the guy that has earned our trust and our respect a little bit by his play throughout this camp because he needed to improve and he has improved. So we felt that way going into the game as we talk about guys that we trust, and we knew we'd need to get into some depth with being so hot and everyone being so amped up. Such a long day, hot.

Guys were excited, ready to play, when you come out and start that way. So you know you're going to have to put some guys in and get some depth. I was confident with him because he had played better throughout camp.

Q. When you go into a season thinking you have some play makers, a bunch of play makers at wide receiver, but they've got to go do it, to see five, six guys go make a huge play over the course of that game, how significant is that for the offense?
COACH STOOPS: It was very significant. That's what we've got to see. Like who's going to continue to make those plays when the game's on the line. Again, I thought they were working hard. We'll hit some more because we missed a few tonight. We'll hit even more as we move forward.

Q. Mark, you talked about the hype and so forth leading up to the game and the young players and so forth. Do you think that maybe hurt you in the second half, that maybe they expended too much energy and were so hyped early on?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know why. It does worry you some. When you go in at the half -- and it wasn't a perfect half the first half, but you felt like you had things in control, pretty good shape.

I did feel -- I felt like there was the energy started coming down a little bit in general. I think -- and that's what I was talking to the coaches on the sideline actually. Let's go. Get your group ready to go, and they're going to feed off us and our energy.

So, again, I felt like they were put in a pressure situation because there was a lot of pressure on us to win this game. We had it all teed up. We had the stadium, the packed house. We had a very good opponent that we know that -- maybe the general public doesn't always know that, but a team that wins nine games four years in a row and four Bowl games in a row, they're no pushovers.

We talk about that often. Nobody's going to give you anything. You've got to make plays. You've got to earn victory. We'll learn. We'll get better.

Q. How did you feel about Boom's game as a whole? Obviously, had the big play early.
COACH STOOPS: Big play early. That's the way to break it in right there, break in the turf. Overall, that's Boom. He's going to have some big plays. I thought all the backs had their moments.

Jojo's big run, when we were a little bit bogged down a little bit, and he had that big 30-yard run or so. That's what all those guys, keeping their head in the game and pulling for each other. You never know who you're going to count on to step up and make that play.

Again, just a great night, great victory. Completely happy with the turnout. Our team felt that, felt the energy, and just appreciate everybody's hard work. It's been a lot of fun.

Q. Charles Walker is that one kid that came at a pretty key time there.
COACH STOOPS: Pretty key, you think?

Q. I thought so. I don't know what you think.
COACH STOOPS: But that's him. That's him. Just give him a lot of credit. He got hit and spun around, what, two or three yards short and somehow got it to within an inch. That's Charles. He brings a good toughness, and he's going to continue to earn playing time of the he's a good player. Brings good energy, and he's good on special teams. He's been tough inside there.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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