The Kentucky Wildcats picked up win No. 4 on the season with their 29-7 win over Missouri.
The Tigers came into the game favored by 10.5 points, but it was the Cats who dominated from start to finish, as they never trailed in what surprisingly fun game, given the fact it took place in an onslaught of rain.
This was a win Kentucky badly needed to feel good about its postseason hopes, as the Cats now just need two more wins in their final four games, and one of them will almost certainly come against UT-Martin.
But the way Kentucky is playing, they’ll have a chance to win all of their remaining games, so an eight-win season and a big-time bowl game is now a real possibility.
After the win, head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to recap the game. Here is everything he had to say via UK Athletics.
MARK STOOPS: Okay. Really good victory for our team and for our program. Really proud of the guys. I told you I told them. The last three, four weeks feel like they’ve really been jelling, working exceptionally hard, sure playing for each other; very unselfish.
A big thing is about playing hard and having great determination throughout the week to prepare the right way. So very proud of them. Team effort.
What can you say about Lynn? Amazing. Just so tough, so tough, and talented. Really had the weather been clearer like it was in the first half, I think he would’ve thrown the ball really well tonight, because we had some opportunities because of how dynamic he is in the run game. It created some opportunities in the passing game.
Then it (rain) was coming down. It was pretty rough out there. Proud of our guys across the board. Our coaches they’ve really worked hard. As you know, victories are tough to come by in this league. There is a lot of parity. You got some guys at the top and then after that there are some really good teams that are all banging around each other and it’s tough.
So proud of our coaches. They’ve worked exceptionally hard. Players have worked hard. Greatly appreciate the fan base. That was amazing for them to be out there tonight. Brutally rough night with the wind and rain being constant out there. Thank you so much. It was still a great environment out there tonight and it makes a difference. Our guys were having fun, so appreciate that.
Got to give a shout out to Max. He really responded after having a bad night last week. He had one bad punt. So came back and really made a difference tonight with field position.
You know, I thought we were really in control early. The turnovers did hurt because we were in control of the field position early and it was going to be one of those days. Had we not turned it over we were really in pretty good position.
I was really proud of the way we made a mistake, because it’s tough out there and the rain and the defense responded with some stops, so just overall great team victory.
Q. (Regarding making Bowden the definite starting quarterback.)
MARK STOOPS: Well, I think you all can see what’s going on out there. It’s pretty hard to take him out. So I don’t know. I don’t think guys we play, defensive coordinators are stupid. They’re pretty bright in this league. Next up is Tennessee with Derrick Ansley, so these guys know what’s going. Sawyer is getting better and it’s nice to be able to have the option to go to both guys.
Once again tonight, the conditions made it extremely tough to get him out of there tonight. As you can tell, that’s like playing with 12 at times. Even though they were loading up and playing zero, he still was able to hit some big runs.
Again, our coaches really did a good job. They’ve had a lot of stress on them obviously. They’ve worked exceptionally hard and very proud of them.
Q. Mark, in it terms of toughness, how impressive and how hard is what Lynn is doing? (Indiscernible.)
MARK STOOPS: In regards to toughness, you know, I said this a year ago with Josh Allen when I said early just show me somebody that’s better defensively nationwide. Sure enough, lo and behold, he ended up winning all the national awards, right? Defensive player of the year, consensus. I said that early.
I would say the same thing about build Lynn. There is a lot of tough players out there nationally. The way he directs things and understand the offense. There is so many moving parts. It’s hard for people to totally understand and appreciate what he’s doing because it’s hard, and emotionally, mentally, and physically it beats you up.
So I think that is the key with him throughout the week, is keeping hem level headed and where he doesn’t get the frustration. There is a lot on him, and physically he’s getting beaten up then mentally there is a lot on him.
Q. (Re: Missouri able to get some physical hits on Bowden tonight.)
MARK STOOPS: I agree. And that’s why we took him out after that. They were starting to really hone in on him and get some good shots on him and that was it. We had to get him out. But they did, and that’s where when you’re down there at field level and you’re hearing those shots - and you guys hear it - he’s a physical runner.
