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Mark Stoops updates depth chart, recaps Missouri and previews Georgia

Dorian Baker may have lost his starting spot, but don’t expect any other big changes for Georgia.

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Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Maybe it’s appropriate that it happened days before Halloween.

After what seemed like it was wondering in a haunted house in Missouri Stadium on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats suddenly found its way to the door in the nick of time and escaped Columbia with a 15-14 victory over the Missouri Tigers on a 2-yard TD reception from Terry Wilson to C.J. Conrad on the final play of the game.

The untimed down was setup by Mizzou DB DeMarkus Acy’s pass interference penalty on wide receiver Ahmad Wagner in the end zone on what should have been the game’s final play in regulation.

Instead of an incompletion and a Tiger upset, the #12 Wildcats got one final play from the Missouri 2-yard line. This time, Wilson’s pass was true on the out route to Conrad, and the Cats snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat.

Even though he was benched for three series in favor of sophomore signal caller Gunnar Hoak, Wilson had his best day passing as a Wildcat, going 22-31 for 267 yards and the TD pass to Conrad.

UK wideout Lynn Bowden Jr. had a breakout game for the Cats, catching 13 passes for 166 yards and a punt return for TD in the 4th quarter that breathed life into the Cat offense.

Once again, the UK defense stood tall and kept the Cats in the game while the offense struggled. It’s truly hard to put into words how well All-American candidate Josh Allen and his defensive teammates played, especially in the second half. The Cats held Mizzou and star Drew Lock to zero first downs in the second half of play and 249 yards of total offense for the contest.

On Monday, head coach Mark Stoops talked about the victory that sets up a game Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs for the chance to represent the SEC East in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.

Stoops also updated Kentucky’s depth chart, where the most notable change was the starting wide receiver spot that senior Dorian Baker had held for much of the season. Baker has struggled to find any real consistency this year, as he has just 10 catches for 108 yards.

Making matters worse is Baker has almost as many drops as he does catches, including two more in Saturday’s narrow win over Missouri. Baker dropped two critical passes that would have kept drives alive and possibly led to scores.

So, Kentucky could be giving someone else his starting spot going forward. Monday’s depth chart has Baker ‘OR’ Isaiah Epps as the starting Z receiver.

One other note: Chris Westry and Derrick Baity now have an “OR” between their names at one of the cornerback spots. Baity has been playing great all year, so this is probably more of a testament to Westry’s improved play as he looks to end his final year in style along with Baity.

Here is a recap of everything Stoops said Monday, courtesy of UK Athletics:

Opening Statement…

“Once again, as I mentioned Saturday night, just very, very proud of our football team, finding a way to compete and to win. It’s really gratifying to see all three phases have to step up big late in that game to give us an opportunity to win; says an awful lot about our team’s character, their heart, their sheer will and determination to find a way to win a football game. Very proud of their effort and hopefully that will give us some momentum and give us a little boost of energy this week as we prepare for a very big game with Georgia. Just like always, we will embrace the good things that we did and look at those things on film and certainly get back and look at all the things that we need to do better, and really focus and concentrate on those areas here this week and try to improve. We’re going to need to play our best football game of the year this week against a very good Georgia team. We’re excited to get back to work today and look to improve for a big week.”

On if they are embracing the significance of this week or shying away…

“You can’t shy away from it. There’s too much information out there, they know what’s going on and that’s okay. They are allowed to be excited and you hear me talk about it all the time -- whatever they need to do to help motivate them, that’s fine. But, the preparation needs to stay the exact same. We’ll be consistent in our approach and we’ll do the same things that we do every week.”

On if he imagines this game to be more like an opening season game or a rivalry week game where you have to rein them in..

“Again, consistent with our approach. Every week the situation is different. So, situational awareness is something I address with them every week so there’s always situational awareness, the situation, the football keys and then the motivation, so that won’t change. But, obviously the situation is a little different then it’s been, and we’ll talk about that.

“But, our approach will be the exact same.”

On if he thinks he will have to have a “bring them down to earth” moment with the team…

“I don’t think so. We need to address issues, there’s always that. There’s always that ‘bring them down to earth’ and being very direct in things that are not acceptable and things that we need to improve on. That’s always the same. Our players will understand the areas that we need to improve and embrace that and I think they know the challenges ahead of them. It’s really about just getting our best preparation today, and put ourselves in the best position to be successful. The situation, it is what it is. They’ve worked hard to put themselves in that position, we just gotta stay consistent and be the best version of ourself we can be.”

