LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky was blown out 44-17 by rival Louisville on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats’ coach had to answer some tough questions. Here’s everything coach Mark Stoops said after the loss:
MARK STOOPS: Not a very good feeling from the opening possession through the end of the game. Not a very good effort on any of our parts. I thought our team really, all year, had pretty disciplined focus and habits throughout the year, and I didn’t do a good enough job preparing ourselves for this game and this rivalry.
We did not play very good, we did not coach very good, and we certainly did not play with the discipline and the character that this team has. That’s not acceptable. That’s not okay, and I was very disappointed in that, and that needs to be addressed and improved. So that’s probably the biggest disappointment.
The game also kind of speaks for itself. They really beat us in every phase from the start to the finish and there are certainly things we all could do better.
Q. Why was Jordan Jones still in the game after multiple situations, personal fouls, he’s arguing with coaches?
MARK STOOPS: 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. He is definitely an emotional guy. He needs to control that better. I’ve got to coach it better.
I didn’t think — I thought the second one definitely — I don’t know. I just think there was some — it wasn’t as blatant — you know what I mean? It was wrong. It was selfish. I need to talk to him. We need to do a better job of coaching him, but it wasn’t, I guess, blatant. That one was close when the whistle was blown there on the second one.
Very frustrating for our players, frustrating for us as coaches that whole situation. Believe me, it bothers me to the core, and I don’t want us to represent this university that way at times.
You know, I don’t want to get into any excuse or why or anything like that. Obviously, the game got very chippy early, and I didn’t even see how that started on our sideline down at the goal line. I don’t know how or what started that. I really don’t. But I really felt like the emotions really got out of hand very quickly there.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On Nick Haynes tweet last night …
MARK STOOPS: I went down, and I was notified of that. I obviously went down and talked with Nick about that. I’ll keep it between Nick and I. He could answer for himself, but I was disappointed in that as well, because we had just had probably one of the best team meetings I had been a part of to be honest with you. We’ve got a really good group of seniors, and we had a really good, emotional meeting. There were a lot of good vibes in that room.
But, again, Nick, I’ll let him answer if he wants. But he and I talked about it and put it to bed last night. He was emotional as well. He was rubbed the wrong way after curfew by one of our younger coaches, and we’ll just leave it at that.
Q. Do you expect him to stick around with the team through the bowl game?
MARK STOOPS: I do. But we’ll see where he’s at and what his health is and what’s best for him.
Q. Are you surprised that this defense has not taken steps forward, more steps?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I do think so. I am surprised. I felt like we did at times this year, and we took steps back, and that is disappointing and that’s frustrating for me and for everyone in the program. I felt like we went into the year — I don’t think we would have gotten the seven victories had we not improved in certain areas and we did that. At times that’s gone away and it’s very hard for me to deal with. It’s frustrating, and the consistency is not what it needs to be, and that is bothering me.
Q. What kind of adjustments need to be made?
MARK STOOPS: Just our normal adjustments. We look at everything new, any new sets or new looks. Get our players dialed into those, and we did. I got some things fixed, and there are some things we didn’t. There are things you get fixed, and you didn’t, you know — you can’t bring that guy down. Couple times we’re scot free, and I told you that going into the week. Sometimes it’s awful. It’s really difficult if you’re completely free to a man because you’ve got a guy completely free on pressure, and escapes it and scrambles for 20 yards. That’s not drawn up. It just happens, and it creates, and you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for that. He’s a very talented football player.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On keeping momentum in the early signing period …
MARK STOOPS: I don’t think that will be an issue at all. We’ve got a solid class. We’ve been recruiting at a very high level. Guys are excited to come here. Most of the people we’re recruiting against that had some ups and downs as well. So I know how we feel. I know I’m not happy, and you’re probably not happy, and most of us aren’t. But it’s not like, you know — there’s going to be somebody who wins and loses in every game.
Q. Why were your guys unable to dial it back in emotionally after the scuffle on the sidelines?
MARK STOOPS: When did I? What did you say?
Q. Why were your guys unable to.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it took way too long for us to dial that back. Yeah, it did. Why, because the frustration was kicking in also because we weren’t stopping them. I think that’s part of it. That’s, again, not okay.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On having discipline in the program …
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we talk about it so much. They’re all connected, you know? We talked about it all week about disciplined preparation, disciplined focus, and most importantly, disciplined execution. I could honestly say that I don’t think any of those things happened today for the most part, and that’s very frustrating.
I think our prep has been pretty solid, I would tell you that throughout the course of this year I think at times the disciplined focus that you need hasn’t been there. As you mentioned the last couple weeks, certainly disciplined execution has not been on the field, and that’s something that we’ve definitely got to address and get better. It is what it is, and that’s not okay with me. It’s very frustrating.
