Make no mistake about it: Tennessee completely obliterated Kentucky on Halloween night in another agonizing chapter of the lopsided rivalry.
Earlier this afternoon during his weekly press conference, head coach Mark Stoops made no excuses for his team’s performance a dew days ago.
"Just like I said postgame, this past week I was very upset and disappointed in the way that we played vs. Tennessee", said Stoops,"Going back and looking at the film, the frustration is still there. Just inconsistent in all phases and that’s not winning football,"
Stoops praised the defense’s effort on first and second downs but also said that they gave up too many explosive plays, which ended up being the difference in the game.
"They hit us on a screen, punt return, kickoff return, interception return, game over."
The special teams touchdowns were a sore spot for many Big Blue fans in the postgame discussion. That sentiment was shared by Coach Stoops.
"The kick return was the kick", said Stoops on the subject, "We had one guy out of position and the kick."
According to Stoops, the issue with the sequence was the hang time of the kick, players failing to beat UT’s blocks and the aforementioned player being out of position.
"On the punt, same story", said Stoops on the Vols’ second special teams TD.
Despite the poor performance by the special teams, Coach Stoops is still pleased with the unit being coach by committee and is not worried about it going forward.
"That is not an issue, it really is not."
A bright spot for the defense was the play of freshmen safety Mike Edwards, and Coach Stoops said what makes Edwards stand out is his tackling.
"He's been a very sure tackler. What I love about him is he's making loose plays where he's a middle third safety but he made a play, a tackle for a three-yard gain. That's having the instincts and understanding of what it takes."
Edwards’s emergence, injuries and Tennessee’s physical run game caused some shuffling in the secondary this past weekend.
"I think with the decision to either play Marcus McWilson or A.J. (Stamps) at free, or rotate them at free and leave Mike at strong, and then with moving Marcus down lower to the ball, it gave us a bigger nickel that we needed against this team. Blake (McClain)'s done some very good things at nickel. Blake covers probably better at nickel, but with the way they were running the ball and what we had to do it put a bigger guy down low, so Marcus and Blake at the nickel", said Stoops.
Special teams plays and the defense’s poor performance were not the only major stories coming out of the loss. The Wildcats suffered a menagerie of injuries to key players. Star running back Boom Williams injured his elbow in the second quarter and did not return to the game.
"Boom will be out", said Stoops on Williams’ status for the Georgia game. "It will be week-to-week, but he is out right now."
Special teams player Joey Herrick suffered a leg injury during the game and will be out against Georgia as well.
"Joey has a bone bruise. We were glad it was not a more significant knee injury’, said Stoops on Herrick’s injury.
Freshmen offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei was injured as well.
"George is dinged up. He is. He has a sprain. He will be a guy that I’ll update you throughout the week but they told me this morning he will be out there this week, but not today", said Stoops.
Stoops also confirmed that backup quarterback Drew Barker was not healthy enough to play last week but will be good to go for the Georgia game if he is needed.