On the excitement of the win and how complete was the game this past Saturday…

“The joy of the game was just how dramatic it was and how unlikely at times it was to pull the victory out. But, we were always fighting and it was a fun moment for our football team, there’s no question just with the way it ended. But as far as a complete game, no, I think it was far from a complete game for us. I was very pleased to see us make progress in the passing game. I was very pleased to see Terry (Wilson) grow in our offense and the players around him improve because they certainly took away the run game. Unlike a week ago, where we talked about throwing the ball for 19 yards and won, here in this game we had to throw the ball for just under 300 to win because the run game wasn’t working. That, to me, is a sign of progress, and we’ll continue to build on that. Defensively, the second half it’s a remarkable effort. When I look at that drive chart and you see whatever, two (yards), six, nine, minus six, minus five, that’s as complete of a half that I’ve been a part of with the quality of opponent we were facing.”

On if he can walk through the conversation with Lynn Bowden Jr. about the punt return, and if he’s ever had a player tell him he’s going in…

“Lynn has great respect. He was like ‘Coach,’ and I was like ‘Go, go do it man.’ What do we have to lose at that point? I was like ‘Go, go do your thing.’ He was like that all day. He was very passionate about give me the rock, give me the ball, let me do my thing, and he was doing it. He was making competitive catches, he was making competitive runs after catch, and he wanted it. He’s a competitor, and at that point it was nice to see him, he caught that post late in the game at X (the X receiver position). Like I talked about last week about possibly moving him around a little bit, he was at a different spot and he ran under it and made a great catch there. No, it was really a no-brainer for me. He didn’t have to twist my arm. He’s like ‘Coach,’ and I’m like ‘Go, go do it,’ and sure enough about 12 seconds later he was in the end zone.”

On if will give Lynn Bowden Jr. more punt return opportunities…

“Yeah, he will, he always catches them, he always works on it. He’s getting more and more confident with that. Some of these teams, some of these games, it’s not about returning because they put so much height on it or they’re spraying the ball all over the place, you know just field position and maintaining possession is such a big deal. When the opportunity is there, then we do want the ball in his hands.”

On if they have shown enough in the passing game for other teams to respect it…

“I don’t think there’s any question we have all year. When you put yourself in a position to be 7-1 then you know you get people’s attention across the board. We know there’s always areas everywhere on our team that we’re going to improve on and try to build on. I think that’s evident through the course of this year that we can hurt you through the air.”

On if he’s ever accidentally punched a hole into the ceiling of an opponent’s locker room…

“Yeah, I forgot to send that email and my check this morning (laughter). I was up a little higher than I thought (laughter).”

On how big the win is for the Big Blue Nation…

“It’s a big deal and we don’t shy away from that. The change in culture and what you do and that relentless fight, day in and day out, by a lot of people to put yourself in a position to play in big games and that’s a culmination of six years of extremely hard work by a lot of people and I thank all the people that have been there and the administration, the past coaches, the present coaches, the strength and conditioning people and most importantly our players past and current. There’s a lot of people who have put a lot into it and our fan base that has been so loyal for a long time. That does mean something to me and I’ve always said that -- you know I have every press conference and every year -- the importance of representing the fan base the right way, the importance of playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played and constantly working to put your team in a position to do that.”

On if it was a spontaneous moment in the locker room when he “crowd surfed” …

“No, that was totally spontaneous. You know, they generally don’t get overly excited in there but just the way we pulled that out and the guys were just having fun and in was just in the moment. We had a lot of fun. Did you see how much confidence I had that they were going to catch me?” (laughter)

On if he got injured in any way…

“I’m always a little banged up – I feel like I play -- after games. I’m always sore, I really do, I feel like I play. The players always laugh at me, I always see them in the training room on Sunday, we’re all in there getting worked on.” (laughter)

On when Danny Clark came in at quarterback and the hope of that play…

“Danny has some physicality about him in some of the Q-run (quarterback run) game maybe that could offset some from Terry. We had some of that in the works for a couple weeks and at the right moment, right time, certain plays he can do things off of that. That’s the nice thing, it’s not like a true Wildcat (formation) where you just put a big, strong guy back there where you can do some Q-run run game but he also has a very live arm. He can throw the football. You can build a little package here and there off of that and as I said last week in this press conference, that Terry was our starter and we were working hard with the other guys and we had to have the other guys ready to play and I’m glad Gunnar (Hoak) got some reps and some more series under his belt. I’m really glad Terry responded the way he did and it was good to get Danny in there. We wish we could’ve gone a little more, sometimes you get them in there if you rip off a good run or play action or whatever you do off of it and you can maybe let him go a little bit. We got the first down, the ball is on the ground and they’re reviewing it, it’s time to go back, we got the first down, put Terry in and go.”

