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Mark Stoops Monday Press Conference – UK Athletics – UKAthletics

Kentucky Football Pregame Quotes
Kentucky vs. Youngstown State
Kroger Field – Lexington, Ky.
Sept. 12, 2022
 
Head Coach Mark Stoops
Opening statement…
“Obviously, after watching the film, very pleased with a lot of the game, and I felt like our coaching staff did a really good job putting us in a position to be successful. I felt like our players had a great week of preparation, were very confident to go down there and play well. You always know it is going to be difficult and challenging, and we embraced that challenge, went out there and hit it head on and played a very good football game. Really appreciative to get away with a victory there and get back here and get back to work, and now, we talked about last week, increasing that intensity. We’re going to continue to focus on that, continue to focus on ourselves, continue to improve and become a better football team.
 
“This week, we play Youngstown State, and that’ll be another great challenge. That is a program with a very deep history of winning. Very good I-AA football program that has won an awful lot of games. They have won a lot of national championships, that I have followed very closely. Obviously, during the (Jim) Tressel years and how good Coach Tressel did, and my Uncle Bob being a long-time assistant coach there and winning many national championships with Coach Tressel. It’s a program that I have a lot of respect for and looking forward to the opportunity to compete against them here this Saturday. And, really looking to get back on the practice field today and continue to build and continue to improve for a very long season.”
 
On defining the word “indicator” on the non-targeting call…
“An indicator is exactly what they’re looking for, whether it was the crown of the helmet, whether it was a launch, so those are indicators, whether the player was defenseless or not. That’s that they’re talking about with an indicator, whether the crown or whether he launched and the area in which they hit him. Did they hit him in the head, did they hit him below the knees, the indicators that they’re looking for.”
 
On getting Chris Rodriguez Jr. back for Ole Miss…
“Well, we’ve been prepared to handle this situation for weeks now. So, we’ve been getting the other guys ready, continuing to progress, and also keep him in shape, get him reps when we can. Chris is wonderful because he wants to, he is competing on scout teams, he goes down there and gets his reps down there. He is willing to do scout teams, special teams, whatever he can do to stay in shape, get those movements down with the run game, and continue to take reps with the first- and second-team offense when he can in certain situations, so he is staying active and will be ready to go and we will continue to build with the running backs we have available.”
 
On what can you say about the Chris Rodriguez situation…
“That he will be back at Ole Miss. I really don’t want to comment on that. It is what it is. I realize y’all have a job to do and everybody wants to dig at it, but it is what it is. He will be back at the Ole Miss game, and we will be more than happy to welcome him back and have him go compete when he can. But, right now, we are preparing to play Youngstown State.”
 
On the injury to Jalen Geiger…
“We will do some more evaluations, but again, as I said after the game, it doesn’t look good. It looks like an injury that will keep him out.”
 
On what you saw from the offensive line at Florida…
“Just like most of you saw, much more consistent in the second half. I felt like we settled down. There were some guys that settled in, got their feet on the ground, started playing more physical, targeting the right guys, with our play-actions and boots and things of that nature, slowed them down a bit. It gave us some access to have some success in the run game. So, you put those things together, and we will continue to build on that.”
 
On how important it was to have Jordan Wright back at Florida…
“Yeah, it was very important. I think Jordan, just, as we talk about the experience that he has, the length that he has on the edge, the energy that he brings, the experience, it was really good having him back.”
 
On using the tight ends a lot on offense and if that made Vince Marrow happy…
“Absolutely. Vince and my mother (laughter). We have good players, it fits really well with this offense, and again, if everybody is going to play that downhill, there will be some play-action in there to keep them honest.”
 
On how much the tight ends help in the run game…
“It helped, but it is still a work in progress. We need more out of them. We need to continue to fundamentally play the right way in the run game, and blocking schemes and target the right guys and finish blocks and things of that nature.”
 
On the difference in the offensive line from the first half to the second half against Florida, whether scheme or simply players stepping up…
“A little of both. We looked at options, what’s there, what’s the right sets to put our guys in a position to be successful. It is also them getting stronger. Playing with a better base, targeting the right guys and finishing some blocks.”
 
On how Kenneth Horsey played at left tackle…
“He held up just fine at left tackle.”
 