What stinks is it’s the last game of the year. This sits with you for a while, and that’s the thing that’s very difficult about losing the last game of the year. Fortunately, we do have a bowl game and we could get back on track. The players definitely need to get away from here for a minute and decompress. It is a long year. This is the first time we’ve gone through that since mid-July, and the way we grinded them up.
We’ve got work to do, and I’ve got work to do. I’m very excited about doing that. I’m very disappointed. I’m disappointed I let some people down and we didn’t play the way we had hoped. But I promise you, we’ll get right back at it, and the players need a little bit of time to get away and decompress and heal up, and get away from football for a week or however many days, and then get back at it.
Q. You said you had such a good team meeting, and then you take Nick and you talk to him privately. I’m assuming you guys thought you were ready to play. But with what happened to Nick and other guys knowing what was going on, did that affect you guys today?
MARK STOOPS: I don’t think so. I really don’t. I don’t know. I don’t think any of us like any distractions when you’re getting ready for a big game. But I can’t answer that honestly for 100 and however many people are in our organization. But I really don’t think it did. I just — I don’t think that’s the reason why this happened today though.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On Benny Snell …
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it really does mean a lot. Even in there right now again, as I told the team, we’re going to stick together, and we’re not going to let this compound another issue. We can’t do that. That’s not okay. I tell them all the time. I own mine, you own yours. We’re in it together, but you can’t let it compound and get to be another problem, another issue, and we’re not going to let that happen and they’re not going to let that happen.
But Benny is a guy that’s also very emotional and plays so tough. That does get lost sometimes when you take a beating like that. I really appreciate Benny and the tough yards that he runs for. Again, I think we had a — as frustrating as it was, I think key moments again are in the middle of the second quarter, and we had a long drive that we needed. Obviously, we’re having a hard time stopping them. We have a long drive, miss the field goal. Then I also think when it was 24 — would have been 24-7, whatever it was, two minutes to go in the half, and we get the penalty, incomplete, incomplete, and we put it right back in his hands, that also is not where we needed to be. Because had we been able to just drive it there at the end of the half and get the ball to start the second half, that’s obviously where we need to make up some ground, even though it was still a tough first half. We could have kept it reasonably close, and a couple of those possessions really hurt.
Q. The unsportsmanlike penalties and the unnecessary roughness, do those bother you more than some defensive missed assignments?
MARK STOOPS: It does bother you, especially when you’re on the losing end and you lose because it’s not a good look. Rivalry games are heated, but there is still no excuse for some of that on either side. None of us want that as coaches. That’s not all right. Whether you win or lose, you still don’t want that going on. So it does bother you.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On how difficult it is to defend Lamar Jackson …
MARK STOOPS: I’d have to say so. I can’t recall defending anybody as talented as he is. Yeah, it’s tough. As we all know, they’re a good football team that’s well coached, but then it’s really difficult when things break down or you’ve got them covered or got them stopped, and he just absolutely makes you miss and gets bunches of yards. It’s heartbreaking, and it is frustrating, especially with them being our rival in a heated game. He can aggravate you.
But, you know, you’re right. I’m glad you brought that up because you have to recognize him as last year as the best player in college football, and this year, I imagine, he’ll be in New York as well, and he deserves to be there. He is a real talent. As I said, what’s very hard is you have to be so disciplined in your rushes, and then he stretches the field and still can distribute the ball. When it does break down and he gets those yards, that’s where it’s really crushing, and he’s done that for two years and some change.
Q. How banged up is Stephen Johnson?
MARK STOOPS: I can’t answer that exactly. I mean, going into the game he was okay. I mean, he was definitely, I’m sure, bruised and banged up a bit, but yeah.
Q. Stephen looked upset as he walked off the field for the last time. What has he meant to your program as a quarterback that kind of steadied the ship?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he’s meant a great deal. It’s tough for all of us to have that last game at home. For him to go out that way, it’s difficult on him because he’s done an awful lot. He’s really represented us the right way, and he has had great character and really has been a leader and a very calming force for us, and I really appreciate it.
He’ll bounce back and we’ll regroup. Like I said, this team needs to get away for a minute, heal up, and get back at it fortunately for one more opportunity.
Q. (Question was inaudible) On fan support …
MARK STOOPS: Well, I thank the fans for their support throughout the entire season. There’s always going to be ups and downs, and they’ve been there, and I really appreciate them. I’m definitely disappointed the way we played today. I definitely am. We will definitely be back, and we’ll continue to try our very best to do things the right way and represent this fan base the right way with our administration and our people.
We try to do things right. There were times today that I accept the responsibility that I’ve got to get some things corrected, and I will. But I do appreciate our team, by and large, for years trying to do things right, and we’re going to continue to try to do that.