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Mark Stoops previews Missouri

Back to the grind.

Stoops Dylan Ballard - Sea of Blue

The No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats have moved on from Saturday’s debacle in Athens and are now preparing to face the No. 25 Missouri Tigers.

On Monday, head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to preview Wildcats vs. Tigers while giving several updates on his team following their first loss of the season.

Here is a recap of what Stoops had to say via UK Athletics.

Opening Statement…

“Really looking forward to getting back home [for a] night game here in Kroger [Field] with a packed house. We need that, certainly. We went on the road this past week, it affected us. We did not play very good. Number one topic that we talk about is handling the environment and, obviously, we did not handle that situation, that environment, that game, very well at any level. I addressed that postgame and I will reiterate that today. Same as I felt during the game, just outcoached, outplayed in every area. We need to get back to work and be a better football team. You’re going to face adversity in this league. The teams we play, you’re going to hit some tough patches. It’s how you respond, how you react to it and how you move forward.

“You can sit there and look at our league, and we’re barely at a halfway point, and there’s one team in our league that is undefeated, and if I’m not mistaken, they have not lost a league game in 23 games. There’s a reason for that. They’re doing some things at an extremely high level. Give them the credit for what they did Saturday night and the way that they played. As for us, you’ve got to get back to controlling the things we control and that’s how we prepare. We have get some guys healthy and healed up. We’ve got to have a great week of practice.

“We’ve got to be ready for a very big game here this week. Both teams coming in here this week at 5-1. I’ve been very impressed with Missouri and the way they’re playing. Their quarterback, Brady Cook, has been exceptional. He’s either first or second in the league is passing efficiency and their wide receiver, Luther Burden, is leading the nation in receptions and yards, if I’m not mistaken, one or the other or both. He’s a super player and they are playing at a very high level. We have to get some things fixed and get back to work, so I’m excited about Monday, to be honest with you. I feel good about getting to work here this week.”

On how you approach practice this week…

“We have to get back to being who we are. I saw---somebody shot me an article that talked about Georgia and their approach. They knew it was going to be a physical game and they preached it all week. You guys probably saw the article but somebody it to me and it just reaffirmed what I tell my team all the time about Tuesday and Wednesday. Three or four of their [Georgia] players are talking about how the game was won throughout the week. It was their most physical Tuesday [practice]. They were prepared that way. They had the mindset. They answered the challenge. We did not. We have to get back to being who we are and having a great prep week.”

On learning from the great week of preparation prior to Florida to help prepare the team for Missouri…

“It’s not an end-all be-all, but in this league, and you heard [Georgia Head Coach] Kirby [Smart] talking about it the week before, [playing] on the road is different than [playing] at home. It just is. You see—you were there, right?--- that environment. You have a bunch of players that maybe aren’t ready if they haven’t played in that situation. The best we can do is prepare through the week the best we can. Momentum is a big deal when you start getting into a stadium like that. Maybe we used it to our advantage a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know. This is a whole new week. I know every time we play Missouri, it is a good football game. I have a lot of respect for [Missouri Head] Coach Drinkwitz. I like Eli. I know him. We will both do everything we can to get our team prepared for this week and play at a high level.”

On what happened in the breakdowns in the secondary at Georgia…

“They weren’t necessarily running free. The first touchdown was an unbelievable throw. He [Georgia Quarterback Carson Beck] layered that thing in there over two or three people and they had a wideout who went up and grabbed it at a very high point and ran it to the endzone. It wasn’t exactly wide open; it appeared that way to the naked eye because it looked so simple. It was a beautiful throw and catch and finish. That was a very nice play. A couple—the one in particular that stands, when we have one of the best players in the country running basically down the field free, there is no excuse. We have a backup linebacker in on one [play] that was supposed to be heavily, heavily rerouting the No. 2 receiver, especially when its him [Brock Bowers], especially when its No. 19 and we don’t touch him. Then, there was another one that I saw during the game. I can tell how they got confused. There was motion and we just didn’t play it very good, period. I’m not going to point the finger, but we blew it. We just didn’t play it very good. There’s really no excuse.”

On handling success as opposed to handling adversity…

“I worked hard last week at being honest with the team in what I saw. I mentioned it—I don’t know when I talked to you guys — but I mentioned it to the team Tuesday after practice. I ripped them on Tuesday after practice. That’s not scripted for me. That came from what I saw. I told them exactly how I felt. It wasn’t a good enough day, period. We went back and had another motivational team meeting on Wednesday, and I felt like we picked it up a little bit. I’m not saying that was the end reason, but it certainly doesn’t help.”

On the rivalry…

“We have great respect for Missouri. I have already said it—maybe twice, this is for sure the second time (today)—how much respect I have for Missouri and how close our games always are. I know I show our team a couple—just about every year, especially when we go up there—how they were ready to prepare and whipped our butt one week and were very motivated. Again, I just said it in my last comments, the respect that I have for Eli [Drinkwitz]. I know his teams. They play with an edge and an attitude. They are going to come in here physical and coached up and ready to play. We need to match that.”

On if Devin Leary’s missed passes are mechanical issues…

“Sometimes it is his feet or footwork, sometimes it’s him maybe expecting a receiver to run out at a different angle. There’s some little things and there’s some that just have to make. He doesn’t need me to sit here and make an excuse for him. He is a big boy and he owns it and just like everybody else on the team you have to have the courage to see the areas that you need to improve on and you have to own it.”