On few-to-no penalties at Florida until the end…
“Yeah, it was really clean, I think you’re right. There was one penalty in the second-to-last play, or right at the end there. But, yeah, that says a lot. We really worked hard to put our players in a position to be successful. You obviously work crowd noise, but the communication that we had during the week, I thought our coaches did a really good job. Will (Levis) came to me early last week and said he wanted it loud at practice because he understands when he’s on the road, just the communication from the huddle, regurgitating and spitting out the entire play call. There are some lengthy calls in a pro system. To be able to do that relatively clean. I burned one timeout that was getting close, and actually, I should have let that one go, we might’ve scored. For the most part, really clean, good with communication. Our coaches, they prepped really well. You watch a lot of really good football teams, if you watched some early last week on the road, uncharacteristically making a bunch of penalties and we didn’t do that. That’s a good sign that our coaches had them prepared and our players were focused and really diligent. I think, if anything, we were a touch late off the ball, which happens in that environment and that added to some of the negative yardage and some of the lack of success in the run game as well. And then in the pass game, just in the silent count, when it’s that loud, we were a touch late off the ball, and we have to continue to improve in that area and that can help us as well.”
 
On if that shows up when a guy maybe gets off balance…
“It does in a late jump on the ball. Whether we were getting beat off the ball too quick, and that is to a defense’s advantage when you’re at home, because that crowd noise, and they can’t hear the snap count if you’re silent, and it is to their advantage. You’ve seen us use that at home. Remember when we had Josh Allen and he wanted it loud, he wanted to get the jump on the offensive line, and there is a time or two when we were a little late Saturday, but outside of that, we handled it very well.”
On the defense’s progression to be able to get the second-half shutout at Florida…
“Defensively, (we were) very well prepared. Coach (Brad) White and the staff had a great plan and the players executed it. They played extremely hard. We weren’t oozing, we weren’t giving up soft yards, where maybe a three-yard run turns into five. We were pretty stout at the line of scrimmage, we were really good on containing the quarterback, we were really good at pulling him up when he did scramble out of the pocket, our guys looked fast. We were running them down and not letting them get settled. Changing up a lot of looks, but overall played stout.”
On Tyrell Ajian and Carrington Valentine being the unsung heroes at Florida…
“Ty (Tyrell Aijan) really covered us up one time in particular. We got a little out of sync with a call and miscommunication. Heck, he came out of his middle third and made it for about a four-yard gain when it could have been a really explosive play. That’s the type of open field tackle a guy gotta erase something, and that’s what you expect out of a secondary run-support player. Do your job and then play ball, and he did that. Carrington made some competitive plays, he won some one-on-ones. If you’re going to beat a team like that on the road, you’ve got to win some one-on-ones against tough match-ups and he did that.”
On what you saw from Jordan Lovett…
“I saw Jordan really improve and take another step in the right direction. It’s just getting reps under his belt, getting confidence, communicating, executing, just being more dialed in, and that comes from experience, playing safety, there’s a lot of things. We practice hard, a lot of different shifts, formations, just a lot of things, but things change and they change in a hurry out on the practice field and reps and experience helps.”
On Keidron Smith knowing it was going to be an intercepted pass…
“He did. We knew what route was coming out of that. They had hit us a little bit with (that). We were anticipating some of that, and we had different ways where we could match that and play some more man (coverage). Long story short, he felt it was coming. I don’t know if they had a miscommunication or did change the play, because their running back ran what we were expecting. He actually ran a ‘go’ (pattern), I don’t know if he felt him sitting on it or he ran by it but we were ready for the smash and he jumped it.”
On Keidron Smith crediting his interception to film study…
“It’s a good example and they were scratching where it itches. We gave it up a few times and then he read it that time. If you’re going to make that kind of throw that far, you’ve got to have some DBs ready to jump that. We get that into the boundary a lot, sometimes to the field, that’s a long throw. He had really good eyes and made a nice play.”
