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Mark Stoops and Wildcats recap Spring Game

Coach Stoops had some mixed emotions when talking about his teams performance.

Aaron Gershon A Sea of Blue

The 2019 Spring Game is in the books, as the Blue Team defeated the White by a final score of 64-10.

For the Kentucky Wildcats the conclusion of the annual Blue and White scrimmage wrapped up the spring season for 2019. This game allowed for Mark Stoops and his staff to get a look at their new look roster in a game environment.

Heading into the game, fans wanted to see possible starters emerge on the defensive ball, Terry Wilson get valuable reps, and not see anyone get hurt.

The Cats seemed to accomplish these goals. The starting defense was strong and even forced a turnover, Terry Wilson went 10/12 passing with 191 yards and two touchdowns and no injuries were reported.

After the game, Mark Stoops and players met with the media to discuss the 2019 edition of the Spring Game.

Here’s a recap of what the Wildcats had to say via UK Athletics:

COACH STOOPS: Obviously good for one side of the ball, I don’t know what I put myself through. In the spring, you get a little bit thin. You’re thin in general. Your roster is low. Then when you split the teams up like that, you could leave one team shorthanded. And I think you saw that tonight. But still I saw some good explosive offensive plays. I was pleased to see that. We’ve been working hard all offseason at trying to improve and converting opportunities and shot plays.

You saw us convert some of those today. That’s good to see no matter who is out there and what you’re playing against. So that was good.

Our overall offensively I thought we were obviously very good with the Blue team. White team, we’ve got a lot of work to do. And the same with the defense. I thought the Blue defense looked very good. Depth is an issue but it’s an issue with everybody this time of year.

So you kind of -- that’s kind of what you are putting yourself up against when you try to split up the teams. You could get a little bit thin. That’s why we all try to get a little bit unique in the scoring system for offense versus defense and so on. So trying to split it up, you get a little bit thin and I think that’s, as a result, you saw some sloppy play at times out there today.

Q. Have those explosive plays been there throughout the spring?

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we’ve been hitting them. We’ve been working hard and getting the ball down the field and we’ve been converting on quite a few.

Q. Was there anything particular defensively that you saw that you like whether it was scheme or activity level?

COACH STOOPS: Scheme-wise we knew what we were doing going into it and we were very base and very vanilla. But I was not pleased with just the competitive nature of some of our players and that needs to change. I don’t care who you are, what team you are, what you’re doing, when you go out on that field you better have a competitive spirit about you and a competitive nature. And I didn’t see some guys competing at the level that we expect.

Q. You credit some of that to being, in their minds, an exhibition?

COACH STOOPS: No. I mean, I talked all week and I talked to them before the game, I talked to them at halftime about respecting the game. And every time you put the pads on you’re to play it one way. And there’s never an excuse to fundamentally not play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.

Q. Is it a case where you’re looking for an emotional guy out there or somebody to kind of take charge of the game?

COACH STOOPS: No, I think it’s individually they need to take it upon themselves to be responsible for their own outcome. And there’s no cheerleaders out there. When you’re working like we work and grind it through the spring and out there in practice they need to take it upon themselves to individually play the game the way it’s meant to be played. And if you can’t do it, then you can’t play at this level.

Q. Question regarding Bryce Oliver ...

COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Bryce has showed up all spring. He’s been solid. I’ve mentioned him. He’s one of the young guys that can emerge as a playmaker. He’s a big, strong guy that can run and catch. So he’s got to continue to work really hard and put it all together.

Q. Question regarding the biggest area he has seen Terry Wilson improve in this offseason ...

COACH STOOPS: Just fundamentally continuing to work on a few things that we watched and really studied in the offseason. He and Coach Hinshaw have worked hard to fundamentally be in better position to deliver the football. And I think he and Gunnar Hoak have both worked hard and improved.

Q. Chance’s kick probably would have been good from 62 yards. How is that going to change the way you approach that?

COACH STOOPS: That was nice to see. Obviously no pressure. I didn’t think we got good pressure on that, did we? (Laughter).

But it was good to see. He hit it, he hit it, put a good thump on it. I was standing right behind it. You could hear it come right off his foot. It was good to see.

Q. Looked like Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez caught the ball a little bit out of the backfield. How much more will that change this year compared to last year?

COACH STOOPS: I think we want to continue with that and along with A.J. (Rose). A.J. is also very good, can catch the ball out of the backfield all those guys can do that and we want to continue to work on that and get the ball to them.

And as we create shots in getting the ball down the field, you know, as we start seeking out under things, there’s going to be outlets there that we need to get the ball to them when we can. The quarterback’s gotta be on time and deliver that football and those checkdowns and we can get good yardage on that.

Q. Question regarding Davonte Robinson’s physical play.

COACH STOOPS: Davonte did? The game is what it is. So it’s a physical game. And as long as it’s clean and you take the head out of it, sure, you want to be as physical as you can.

#12 Gunnar Hoak, Jr., QB

On spring game …

“I thought tonight went well. I thought the team looked really good and defense looked good, offensive did well too. Overall, and all spring, I thought we looked good. You just have to go out and compete. No matter who it is, no matter what the team is you just have to go out there and do the best you can. Try to win.”

On plans going forward…

“My main goal right now is to focus on these last two weeks of finals of course. I came here to graduate. That’s the biggest goal in life, to get through college and get a degree, so right now I have to focus on finals, these final papers, see what happens then.”

#20 Kavosiey Smoke, R-Fr., RB

On spring game…

“I feel pretty good. I just got back from a knee injury, so it felt good coming back out and playing with my brothers.”

On speed during game…

“I had to show them I had speed, instead of just power. I feel like we were more explosive than the past, so everyone is just trying to work on their quickness. That’s the biggest thing this year.”