On Wilson’s interception late in the game, then he comes back and leads the game-winning drive, and if it reminds him of former quarterback Stephen Johnson

“Without a doubt there, you know just growth and we went through growing pains with Stephen as well his first year and first time starting. That’s hard and in all of our players, it’s easy when we sit there in the meeting room and all you armchair quarterbacks – I’m joking (laughter) – but you sit there, and even players, you sit there and watch the film and you need to do this, this and this and it’s a little different deal when you have those guys coming at you and things are moving and things are changing. It’s a hard position to play. Everybody loves the backup quarterback and it’s a hard position to play. You need some reps, you need some time and I feel like he responded the way we wanted him to, both in the game and certainly on that last drive.”

On did Terry get greedy on a long pass downfield when he had Lynn open underneath…

“Yeah, I think he needs to see that and continue to work on that. We need to start hitting the intermediates and hitting some shots. We hit the big shot to Lynn. I think we had maybe seven explosive plays and we need more, but sometimes those are low percentage plays. Listen, who throws the ball down the field as effectively as Missouri? Their shots ended up hurting them. If you watched the game closely, they were attacking and they were throwing the ball down the field and in the second half at least three, maybe four, of those three-and-outs were shot plays and when they get behind the sticks guess what? They ended up punting, so that gave us an opportunity. Same thing with us, we need to hit them, we did and we need to continue to work on that and intermediate throws, but when you’re throwing the ball for just under 300 yards, with our balance, that’s going to help you win some games.”

On growth throughout the process and performing in the clutch showing itself…

“I think that showed a lot and what you saw was great leaders really perform and guys that have been doing it and working so hard and doing the right things and being such good leaders really just show up. Who you are in the dead of the night is going to show up in the brightest lights and you kind of saw that with some of these people, some of these players, that responded and showed up in a really big moment with a lot of pressure on them.”

On when he realized the defense was this good…

“I knew we were good going into the year. Again, I had a lot of confidence and I’ll go back in the summer I said I had a lot of confidence in this team and I believed that. I know the amount of work that went in for years and years and years to get in this position and so I felt good about them all along. I told you that in the summer, I told the national media that in the summer and said that I felt good but you always have to prove it. You always have to go do it. You have to go play. Nothing is ever given to you and you have to go earn it each and every week and they’ve responded. We still have some big games left, starting this week, and how we respond and how we play, prove it every seven days, so the defense will have to prove it again this week but I really love their attitude and their competitiveness and their desire and their determination to be great, to work to be great, what they do to put themselves in a position to be good. That’s what I like. Sometimes the outcome we can’t control but we can certainly control our preparation and the way we go about our business and I really like that.”

On what worries him the most about Georgia…

“Georgia is a complete football team, they’re very, very talented and they’re well coached and they’re good in all phases, so they can hurt you in any given play because of the talent that’s on the field.”

On the line of assertiveness between players and coaches during games…

“There is always going to be a line. Those players know that and respect that. But through time, trust, both sides, that’s how you understand that. I trust and respect our players and I know well they trust and respect their coaches. So, there is always this business and that kind of competitiveness. There is going to be people flaring up tempers and different things. But, you can’t be thin-skinned and soft and you take it and move on. Like I said, great examples are Josh Allen and jumping him and straightening him out and him responding. That is what pros do. That is what mature players do. Darius West, same thing. He has been a complete warrior. What he did was wrong. He came right over and is like, ‘No excuse, my fault.’ Same with Benny (Snell Jr.). There is no excuse for it. You cannot hurt your team. We have a team that cares for each other and loves each other, but you can’t do those things. You can’t put your team in a bad spot.”