On a report that there was an eligibility investigation with Chris Rodriguez Jr.…
“I’m not commenting on that.”
On growing up around the Youngstown football environment and how it affected your development as a coach…
“It’s a huge part, pretty well documented after x-amount of years of coaching, I’m getting very old now. Growing up in Youngstown has much to do with the identity of myself and anybody that comes from there. It’s a very unique place, great pride coming from that area, and a toughness, it’s the rust belt, blue-collar, steel-mill town, very fortunate to grow up there. It was a fantastic place. Football was extremely important, sports were important and competitive. Fortunately, my father was a high school coach and I got to spend time watching him and the way he influenced others. Coaching at such a great school, Cardinal Mooney. Legendary head coach Don Bucci, who’s still close to us. It was a blessing, very tough and very difficult. I had no idea what I had and didn’t have. It was just a great place to grow up and I still have many close friends to this day.”
On what it means to be able to bring Youngstown into Lexington…
“I’m really proud that they’re coming in and I’m looking forward to it. I know how tough they are, what type of program (they are) and the history they have. They’re not going to be intimidated, that’s all good and there’s a connection there but at the end of the day, they’re coming in to beat us and play well. We have a job to do. It’s our job to keep that intensity, to keep that focus and keep on improving.”
On a sense of nostalgia playing against hometown team…
“Again, I’m looking forward to it. It’s a program I’m close with, I’ve watched them. I watched my uncle coach there for years and years, and the great sense of pride my Uncle Bob has and the national championships he won there, coaching with Coach Tressel and now Coach (Doug) Phillips and the job that they’re doing. It’s unique, it’s different. However, every situation, you hear me talk about it every week, I talk to my team about it. The situation is what it is. Last week, we were talking about going on the road, hostile environment, first SEC game. This is a new scenario. The situation we talk about it, we address it, and we move on.”
On the possibility of elimination of games vs. FCS opponents and what you think a football schedule should look like in years to come…
“Youngstown State, this is a big game for them. They compete and depend on these games as well. I like supporting them in that area. Again, they’re not going to be intimidated, they’re going to come in here to win the football game.”
On how the fan support on the road has grown…
“It’s incredible, the response from our fan base, everybody was really excited heading into this football season. The opening-day atmosphere here was fantastic, it was a lot of fun. Then to go on the road, to feel their energy, feel their presence, they were very loud. That stadium gets rocking and it was a great atmosphere. However, when they got quiet it was great to hear the Big Blue Nation. Looking forward to getting back home and playing for them.”
On Dane Key…
“I think you’ve heard me talk quite a bit, just about every news conference I’ve had, I’ve talked about Dane, just his maturity and his consistency for a freshman to this point. There’s a long season to go.”
On what are things Kentucky needs to improve on for the next game…
“Again, the offensive line, the communication, targeting the right guys, getting in good sets, getting positive yardage, not getting negative yardage plays, or one-yard gains. Even if it’s a tough look we have to get back to getting three or four yards instead of one or two. That’s a big difference on a playcaller. We can’t get behind the chains and constantly live in that environment. Defensively it was a good start. Got put in some bad field position, offense was having trouble moving it, gave up some yards, but to dig in and hold them to a field goal kept us in the game. Ultimately getting the turnover was a big piece. There are many areas we need to continue to improve and we will. Rich (Scangarello) did a really nice job putting us in a position to be successful to win the game. Now there’s some strides we need to make across the board offensively to continue to piece it all together.”
On how the pass protection isn’t just an offensive line thing…
“It’s never just an offensive line thing. I think there was one play in there that we can control as coaches and I think there was a play in there where Will knows it was hot, so there’s two right there that are very fixable that have nothing to do with talent, nothing to do with blocking.”
 