On biggest improvement …

“My biggest improvement is that I got leaner. I lost a lot of weight, so it brings a lot more speed than where I was in the past. I think I got faster once I lost weight. I got awareness and a little more stamina.”

#12 Chance Poore, R-Fr., K

On how the 52 yarder felt…

“We’ve been working on a lot of kicks this spring and I’m glad we got the opportunity to do that, especially in the spring game to give me a little more confidence going into the season, so I’m just glad I got an opportunity to do that.”

On if the field goal could have been good from longer…

“Probably. Stoops had a little something to say to me after the game, he said ‘good game’ and we laughed it off walking off the field, but I don’t know how far back we could have gone but just thankful for the opportunity to get a kick like that.”

On how it feels to get back on the field…

“I really appreciate this whole team. They’ve just really helped me through this and honestly this is the best team I’ve ever played with. These players, they all help me, my teammates help me a lot and they boost my confidence every day. I appreciate that, that’s how they get me through the season and through the ups and downs. They’re always with me no matter what and I really appreciate that.”

#3 Terry Wilson, Jr., QB

On the big plays seen tonight and if it is an indication of the season …

“What we strive for are big plays like that so I feel like we did a good job out there of letting it rip and throwing the ball around. We were throwing and catching, looking really good. I feel like that was the best scrimmage we’ve had throughout spring so that’s pretty efficient.”

On losing Benny (Snell) and how much that has impacted the spring…

“We just stepped it up. Coach Eddie Gran has been challenging us, Coach Mark Stoops has been challenging us to move the ball down the field and make some deep throws and we’ve been doing that the whole spring so it’s just good to see that we can do that and we’ll be doing a lot of that this season too.”

On the weapons they have in their wide receivers…

“No doubt about it. They’ve been working really hard to be able to fight for the ball and they’ve been working really hard coming out the routes and stuff like that so it really makes it easy for me to get the ball to them.”

#10 A.J. Rose, Jr., RB

On the spring game …

“It felt great to put on a show for our fans. It was good to see Benny (Snell) and Jordan (Jones) out there too, it’s always going to feel good when our guys come home because it’s a lot of love here.”

On stepping up in place of Benny Snell …

“You know he’s going to be hard to replace, but I’m going to go out there and do me. I’m going to try to bring as much to the table as I can and you know, hopefully break his record.”

On having a strong backfield…

“It’s pretty deep, we’ve got good backs with Kavosiey Smoke, Christopher Rodriguez and me. Our running backs do a good job, we get that ball and we go. If we get a good push at the line and get past the second level, it’s curtains. I think you’ll see more of us catching the ball in the backfield too. We all have great hands and when Terry (Wilson) doesn’t see anything downfield he has to depend on us.”

#1 Lynn Bowden, Jr., WR

On his new hair cut …

“On my way in here I probably took more pictures than I have in my whole life. But, I love the fans and I think they love my new cut. It’s a beautiful thing though, and I do it for the fans and I really want to interact with them more.”

On prep for the spring game …

“Obviously, we have a young defense but they’re looking good so it pushes us to go hard during the 14 or 15 practices and with the 6 a.m. practices, I lost count. We had to open it up and get some of the other players involved and they made some big plays tonight.”

#22 Chris Oats, So., LB

On tactics picked up on from the white team …

“They had a lot of young players out there so the thing was just for them to go out there and play fast and play fun and stop thinking as much. So, I think they did good, just got to go to film and correct our mistakes.”

On importance to still dominate (given the roster imbalance) …

“If we didn’t dominate, it was something bad going on our part. We gave up two scores, we shouldn’t have given up any. We just have to go back to film and see what we have to work on and do better.”

On personal improvements …

“I think I got a lost faster and stronger and communicated better. I am starting to be a leader out there now, I’m not a freshman any more so it’s time to take another step.”

#6 Jared Casey, Fr., OLB

On coming to UK early …

“It is challenging for me. I’m younger than the early enrollees so it is challenging. It’s a lot more physical, a lot, but I’m going to get there. I’ve learned a lot. I’m really glad I came in early and got a lot of reps. If I would’ve come in later, I don’t know how things would’ve turned out.”

On adjusting to the college game …

“You got to adjust quick because they throw you in the fire. You have to adjust real quick. You got to run faster. You can’t think too much. You got to play fast but not think too much. That’s been the biggest issue.”

#81 Isaiah Epps, Jr., WR

On spring practice ending with today’s game …

“Today was like an extension of what we’ve been working on, on offense and the receiving core. It was good that we were able to translate what we’ve been working on the practice field to the big stage in front of the fans today.”

On the growing chemistry between him and Terry…

“It’s been a long time coming with a lot of practice and a lot of repetition. We’re able to get those deep balls completed. We’re both from Oklahoma and we knew each other before we got here so it’s kind of cool to talk about it and build chemistry. I honestly think it gives us a bond.”

On playing without Benny Snell…

“I have a lot of confidence in A.J. (Rose) and our young running backs. With that missing link in the backfield, we have a lot of room as receivers to step up and make some plays.”

On putting the jersey back on…

“It feels good. The last time I put this on was against Penn State in Florida so it feels good to come back this season and make some more progress and hopefully end the season with the same or better record. “

#31 Jamar ‘Boogie’ Watson, Jr., OLB

On spring practice…

“We had a good spring. We had a lot of guys going onto the next step. It’s been good to see some guys step up and replace those guys.”

On confidence after this game going into the season…

“I feel pretty confident. Offense put up 64-points so, I feel like offense will be good. The defense will be good.”

On who he considers to be the team leaders through the summer…

“Myself, Kash (Daniel) and Terry (Wilson) have to be the leader. I’m a lead by example type of guy.”