On if he envisioned this type of season for Josh Allen when he decided to come back…

“I did. The stats, I don’t put numbers on that. I don’t put ‘x’ amount of sacks for him or anything like that. But, I did expect him to come back and be a dominant player. I truly knew in my heart that he was a first-round draft pick. I don’t think there is any question about that now. But, I knew that coming into the year. I knew the talent that he had and the ability that he had. So, now the only question is, how high? Because he moved himself way up just by the way he is playing. But, you know what, he is not worried about that. What he is worried about is helping his team win. You see what he does and the way he sacrifices and the way he plays, it is inspirational.”

On Kash Daniel’s hand affecting his play…

“It does. It did. It just is what it is. It bothers him. Those are good, strong, powerful guys, and he does not have the ability to grab and tackle and things like that. But, it is not going to slow him down. He is a tough guy. He is inspirational. You would have to cut it off to keep him out of there.”

On the possibility of playing Chris Oats more…

“There is, I think there is some. I think Chris played eight snaps, would like to see him get a few more than that.”

On Chris Westry being listed as a co-starter on the depth chart...

“That is just semantics for us. But Chris has warranted, for you all, or whatever it is, that starting lineup, for us, it does not matter. Those three, those guys are starters to us, always have been. But, Chris (Westry) is playing really good football.”

On potential saw in Josh Allen while recruiting…

“When you just look at him before you know him, you see the length and the athleticism and the upside that he had. We are such a developmental sport that you have to project guys a couple years down the road. He came in and actually did better than we anticipated probably in year one, year two. But, again, he is versatile. His background, playing multiple positions, changing direction, a big athlete. Length never hurts. I told you that I learned from Jimbo (Fisher), it’s not my quote, it’s his, but sometimes those big, long guys, they do more by accident. When you have length and you have size, you just kind of take up space and get in the way. But, obviously, he has taken that to a whole another level.”

On regretting fourth-down decisions…

“I don’t think I would use the word regretted. But, if you gave me hindsight I would change them. You would be lying if you couldn’t use hindsight. Didn’t work. I would say obviously since they didn’t work, probably wrong, with the exception of the one where we stopped them, the way we were playing defensively, and got the ball right back and got the punt return. I felt we were deep enough there. I knew that three would’ve cut it to eight, but I really felt like seven or eight would have been important there.”

On the history of our program and this weekend’s game, and talking to the team about it…

“No, I am really not going to. They understand that, they know that. They take pride in some things that they hear and see. I don’t really talk about that much. When I have in years past, it has kind of been unproductive to me. So, it is what it is. It is this year. This is this year’s football team. We are who we are on film. There’s no getting around some of that. It is going to be talked about, they know that, they know the importance of it. I don’t need to build them up on that. I probably more need to calm them down, again, go through the process of what we have done to put ourselves in this position and go about our business and have a normal week. That is what we need to do is have a normal week. The excitement is going to be there. Again, I’ve always embraced that. I always feel like the fans, they’re fans, they deserve that and we love that. We need that. We need this energy. That’s how you recruit at another level. That’s how you take your program to another level, when you have energy that is going to be here every week and that helps everybody.”

On third down issues on defense…

“You can’t just look at it like that. You have to look at stops. We are stopping people pretty effectively. Why don’t you look at points? I’m teasing. (laughter) You gotta find something. It wouldn’t be a press conference.” (laughter)

On quantifying the boost in Terry Wilson’s confidence after the win…

“I do not know if I can quantify it that way. I know it did a lot for his confidence. I know it did a lot for his team’s confidence in him. It is what it is. Does not surprise me because I know him. I know who he is and how he responds and things don’t shake him. Players have to learn to deal with that now. It is hard with social media and things and my own kids. It can be a very, very useful effective tool, the social media. But, it can also be very negative and tough on young people. It is what it is. So, they act like it has no effect. I do not know, I’m not in every kid’s mind. I know they have to deal with a lot. They get a lot of pressure on them. But, to play at this level, you have to learn to deal with it and put that aside and control the things you can control.”

On the impact of having home-field advantage against Georgia …

“I don’t think me sitting up here saying it’s just another game, I mean, would be lying because it is playing for the championship, it’s playing for the East. It’s one of your goals at the beginning of the year, so obviously, it’s a big game but once again, our approach can’t change. The situation changes. That what’s I always say, situational, what’s the situation? The fact is that we’re playing for the East. What are the football keys and what’s our motivational piece? That approach won’t change. The situation changes every week, home, away, division game, non-conference.”