On getting to the point to have a balance in passing and rushing…
“You know that’s what you’re going to get sometimes when you’re NFL style. We had 60-some plays, 63, 64 plays. We had a lot more possessions. Fortunately, defense got off the field a lot. The longest possessions they had I want to say was seven plays until the very end, and so that’s pretty good. So we are getting the ball back and we had more possessions, but still not a lot of plays and that’s okay. I know from many years of being a defensive coach and defensive coordinator, aggravating yards are aggravating yards. You’ve heard me say even since I’ve been here, you may look at the stat sheet and not be blown away and not be wowed. However, when you’re getting five yards, six yards like we did in the second half, 10-yard runs, six-yard runs, that pisses you off as a defensive coordinator and it keeps you off-balance.”
 
On how many tickets you have asked for the Youngstown game…
“You know, I think everybody left me alone last week so I’m like, ‘Oh it’s not so bad.’ I just talked to Marc Hill and I’m like, ‘Hey, I need some help here.’ (laughter) Yeah, I think it’s starting to come out. I think everybody wanted to get through get through that game and get prepared for this one. We’ll have, I’d say between all of the Youngstown people, my brother Mike, Frank Buffano, Courtney Love, Vince Marrow, I mean they’ll be hundreds.”
 
On how you will personally manage dealing with family and friends vs. concentrating on the game…
“There is a balance there, even in game one, had my uncles up here and a lot of people and there’s a time when I just got to separate and focus on what I have to focus on. That’ll be much the case this week. I’ll have a lot of folks come in early, which is Thursday night, and get to spend some time and relax a bit Thursday and Friday get back into getting ready for the game and the same with Saturday. It’s an early game so I won’t see as many, like sometimes at a night game there’s a lot of people drifting in and out and I can’t get distracted like that, it does pull you away. But through the years I’ve learned how to manage that and that’ll be much the same here this week.”
 
On what your phone was like Saturday night to now…
“That was difficult, that was difficult. I think I think I responded to most, I have maybe a few more to clean up. I mean in the 300 range so yeah it’s hard to manage, but I greatly appreciate. Let me say this because even on Twitter and like my former players, former coaches, and people like that, I greatly appreciate them. I mentioned it afterwards but it is so true the current players and the past players all the way back to 2013 and all the past coaches. I just have such a great appreciation and respect for and love because there’s a lot of just terrific people that have been through here that I greatly appreciate.”
 
On Brad White getting a lot of attention for his game plan against Florida…
“I just felt like we were thoroughly prepared. I felt like Brad had some things that he had been working on (that) we worked on through camp that we maybe didn’t break out in game one. So there were good change-ups, the guys were in really good position. When you don’t miss many tackles and really are that firm in containing the football and containing the deep passes and everything that went into it, that’s a sign of a really good plan. Brad is to credit for that. Brad and his staff did a very good job and really were well prepared and had the guys mentally ready to go, the whole bit.”
 
On how long it took you to come down from the excitement in the locker room…
“Not long, not long I had been pretty even-keeled this year, can’t you tell that? (laughter) The players, heck when I went in there I let them have their fun for a while, they had the music going and were enjoying, they should. They work hard and as I mentioned the first game you walk in there and I’m like, ‘What’s going on here? It’s not like we lost.’ I think that’s a good sign. I think they were like, ‘OK, we’re ready for the next step.’ Just like I addressed after game one, let’s get to work, let’s improve, let’s get ready for game two and now the challenge is how do we keep that energy, how do we keep that consistency to prepare, to be the best team we can be and continue to build.”
 
On if the players are seeing the road games as a business trip…
“We went in their total business trip last week, we knew that and we addressed it. Again, I was asked that question last week there are guys that haven’t been in that situation, they responded very well, they went and played. You look at the guys that stepped up and played, maybe they didn’t have as many numbers as in game one, but they still had a big impact in the game. Look at the big play Deone (Walker) made late in the game, there was one of the bigger plays of the game for us.”
 
On the most important lessons your team will take away from its win in Florida…
“I think, the respect of the game and the preparation. You’ve heard me say this many times, but everybody wants to win on Saturday. What are they doing today to help us win the game? That is a true process. I know that word gets throw around a lot, but there are things that we have to do on Monday, there are things we have to do on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and so on, all the way through right up to the game. It was interesting, we work hard with our leadership development and all of that, but one of our talks in the summer showed a picture of Yusuf Corker studying his playbook five minutes before we went out to the bowl game. That was pointed that out to them, because that preparation does not stop literally until the moment we exit and take the field. That is the attention to detail and the commitment that they have to have all the time.”
 
On former Wildcat and now Youngstown receiver Bryce Oliver…
“Bryce is a good football player just like we thought when we recruited him. Sometimes those guys just need that opportunity and reps and get playing. A lot of time as you play, you get better. You have heard me talk about the talented guys we have on our roster right now but we have to get them playing some more. That is the plan. The really good ones that we feel like we have to get more snaps for them. Bryce is doing a really good job, I’m really proud of him and happy for him.”
 
On how Tayvion Robinson handled his responsibility at running back…
“He was excited for it, no problem. He did a really good job in practice all week. We have a package off of that that could be unique and he’s a versatile player.”
 
On being ranked in the top 10 for the first time since 2007…
“I’m grateful, but I can’t control any of that. I’m grateful for our team and the preparation and the way we played. If outsiders are respecting the way we play, then I credit the players for the way that they prepared and the way that they did their job. So that’s what I appreciate, our team and our players and coaches and what they did to put themselves in that position.”
 
On JuTahn McClain injury update…
“He’s still week-to-week. I don’t know where he is this week because we haven’t practiced yet so we’ll see.”
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