And Missouri, you know, I always say that about them. I have great respect for Barry (Odom). When you think of Missouri, I think of Missouri, they play hard and you have to match their intensity and physicality. I was proud of our guys for doing that.
Q. (re: Duffy’s fake punt.)MARK STOOPS: Well, Max, you know, it looked like he fumbled it just briefly, and he had been working on stepping up into that pocket. When there is only two (rushers) on the edges there, the wasn’t a third one. So people change up whether there were three guys rushing him and forcing that or two. There were two there. He saw the lane and pulled it down. It was wide open.
Q. With a lot of the losses you had in defense last year, and a lot of people saying that that’s going to be our weakness, seems like the defense is really starting to click now. What’s been the change from the first of year to now?
MARK STOOPS: You know, that’s a great question and observation. I think you have to credit Coach (Brad) White and the defensive coaches. They’ve done a really good job. And our players. I’m just proud of them. Again, it starts with playing exceptionally hard. You got to play hard and you got to be tough throughout the week with their preparation. The games are won throughout the week.
Their preparation has been good. They are getting more and more confident. They’re playing better in the back end. The pressure has increased. So just across the board they’re just playing much better.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK STOOPS: It was really important. It was really important. The second fumble was in the second half, right? After we go three and out they get the quick score and then we have the other fumble soon after that. Am I correct? Obviously a lot going on in my head.
So I thought that was really big. The second half momentum could have got away from us, much like we did last year there. We had the three and out, they get the quick score. They caught us in a really good call for the defense we ran and split us on that screen. Made some adjustments and came back to it and were good after that.
But then with the (UK) fumble, you know, that’s where you need the defense to step up. Really proud of them and the sudden change forcing the puts there.
Q. (Re: importance of the two scores late in the first half.)
MARK STOOPS: Really big. The middle eight (minutes), you know, this game and I think it was Arkansas as well was pretty big. We got the score in Arkansas right at the end of the half and beginning of the second half. Same tonight. We got the three. It was really good to see Chance (Poore) step in and hit the field goal. We needed that at that point in time, so that was big.
And then come back and get the strip and the fumble and capitalize with the touchdown was huge.
Q. (re: how Bowden makes the offense work.)
MARK STOOPS: Well, you know, with Lynn the nice thing is I thought our coaches did a nice job of putting him in position keeping them off balance, and then Lynn has that ability to make one person miss. So you start adding up all the numbers and what we’re doing and the stress we’re putting on the defense, and then with him making somebody miss in to the hole, it puts a lot the stress on you.
So it works with well-designed plays and Lynn’s God-given ability and his toughness. And what’s nice about that is there are some things he’s doing and the position we’re putting him in where his vision is taking over, where he has such good vision. That’s just some things that are God given, like with punt returns, kick returns, the vision you have to get it in the end zone there and get big returns.
You see some of that with the Q-run game.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK STOOPS: They looked like they did some really good things. They didn’t stand out at all as far as - looked like they executed the defense. They did everything that at least from me just watching it looked I can they did some good things. And it was really good, because it was just important the way of just progressing those guys and developing them.
We need them and told you this game that would have to play, and looks like they did a good job.
Q. (re: the week of the open date.)
MARK STOOPS: As far as the structure?
Q. (re: the week of the open date.)
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it’ll be good. We’re playing some good football, but it is what it is. Our guys, they’ll use this time to heal up a little bit and we’ll get ahead. I was proud of the way we came off the bye the last time as far as the way the structure of the week went, and we will probably stay pretty similar to and get some guys healthy and our minds and bodies right for this last stretch, starting with the big game with Tennessee.
Q. Towards the end of the game, Lynn was knocked out of bounds on a late hit and then Allen Dailey came over and knocked out the guy that knocked Lynn out. Do you like seeing that?
MARK STOOPS: He plays hard. Allen plays hard. I respect that and I like guys that play hard. He’s nasty. We need that. But that was a valuable 15 yards at that point in time. If you notice, Lynn just took a hard hit and he was so tired and he knew what that meant. He knew that was a problem for them to help cap the game. That’s a maturity that’s hard it teach, you know what I mean?
