UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 14, 2020
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Kentucky, 38 - Vanderbilt, 35
MARK STOOPS: Thank you, Tony. You know, obviously it was extremely important for us to come away with a victory today. As it's been well documented all week, it was extremely important for to us play well for LeAnne, coach John Schlarman, his family, his kids, and was really proud of the team to get this victory.
Wasn't easy. It was an emotional week. It's very different times for everybody, and then we've been hit with a few curve balls this year. Certainly very discouraging news this week with the passing of Jon. There was no getting around it that that was important to me and it was important to our team to win for them and to honor Jon and the man that he was, to continue his legacy.
I felt like our team came out and we played very good football. Vandy has been much more efficient moving the ball offensively, and they did a good job certainly late I felt like.
With playing in this league in the competitive games that we're in, when we were up I believe it was 17, I felt like it is really important forget Beau in the game. Instead of going to our normal ground and pound, and we felt like we probably could have done that obviously to play -- you know, the series before we ripped off a big run and were getting physical and starting to run.
I felt like it was important for our program, important to give Beau some reps and throw the ball around a little bit. We're not in that opportunity too many times. Certainly I didn't want to get it that close and probably would've been crucified had they got that on-side kick and come back.
Again, I want to continue to push the program forward, so I did feel like the game was in control. I would've liked for our backups on defense to play a little better late in that game. And for us to have to go back and put some starters back in and try to preserve the victory, wasn't real pleased with the end in particular defensively.
But, again, felt like it was important just to get guys snaps and throw the football and not just go in to kill the clock and ground and pound. If we would've done that, I felt like obviously we could have probably cut into that -- the way they come back there at the end, could have killed some more clock. So part of that is on me.
Again, in the long run, getting the victory and getting Beau some snaps and getting Joey some snaps, it was important.
Q. Can you just walk us through the tribute on the opening play, how you all came up with that, and just kind of how that developed.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I'm really not sure. Mitch is in here and Mark Hill and Dan, the guys just came up with it and mentioned it to me early in the week or throughout this week, and I thought it was a great idea.
The O-line have been trading off 65, and Landon was wearing it today. Somebody in the staff here came up with the idea, and of course we all thought it was a great idea.
You know, I have great respect for Derek Mason and should have said that in my opening statement, the respect I have for him and the way he coaches as well. But he immediately said, Coach, I'll decline that. He didn't have to.
But I also want to compliment him on his team. He had quite a few opt outs. He's got guys hurt, down very low. It would be very easy for them to say they're under the threshold and not play, and they continue to coach very well and scrap and play.
You have to compliment Derek for that and his staff, because that team plays hard, and we knew they would.
Anyway, getting back to the question, I thought it was good idea by somebody in our staff. I'm not sure who gets credit for that. I was on board with it right away, and it was great to honor him that way.
Q. Kind of following up with that, what was your message to the team going out before the game in such an unusual situation like this? What did you share with them?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was different. You know, certainly there was a lot of conversation that I would like to keep in the locker room. A lot of that is personal. The bottom line is to honor Jon by playing the way he coached, lived his life, and we constantly talked about the tenacity that he had, the toughness that he had, but also when he was a player he was extremely technical and very detailed.
And so we knew we would be emotional, but I also really wanted to execute and really felt like offensively we really played pretty sharp and had 460 yards on only 55 plays.
So we're very explosive and efficient offensively. Had we played a little better defensively I really thought we could have done -- kept on getting some points on there and would've been a much greater margin for the victory.
But really that was a big part of it for Jon, just to honor him. Wanted to make sure that LeAnne and their kids had a game ball with a W on it; didn't want to give them a game ball with a loss, and it's important for us to bring that to them and do that for them.
Q. Terry was very efficient today, especially hitting those touchdowns across the middle to the tight ends -- one of them was across the middle; one of them was maybe in the corner. But those guys, just how important was it to get those guys involved and Terry comfortable going back out there after being off a few weeks?
MARK STOOPS: I thought it was very important just in general offensively. I felt like we were very efficient today throwing the ball and I felt like we could have been even more efficient. Again, I put that on the defense. I feel like if we didn't let them possession the ball the entire second half we could have got a lot more opportunities and kept on throwing it around a little bit and were very efficient in keeping people off balance, and we're going to need that moving forward.
Q. Talking about the defense, I know you won't know for sure until you look at video, but anything in particular stick out to you there?
MARK STOOPS: It just seemed like to me that it was one of those games where they want everybody else to make the play, not them. That's just how I felt. I don't know. We'll see. I'm sure there are some guys that played very hard, but to me we were just out there oozing, just lining up, expecting somebody to make a call, stop somebody instead of making plays and trying to stop people. It was evident. We made very few competitive plays.
Q. 308 rushing yards, no sacks allowed. I'm sure Chris was even touched on that 74-yard touchdown. What does that say about the offensive line today?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, and being down Luke and Kenneth as well. You know, so we had backups stepping in and really playing well. I know it was important to those guys to play well. There was no doubt in my mind. It was important to all of us, but certainly that group it's personal. They wanted to honor Jon and play a very tough, physical game like the way Coach Schlarman lived, and they did that.