On the wide receivers performance so far this season …

“Obviously, we need to improve. I thought Tavin [Richardson] came back and became more like him and played really hard and did some really good things. He had a drop or two, and Dorian’s (Baker) play, his drop, obviously it’s inexcusable at that point. Right? It’s a third and five against that football team, a possession that we have an opportunity to split them right there. It’s a big play, and it limits them another opportunity. You can’t do that. We overcame it this week, but you can’t do that as you move forward.”

On the similarities of this year’s teams to teams in the past …

“I mentioned it after the game, and you’ve heard me talk if you’ve been in here, you’ve heard me talk each and every week how much I really value and love this team from the beginning, from the summer, and that’s the truth, but I also do feel like that something changed a bit Saturday, as well. That growth, another step, however you want to say it. I don’t know how to put it into words, but I just felt like that truly everybody said that somehow, some way they’re going to their part to help us win this game and certainly some guys stepped up in a really big way, but everybody did. Everybody in there made a difference. I definitely think we evolved another step.”

On the special teams play and whether or not Chance Poore is the kicker the rest of the season …

“I will stick with Chance again here this week, that’s correct. The special teams were big, but we can play better. We actually need to play better on special teams. I mentioned it after the game and before the game and everything, I really have a lot of respect for Missouri. They play hard, and I knew they would. They were hungry, they play hard, they play hard on special teams. They actually outplayed us on some of that. We got the big block, and that was huge and the punt return. You take those out of there, and they beat us in some areas that we need to get cleaned up, so that’s where sometimes the big plays kind of stand out, but overall, to us coaches, there’s things we can do better.”

After graduation of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, on what to expect from Georgia’s running backs…

“Yeah, they’re just the same. When you think of Georgia, you know they have talented running backs and certainly with (Elijah) Holyfield and (D’Andre) Swift they’re very good runners, physical, will run you over. Their line is really, really good, really talented, physical, and their backs will run downhill, and they can run around you. Certainly, Swift is electric and Holyfield is so darn tough, gets tough yards and talented. They’re good, just like you would expect when you’re playing these guys.”

On how to prepare for a possible Georgia quarterback change to Justin Fields

“Not too much. We’re always prepared for that. Our package is built in to defend that. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, it’s always hard, you know that, I’ve always had great respect for dual-threat guys and certainly one with his ability, but that doesn’t mean it makes it easier, but we’re always prepared, and we get to some of that pretty quick on what we would do. Again, it comes down to the difficulty of defending it.”

On Jake Fromm …

“You could just see him, certainly this past game and throughout the season, this past game really I’m sure did a lot for his confidence as well because he played just absolutely exceptional and looked really, really comfortable and made some really terrific throws to some talented people, so just a guy that’s getting more experience and like most quarterbacks, getting more and more confident and comfortable with every rep and every game.”

On trying to limit the impact of Georgia’s tight ends …

“It’s not just them, it’s kind of within our package, within our scheme, what they’re doing, where they’re trying to hit them and when. Again, it doesn’t make it any easier. They’re difficult because they have a lot of weapons, and sometimes you pick and choose where you try to take away and then it gives them options and space, so they just put a lot of stress on you in general.”

On the difficulty for a coaching staff keeping the same process in a big week like this …

“No, because we always do that. You know what I mean, we always, sometimes outcoach ourselves, and we admit that and say that all the time. There’s always a fine line, do too much or do too little. We do the best we can with giving them opportunity to be successful, but as I’ve said for a long, long time as a coordinator, and I’ve told you guys that many times. When it’s wrong, it’s on us, and that’s the way it should be, but when it’s good, it’s on them because they make the plays, and I tell them that all the time. You know, that was my favorite call at Florida State when we had some of the greatest defenses in the world – ‘You call it. I’m tired of it. Nothing’s working, it’s on you.’ There’s not a lot of magical calls, but they make them good, and they’re playing really hard. For us, the process, just the way we go about our business, the organization, the way we go about our week will be the exact same. Sure, it’s always a bit, keeping your kids in check and making sure we’re doing the things necessary to put ourselves in a position to be successful. That’s a challenge, whether it’s getting a team up or getting them to calm down and just prepare, but just go about our business and have a normal week. For us, that won’t be difficult. As far as the X’s and O’s, there’s always a balance there, trying to get creative, do what we do, change things up. That’s every coach in America, and we’re always trying to find that right balance.”