So don’t question Lynn’s toughness or his pride. I don’t think anybody wants to get in a back alley with him. But he understands the importance of that 15 yards there. But I also understand guys like Allen and them sticking up for a guy because of the respect they have for Lynn.
So didn’t hurt us. I’m glad that it didn’t. But it was still a teaching moment. We got to have that good pride where you suck that up and you take that 15 yards because it could help put somebody away.
Q. (Regarding Kavosiey taking the risk of sticking the ball out over the goal line.)
MARK STOOPS: Oh, yeah. Yeah, he can’t do that. That’s first down. First thing I told him. That’s first down, dude. You don’t go sticking the ball over there and get a fumble in that situation unless it’s very, very clear, very clean. That cannot be done. So that’s a teaching moment. Great effort. Got it in there and all that, but first down, first and goal, wet environment, tough situation, can’t do it. Can’t put the ball out there and get careless.
He was getting close and he stuck the ball over with one. You do that and you’re not across and that’s a problem.
Q. (Regarding Chris Oats.)
MARK STOOPS: Oats? Getting better and better. More and more confident. DeAndre (Square) and Oats in there together are really good. They’re playing some good ball, and it’s good to get Jamin (Davis) going. He has a lot of ability, good length and size. Jamin, it’s good to get him some reps and playing some ball.
Q. Do you expect Kash Daniel back?
MARK STOOPS: I do. I hope so. We’ll see where he is.
Q. You mentioned Chance Poore. Had to help his confidence a little more. Did it help your confidence in him as well?
MARK STOOPS: It did. If you remember, last year it was very similar where Chance was the starter for three, four games, and then got a little dicey and we rotated guys and were able to preserve his redshirt. I’m confident that with the week or two off and getting him back there and getting him back out, go with him. So we’ll see.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK STOOPS: You know, he had an injury, but obviously he was cleared to play. That’s something, to be honest with you, during the game I don’t even pay attention to it. I don’t even. I got so much going on I have no idea whose in and who is out. If doctor say he’s in, he’s in. If doctors say he’s out, he’s out. As a matter of fact, I even jumped Gabe because he was coming up to me trying to tell me something about Ahmad I think or somebody. I jumped him. I’m not interested in hearing anything at this point.
So pretty focused on what’s going on.
Q. Seems like a wide variety of the offense being on display there on the first drive. Do you think that helped confidence-wise, especially in a game like this?
MARK STOOPS: What was the beginning of that question?
Q. (diversity of the offense on the first drive.)
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, the diversity of it with throwing it and that. We felt like had the conditions stayed dry we would have had some opportunities in that pass game because of what they were doing. They were basically playing zero (coverage) and they were bringing some pressure. We hurt them with the pressure with the run game. They got out of some of the pressure from our run game, so that helped us.
Then they just started playing zero across the board and you could tell they got firm on us a little bit and then we went to some different style of runs and put a hat on a hat and got some really good first downs late. So just felt like it was a good plan across the board.
Q. When was the decision made to actually start Lynn?
MARK STOOPS: Coach Gran and I and Coach Hinshaw and I really kicked it around a long time on Sunday. Got together probably three times and then again Monday morning. It was pretty heavy, weighing pretty heavy on Coach Gran and Coach Hinshaw, which direction and how to build the offense around it, what we’re going to do.
We came to that decision Sunday, Monday maybe, somewhere in there. But we definitely had the plan to play both guys tonight. The conditions and the way Lynn was playing changed some of that.
Q. How important was it and how impressed were you tonight with the offensive line with how bad the weather was and no penalties at all.
MARK STOOPS: Really proud of them. Coach Schlarman challenged those guys from the beginning of the week. We felt like a year ago Missouri got physical with us, and you remember how we were built a year ago and playing a physical style of football.
We went up there (last season) and really feel like they took it to us. So I think they took that a little bit personal, and Coach Schlarman did a great job. Players did a great job all week of having a mentality that they were going to be able to do what we did.