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Mark Stoops and Cats recap history-making win, plus postgame notes

Say hello to the all-time SEC wins leader at Kentucky.

Mark Stoops Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

Mark Stoops added to his legacy on Saturday night as he broke another record for the Kentucky Wildcats football program.

In the 16-10 win over South Carolina on Saturday night, Stoops picked up his 26th SEC win which passes Fran Curci (1973-1981) for the most in program history.

Here is what he had to say in postgame press conference referencing the new milestone:

“Tony (Neely) just told me that, to be prepared. I’m thankful, that’s all. (I’m) just right in the moment right now. I told our team (I’m) really excited about the next opportunity.But I am grateful. It’s always a tough grind in this league and I thank all the support I’ve had in administration, Dr. Capilouto, and Mitch (Barnhart). It’s been a team effort, and we have really good people around here, and we plan on keeping on going.”

Alongside passing Curci last night, Stoops also is tied with him for being the longest tenured coach in program history at nine seasons.

With the win, Stoops moves to 53-50 in his tenure as head coach of the Wildcats. The next record that Stoops should surpass is the all-times win record held by Paul “Bear” Bryant, which sits at 60.

Currently, the team sits at 4-0, which is only the second time in Stoops tenure (2018) the program has reached that record. They are also 2-0 in conference play for only the second time since the 1977 season.

With Florida coming into town this weekend, Stoops will also look to add to his legacy by upsetting the Gators in Lexington for the first time since the 1986 season.

Now, here is a recap of what Stoops and several Cats had to say about the win via UK Athletics.

Mark Stoops

On picking up a conference win

“Anytime you win an SEC game on the road it’s a huge credit to our coaches and players”

On the performance of the offense

“Offensively it was tough sledding, but we were good”

On the team play

“Love the way our team fought.”

On the defensive mentality after two 4th-down stops

“They were really excited to make those thoughts, they didn’t put their head down. They buckled down and fought”

On the turnovers

“We got to get it corrected, there’s no excuses. We are going to get better. We have to created more turnovers, and we’ve put an emphasis on this.”

On the performance of Matt Ruffalo

“Every kick was critically important and he did a fantastic job.”

On winning on the road in the SEC

“Great credit to our coaches and our team, once again did not make it easy…[We] were dialed in all game.”

On the turnovers

“Turnovers are hurting us. Got to give credit to our defense stepping up time and time again. That and 4th-down stops. We got to do better.”

On Chris Rodriguez’s fumbling

“I can’t make an excuse for him. It’s not acceptable. We rely on him too much. I count on him and once again he iced the game by getting [important] yards [at the end of the game]…We will get it corrected”

On the 4th-down stops after turnovers

“Says a lot about the defense…They didn’t put their head down and mope…They buckled down and made stops…It says a lot. They are getting in better shape as [the season] goes on…Overall great job.”

Will Levis

On turnovers

“We are 4-0 and we probably have the most turnovers in the country. We need to work on it. If and when we get it fixed, we are going to start playing a lot better ball games.”

On running the ball

“We knew it apart of the game plan. We wanted to make sure I was making the right reads and getting as many yards.”

On USC environment and younger guys stepping up

“it was great I loved it. It fed us and gave us energy. Thanks to South Carolina and the team we played.

On the final 2 drives

“It’s awesome when you can rely on your run game and your big guys can push and get yards for the running backs. We didn’t need to force any passes. I’m proud of our offensive line. We showed how good we are up front.

Deandre Square

“We get to go out there and show our talents and we get excited to do what we do.”

On turnovers

“We need to get one, attack the ball in the air and strip the ball. Turnovers come with hard work and a little bit of luck.”

On the Secondary play

“I am proud of the way and I know he will keep it up.”

On how the young guys played in a road environment

“They handled it pretty well. We try to have the sounds in practice. I feel like everybody was ready for the moment.”

On stops after turnovers

“We always have the mentality that [sudden changes] in games are good. Turnovers aren’t good but the opportunity to go out there and do what we do is good.”

On the next stretch of games

“We have to worry about ourselves. We got to prove to each other as a team that we can go out there and compete… take [every game] one by one

And here are the postgame notes via UK Athletics.

Team Records and Series Information

  • Kentucky is 4-0 overall 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina is 2-2, 0-2 in the SEC.
  • UK is 4-0 for the second time under Coach Mark Stoops, also 2018.
  • In the last 20 seasons UK also has been 4-0 in 2002, 2007 and 2008.
  • UK is 2-0 in the SEC for first time since 2018 and only the second time since 1977.
  • South Carolina leads the series, 18-14-1, although UK has won seven of the last eight.
  • Next for Kentucky: UK returns to Lexington for a two-game homestand.
  • On Saturday, October 2, the Wildcats will play host to Florida. Game time will be 6 p.m. and will be announced following results of today’s games.

Team Notes

  • Kentucky has moved above .500 all-time, for the first time since 2012, with an all-time mark of 633-632-44.
  • Since 2016, UK is 18-7 in games decided by seven points or less. UK has won its last five in a row in this category, including the last three games this season.
  • The last time UK won three-straight games by seven points or less was 1933 when the Wildcats had consecutive close wins over Sewanee, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati.
  • Kentucky has won an SEC road game for the seventh straight season, extending the school record for most consecutive seasons with a league road win.
  • Kentucky defensive notes:
  • Limited South Carolina to 51 total plays
  • Limited South Carolina to 58 net rushing yards, just 2.2 yards per attempt. USC’s longest run was 10 yards.
  • Limited South Carolina to 216 total yards.
  • Limited South Carolina to 3 of 12 on third-down conversions and 0 of 3 on fourth down.
  • Second time in the last five games that UK has shut out an opponent in the first half, also the Gator Bowl win over North Carolina State.
  • UK rushed for 230 yards. In its two SEC wins this season, UK has averaged 285 yards rushing (also 340 vs. Missouri).
  • Kentucky has scored touchdowns on its first possession the last three games.

Coach Mark Stoops

  • Tonight’s win gave Coach Mark Stoops his 26th Southeastern Conference win, breaking the school record of 25 by Fran Curci. Stoops is 7-2 vs. South Carolina.
  • This was Stoops’ 53rd win as UK head coach. Paul “Bear” Bryant holds the school record with 60 victories.
  • Stoops is now 53-50 at Kentucky. After two games of the 2016 season, his record was 12-26 but has gone 41-24 (.631) since.
  • Coach Stoops is in his ninth season as head coach of the Wildcats, tying Fran Curci (1973-81) for most seasons as head coach at UK.
  • Stoops holds the UK record for games coached (103).

Player Notes

· Junior quarterback Will Levis completed 15 of 22 for 102 yards.

  • He added five carries for 30 yards, including an 18-yard scamper on the first possession of the second half that set up a field goal.
  • With starting lineups available since 1993, he is the third quarterback since that time to win his first four starts – also Terry Wilson (2018) and Mike Hartline (2008).

· Junior running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushed 26 times for 144 yards, an average of 5.5 per carry.

  • This is his third 100-yard game of the season, ninth of his career.
  • He has 1,883 career rushing yards, moving past Anthony White, Derrick Ramsey and Marc Logan into 11th place in school history.

· Junior running back Kavosiey Smoke carried the ball nine times for 50 yards and UK’s only touchdown.

  • He scored on a 15-yard run on the game’s opening possession, his first touchdown of the season and ninth of his career.
  • He has 1,032 career rushing yards, becoming the 41st player in school history with 1,000.

· Junior wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson led the receivers with seven catches for 65 yards.

· Senior wide receiver Josh Ali caught four passes for 14 yards.

  • He has 1,079 career receiving yards.

· Senior linebacker DeAndre Square led the Wildcats with eight tackles.

  • In the second quarter, with South Carolina having the ball on the UK 47-yard line, he made consecutive stops for no gain on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 to turn over the ball on downs.

· Sophomore cornerback Carrington Valentine made four tackles, including a seven-yard quarterback sack that forced a punt. It is the first sack of his career.

· Sophomore linebacker J.J. Weaver made two tackles, including a quarterback sack.

  • He has made at least one TFL in each of the first four games.

· Senior defensive end Josh Paschal three tackles and a quarterback hurry.

  • On South Carolina’s final two plays, he forced an incompletion with a quarterback hurry on second down; on third and long, he made a hustling tackle to limit the scrambling quarterback to a four-yard gain, forcing a field-goal attempt.

· Playing in front of his hometown fans, sophomore safety Jalen Geiger made two tackles, including one for loss. The TFL came on USC’s final possession and helped forced a field goal.

· Senior kicker Matt Ruffolo made all three of his field goal attempts, a 43-yarder on the final play of the first half and a 21-yarder of UK’s first possession of the second half, and a clutch 27-yarder that gave UK a two-score lead in the fourth quarter.

  • Ruffolo is now 20 of 24 in his career (83.3 percent, second in UK history).

· Sophomore defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine made his first collegiate start.

· Game captains for today were Josh Paschal, Marquan McCall, Luke Fortner and Will Levis.