LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jordan Jones got in Lamar Jackson’s face, and Jackson pushed back.
It could’ve ended there.
But Jones, who isn’t known for his discipline, pushed back and was knocked down by another Louisville player. The skirmish was highlighted by Jones driving the Heisman Trophy winner to the ground. Teammates had to pull him back, and it seemed like an ejection was forthcoming. Offsetting personal fouls were the only punishment for the fight in Louisville’s 44-17 bashing of Kentucky.
“Jordan is an extremely emotional player, and there’s times when it gets the best of him, and I need to do a better job of working with him and holding him accountable and holding his feet to the fire on that,” Mark Stoops said after the game. “He is definitely an emotional guy. He needs to control that better. I’ve got to coach it better.”
“Emotional” is the stale word of choice when Stoops and teammates are describing Jones. It’s more than that, as Jones was back to his uncontrollable antics in the third quarter when he was called for back-to-back personal fouls. Stoops benched him for a bit, but Jones eventually returned. Fellow linebacker Denzil Ware was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct right after Jones’ consecutive offenses.
“Just not acceptable,” defensive coordinator Matt House said of Jones’ behavior. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no sugarcoating it. It’s not acceptable.”
A video showed Jones pouting on the sidelines and another showed him walking away from a defensive huddle.
Jordan Jones did not like whatever was being said during the timeout. pic.twitter.com/p3uh6AtsGn
— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) November 25, 2017
Kentucky’s lack of discipline and the staff’s inability to control its players was a problem even before kickoff when senior guard Nick Haynes ripped Kentucky coaches for only caring about a check. “They’ll use you up for all [you’re] worth and then throw you to the side,” Haynes tweeted at 10:51 p.m. the night before the game, the night before his senior day.
Haynes and Stoops hugged it out before the game, but the social media snafus aren’t a new issue for this team. Lynn Bowden complained about playing time early in the season. Receiver Blake Bone whined about the offense not throwing the ball more. Denzil Ware mocked a former teammate on Twitter while defending Jones. And there was the video that surfaced Week 1 after the Southern Miss game in which Jones spat in the direction of Southern Miss fans. He wasn’t suspended for the incident.
Not being able to stop the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner is one thing, but Kentucky has issues of its own that haven’t been tackled. The fight between Jones and Jackson bothered Stoops, just as the blown coverages and open running lanes did.
“Very frustrating for our players, frustrating for us as coaches that whole situation,” Stoops said. “Believe me, it bothers me to the core, and I don’t want us to represent this university that way at times.”
Seniors Stephen Johnson and Courtney Love labeled the undisciplined play as “passion.” Senior Charles Walker said things happen when 22 “competitors” are on the field. But inserting Jones back into the game rather than sitting him for the remainder of the afternoon showed a level of acceptance.
There’s no reason to think the problems won’t persist.