Kentucky’s monumental win over Missouri snapped a five-year losing streak against Top 25 teams, and it was the most complete game the Cats have played thus far.
Mark Stoops admitted he knew that last Saturday’s game was a must win. "We needed it as a program," he said.
UK’s head coach briefly discussed that and several other topics during his weekly press luncheon Monday afternoon.
Controversy at Running Back
When Kentucky’s depth chart was released yesterday Jojo Kemp was listed as the starter leaving many questions about why Boom Williams was bumped down to second string.
Coach Stoops said that Kemp’s promotion is merit based and that not much should be read into the situation.
"The thinking there is that is the way we game went. Jojo was the guy that did some things in the game and he deserves an opportunity. Again, you guys get hung up on the depth chart and believe me it is important to our players as well – all of our players. We take all of that into consideration, but we need all of our players to compete at a high level all the time to help us win games", he said.
Stoops denied that Williams demotion had anything to do with poor blocking or a bad attitude, but Stoops said that he was going to meet with Williams and discuss the situation with him later in the day.
The Ft. Thomas native played one of his best games in the Blue and White against Missouri and exorcised any remaining demons from his abysmal performance against Florida.
Coach Stoops agreed with that sentiment.
"Patrick did a very good job. He played a very" good game", said Stoops.
Towles’ performance, in Stoops opinion, was even more impressive in light of the tidal wave of criticism directed the quarterback’s way after the Florida game. Stoops also indicated that some of the negative comments about Towles were unfair and ignorant.
"To criticize him – there are so many things that go on that not everyone gets to see – we are never going to deny that he might miss some opportunities, absolutely, he’s human. Every quarterback misses some opportunities. Every player will be held accountable on our team and if it is not up to standards then we will take another look. This Saturday is a perfect example of what he is capable of. He needs to continue to grow, continue to improve, just like our whole team."
Stoops also said that Kentucky Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson and his staff deserve praise for their work preparing Towles in the week leading up to the Missouri game.
"Complement our coaching staff to get him in some plays and situations to get him comfortable, get him going, then let his ability and instincts take over. I thought he made some great decisions", said Stoops
The game against Eastern Kentucky this coming Saturday has been overshadowed by off the field events.
Most notably the tragic death of EKU player Joey Kraemer.
Stoops touched on the tragedy in his opening statement.
" I would like to send my condolences to Coach Hood and Eastern Kentucky. Hearing about that tragedy, it is sad for all of us. Our hearts go out to him, his family and the entire program. That is sad thing about leading into this game because we are very excited to play them", Stoops said.
Coach Stoops said at that at the time he was not sure if there were plans to honor Kraemer during the pre-game festivities on Saturday. Later in the day the UK Athletics Department confirmed that there would be a moment of tribute to the fallen player.
A familiar face will suit up against the Cats on Saturday. Dy’Shawn Mobley, a standout running back during Stoops first season, now plays for EKU.
Stoops had high praise for his former player and does not think coaching against him is going to be awkward.
"It’s not weird. I have really great respect for those players and Eastern. There are always situations and circumstances. We deal with a lot of numbers and a lot of guys. Every situation is different, why guys choose to leave or need to transfer. I respect that. We have transfers on our team that I have great respect for that came from other places. Whatever is best for them, we support. We are in this for the kids and what’s best for them", said Stoops.
Saturday’s game will also mark the first time that several UK and EKU players will face each other since an infamous incident at a Richmond bar earlier this year.
Stoops remarked that he wants his team to forget about the incident and play a good clean game, but if trouble arises he will not be afraid to drop the proverbial hammer if there are any incidents.
"Once the game starts I will have little tolerance. If I see any of that stuff, then they are not going to play. I am not going to deal with that stuff. That looks classless and looks sloppy and we will not play that way", he said.
Coach Stoops indicated that that offensive linemen Jordan Swindle is listed as questionable for the EKU game due to a pulled muscle.
Stoops had high praise for Corey Johnson, who had a career-high 11 tackles against Missouri and was honored as the SEC Defensive Linemen of the Week.
Finally, Coach Stoops said that he still hopes to get Drew Barker quality snaps at some point this season.