Q. You had both your punter and kicker out, and yet Chance comes in and he's perfect, and Colin did a great job. When did they know they were getting the start, and talk about their performance today.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we knew for a couple days, and I was very proud of those guys the way they stepped in and really did a good job in the kicking game. Chance was really solid. We did a great job in the punt game as well, so it was good.
Q. Almost looked like, at least to me watching Terry, that was like the 2018 Terry, making the decisions he did, showing the speed he did. Is that a fair observation or...
MARK STOOPS: I agree with you. I felt like this was the Terry that I expect him to play each and every week. Again, I think that has a lot to do with the people around him and the coaching and putting him in a position to be successful.
Yeah, I thought he played very well and he was very efficient. And let me say I'm proud of him and the way he responded, because that position is different. Let's just be honest, it is. There is so much scrutiny, pressure on that position, and you have to play well at that position to be successful.
And there is times when it all comes down on him and there is times it's deserving and there are times that it's not. But he didn't look for an opportunity to run and hide. He took that criticism, took the coaching, and he got better. I really respect the way he responded and the way he came back and play.
Now, we expect him to do that every week. That's the standard which we need him to play at and that is across the board.
Q. Are you at liberty to talk about the absences of Matt and Max, just a reason for their absences and other players?
MARK STOOPS: I mean, you could probably read between the lines. I can't comment on that.
Q. Just wanted to hear it --
MARK STOOPS: Tony cut you off. Not me.
Q. The SEC announced yesterday I think until -- moving forward until Monday you might not know who you're going to play on Saturdays for the rest of the season. What does that do for preparation and how do you approach the last three weeks?
MARK STOOPS: Well, there are things that we're going to do every week and that carry over. We do advance scouting on or opponents anyway and watch them and crossover on film, so we'll make it work. Whatever we have to do, we'll do it.
You know, that's the approach we have taken all year. I really respect our players and our staff, and they've done a really good job trying to stay as safe as they can.
Our team is responding and we'll show up. We'll be there next Saturday wherever they tell us to play.
Q. Is there anything in the next few days you and your team plan to do for LeAnne and the family and is there anything UK fans can do that you would encourage them to do?
MARK STOOPS: So, yes. LeAnne and the family have a service that will be private on Monday, and then there will be a memorial here in the afternoon, on Monday afternoon. I mean, it's not open to the public. For the team and for LeAnne and her family and alumni, Jon's friends. He knows so many people. Ex players, so many people that played and coached with Jon at all his different stops.
So you can imagine there is an awful lot of people that want to come pay their respects to LeAnne and Jon, and so we will do that on Monday.
I know LeAnne mentioned to me that Jon was very close to a lot you media as well, so I don't want -- I like to stay in my lane, you know that. But I also know that LeAnne personally had involved some media I believe as well. Maybe not to film and everything or anything like that, but just to pay your respects as well. Because I know many of you were close to Jon.
Q. Mark, you talked about that it wasn't just Terry, it was the players around Terry. I know you put a lot of emphasis or working on the passing game over the last two weeks. How do you think the receivers did today?
MARK STOOPS: I thought they did a good job. I felt like there was a lot more plays out there. I'm disappointed. We had only 55 plays again, but we did have 458 yards, which is great, very explosive. I wish we had more opportunities.
That comes back to defense getting off the field and giving us some more opportunities and letting those guys have a little bit of fun because they've worked extremely hard. I felt like they been working hard and I felt like we could have continued to be more efficient in throwing the ball, but there is also that fine line. Again, winning.
Again, that's why I did that with seven and a half minutes left or whatever it was. Normally we could go right into -- we're as good a four-minute offensive team as most because we're extremely efficient at running the ball and get creative in sets and can pound the ball and use up clock and get some first downs.
Again, I felt like for the growth of the program it was important to throw the ball around a little bit. Made it a little closer than I wanted to, that's for sure.
Q. A lot of people view Chris Rodriguez is an inside guy, a guy that gets the tough yards, makes something out of nothing a lot of times when the nothing is there. How pleasing was it to you to see him break out?
MARK STOOPS: I mean, doesn't surprise me. You know, we feel like he's a complete back. He gets very tough yards, but he also can be explosive, and so it was good for him to get some big plays.
Q. Mark, just talk about Chris' performance and just the way he's running right now. You know, just seems to be on a roll right now.
MARK STOOPS: Well, I'm just looking at his stats there and I guess I can't argue with you there. He had 11.5 yards per carry. That's pretty impressive. So I agree. Again, it's not surprising to us. We have great confidence in him. We have confidence in our other backs.
And, again, there was only 55 snaps there but we were very explosive. Again, darn near 460 for 55. I wish we could have got some more possessions. That comes down to getting some better stops defensively, certainly in the second half.
Let me just say I appreciate you. Thank you for reaching out during this difficult time to myself, LeAnne and the family. You guys have done a remarkable job of covering Jon and honoring him, and we appreciate it and I know LeAnne does. Just want to say thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports