STARKVILLE, Miss. — Kentucky suffered its second loss of the season Saturday afternoon, and it was ugly. Mississippi State crushed the Cats 31-7 in a sea of cowbells at Davis Wade Stadium.
Here’s what Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after the loss.
Opening statement: “Not very good effort. Not a whole lot — I’ll be really quick in my opening statement. (Delay as cameras were set up). Definitely not acceptable. Didn’t play winning football, didn’t coach good enough. They took care of business from the beginning of the game to the end. They were the more physical team and generally when you’re that much more physical than your opponent, you’re going to lose the game. That was the case tonight. Give them credit. They really played well. They’re a well-coached football team. They’re very physical and they have an outstanding quarterback. It was a great effort by them and not good enough by us. We’ve got to get back to work.”
On message to team after loss: “It was not acceptable and it’s not OK and they flat out beat us, outcoached us, you accept it. There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide in this business. There’s nowhere for them to run and nowhere to hide. They whooped us. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to accept it. We all have to look at ourselves in the mirror and look at every aspect of our situation and see where we get better, starting with me. But every person looks at themselves in the mirror and sees things we can do better and give Mississippi State credit for beating our tails and that’s the way it is. We’re going to go back to work on Monday and they better be ready to strap it on and go to work.”
On if it’s more concerning this happened after two weeks to prepare: “Well, I don’t know. It’s not always the case. Definitely with us coming off this bye we didn’t play to our standards and sometimes that happens as well. It’s not acceptable. You know you’re going into a tough environment. I really feel like the game got away from us with three minutes to go in the half. Because we battled back, and we fought to get to 10-7 and we knew that we were hanging on. It was time to get out of that half, and it was imperative that we got a first down at that time coming out with whatever it was, I think under three. We got it to third and short, and we went for a shot. We had a play set up that we worked. They had been super aggressive, we thought we would try to get a shot and went for a home run, and the game flipped right there. And, that’s a physical bunch that when you give them that many more plays that tacked on seven, and it was very reminiscent of the last time we were here when the game got away from us at the end of that first half. And I was very conscious of it, and I was trying very hard not to let that happen, and it did. And the game got away from us very quickly. That’s just more snaps, more effort, more opportunities for them. They drive down and score and the game got away from us right there.”
On what adjustments they tried to make at halftime and what Mississippi State did: “Well, Mississippi State got ahead, and they got aggressive and put a lot of pressure on us. We weren’t winning some one on ones and they did a nice job of mixing up their pressures and got after us. We knew that going in, that they don’t give up a lot of first downs. They lead the country in giving up the fewest amount of first downs.”
On what wasn’t working with the deep ball and if there was a point they wanted to go away from it: “Really just tried to let us run our offense and do something good. They were in there preparing for it. We missed a few shots early. We had been off on those, and they made a couple really good plays. Again, they were dominating on that side at the time because then they started taking over and getting very physical, keeping the ball away from us, converting on third downs, quarterback run games, keeping you very off balanced. We couldn’t get first downs and then it was really getting away from us quickly there in the second half. Our best shot, again, 10-7 and getting out of that half and at least going in 10-7.
On if he talked about the third and one call with Eddie Gran: “We consulted, cause there was an injury at that time. Again, in hindsight, if I had it over again I would absolutely run the ball. I knew it was critical, but I also played to win the game. I thought we had a shot, and we had it set up. They came back and made a good play on the ball. It was open briefly and they played it well. Credit them. That hurt.”
On if there were themes with the QB runs that UK couldn’t stop: “Well, the theme in general was they were much more physical than us. Even when our fits were very good they were still getting yards. I told you going into the game that they take very few negative yardage plays. They’re very physical. When everything was perfect they were still getting three, four. That gets aggravating. That’s why the possession time was what it was. They convert a lot of third downs — we talked about going into the game because they get in very manageable third downs and keep you off balance with their quarterback run. And they’re physical. That was the case tonight. Unfortunately we couldn’t do a lot to combat that.”
On if there were signs the rush defense might crack: “Oh yeah. You know going into it that your run game statistics aren’t going to hold up against Mississippi State. But that’s not the point. The point is trying to win the game and not just worry about our stats or anything like that. There were things in there tonight, again, that we have to get fixed. I don’t want to get into it because it’s a no-win situation. There’s certainly things we need to do better and we need to man up and play more physically, play stronger. There’s enough blame to go around and I don’t want to point any fingers. We’ll accept it and we’ve got to get them playing better.”
On if he saw this kind of loss coming: “I didn’t. I felt like we were ready to play. I felt like the guys had good energy in practice. It’s always a test. You get halfway through this season and these guys are getting a mental and physical grind. The teams that can withstand that and endure it, get better and get stronger will win. The guys that don’t won’t. Tonight we didn’t do that. They whooped us. That’s the way it is. They beat us. They outcoached us. The good thing is, and I also told the team and I told them this the last time we lost a game, we can’t let one turn into two. The beautiful thing is no matter what the score is, you lose. You win it’s a win. You certainly want to play better and play the best every time you take the field. I wasn’t very proud of our effort tonight.”
On injuries mounting with left tackles: “We’ll have to look at it. I’m not sure. We’ll get back at it tomorrow.”
On how serious Landon Young’s injury is: “I really don’t know.”
On if he uses lessons from how they responded to Florida loss last year: “Yeah, like I told you in the opening. You’ve got to man up, watch the film and see all areas that everybody can improve. Everybody accepts their share of the responsibility. You win as a team, you lose as a team. You always try to get better, whether you win or lose. It’s not OK to play like that. We’ve got to put it together and (inaudible because of coach yelling).”
On how having established culture helps in this moments: “I think we’ve got to…You’ve got to get better. Sorry, I’m a little bit distracted.
“Like I just told the team, there’s nowhere to run. Again, you accept it. It is what it is. When you’re in the arena, you’re going to win some and you’re going to lose some. Nobody likes to lose. Believe me, they’re going to be – I told the team. That’s why I told them to zip it. Look at yourself, look at htings you can do better, and if you got your butt whooped you accept it and you do something about it on Monday and in our preparation through the week. I’m not worried about it. Nobody likes to lose. Everybody’s manhood gets challenged. Our team, as you can tell right now, there’s going to be some frustrations and some things, but there’s nothing we can’t mange. That’s for sure. We’ve been through difficult times, and we have leadership on this team. I really believe in our coaches, and we’ll get it straightened out. Got to go play again next week. Like I tell you every week when I’m in here: That’s the beautiful thing, you’ve got every seven days to go prove yourself, win or lose.”