On how banged up the team is going into the Missouri game…

“Jalen (Geiger) is one that looks like he will be out for a few weeks. After that we will see where it goes.”

On if you have seen players take a leadership role after the loss to Georgia…

“We’ll see, I haven’t seen them yet this week, I have to give them Sundays off. We will have our meeting here in a bit and we need to lean on that leadership. They definitely need to step forward.”

On your message to Jager Burton after penalties at Georgia…

“The message was right during the game, that it was completely unacceptable. There is zero excuse for both of them. On the first one, on the hold he had him blocked, the player logged himself, he came under the guard, Jager had him logged we did not need to — there was no need whatsoever to try to sling him to the ground, none, he was blocked.”

Two years ago, the loss at Georgia turned into three when you lost against Mississippi State and Tennessee. Is there something you look for in your guys this week or first day that lets you know they’re ready?

“That’s not going to happen. I can’t predict who is going to win or lose this game. I have great respect for Missouri, it is always a close game. One of the reasons it probably feels like a rivalry because we play them all the time and we always seem have great games with them. Our players know that as well and can respect that. We know it’s going to be a great challenge. They are playing at a very good clip right now. They are hitting on all cylinders and their run defense is dynamic. They have disrupters on defense. Offensively, they are extremely efficient, their wideouts are tough to defend. His scheme is tough to defend, Brady is playing at a very, very high level. We are not going to tolerate being mopey and being down. We are going to address and we’re going to own it. We are going to look at our mistakes and take our part and move on.”

On if he saw the players competing until the end against Georgia…

“I wasn’t satisfied in any area and I will not make excuses. I love these guys, I have faith and confidence in them, but I can not excuse that performance in any way.”

On if you thought anyone played well at Georgia…

“I thought a guy, you take for instance, like Dane Key had been frustrated a little bit, maybe some on him, just frustration and down, really worked hard to improve and looked at himself and looked at areas to improve and it showed up on film. Not always with the catches, there are still areas of improvement without the ball, blocking the perimeter, doing things that we have to do as on offense to be efficient. I thought it was a good example of taking it to the practice field and working on your craft and trying to improve. I thought offensively, until the silly penalties, we had some good drives going and we were running the ball, we had protection, we had time, had guys open. We had the ability to move the football. The two penalties just absolutely derailed us. Defensively, uncharacteristically, we had no answers, in particular early when they were scoring. At that point we need to try to start matching (scores), obviously that is going to be hard to do with Georgia. You don’t know where it’s going to go if you just get some points on the board. I did think that we had some well-designed plays I thought we were able to move the ball effectively, we just shot ourselves in the foot.”

On learning from the Ray Davis early good run that was called back…

“I think we know that, we don’t need to learn that. you can’t let a team get ahead of you 21-nothing. They haven’t lost an SEC game in 23 straight and they are playing at home at night.”

On improving the passing completion rate…

“Throw and catch the ball better.”

On if Devin Leary is comfortable and has confidence in his role…

“I think he’s thrown some balls that are very good and that will wow you, there are some things he does well. We have to look at everything, we have been looking at everything, to see what he is comfortable with to be efficient to make sure we are throwing and catching. He did at times, and at times we didn’t.”

On Missouri’s defense…

“It’s your typical Missouri defense. They run to the football, they play extremely hard, and that’s why it’s always a good game. I think both teams pride themselves on playing very hard and very physical. They run to the football, they’ve been very disruptive up front. So, they’ve been playing good. They played a very elite offense (LSU) this past week themselves.”

On the thin margin of error when playing a team like Georgia…

“You have to credit them. They were well-prepared in all areas, and they played at an elite level. I think we can put them in a place by themselves right now. There’s not a lot of teams playing like them over the past two and a half years. They commented on it, they knew it, they were ready coming into our game, and they put it on us. You have to give them credit — for us, you’re talking about the thin line between success and failure. You have to see it, you have to own it, then you have to look for solutions, and then you got to go do it, and that’s what we plan to do. I’ve always done it that way, I’m not going to run and hide. We’ll get back to work and the first thing we’re going to do is show it to them. As bad as you want to burn the film and move on, you can’t do it. You’ve got to own it, got to look at it, and look at the problems.”

On your depth at safety with Jalen Geiger out…

“I think Ty [Bryant] is a guy that’s we’re really confident in. And Elijah [Reed], who’ll come up and give us some depth and play, give us some snaps. But Ty is a guy that I’ve been impressed with since we talked about him in camp, and he’ll get more quality snaps.”

On Luther Burden…

“He’s an elite player. I think [he was] the number one wideout in the country coming out [of high school] if I’m not mistaken. He’s an elite guy — he’s strong, he can run, and make competitive catches. He can run by you but he’s also hard to get down.”

On preparing players to step up who haven’t played much this season…

“They prepare every day. We practice and put them in those situation, that’s all we can do. Get them prepped each and every day and they have to carry it over to the field. I think Saturday is a great example — you know, defensively, or the effort — when you don’t play with technique, you play with bad eyes, and you play good teams — you’re going to get exposed in a real hurry.”

On Brady Cook’s mobility at quarterback, moving the pocket like Florida did with Graham Mertz…

“Graham [Mertz], as I mentioned in the game, did a really nice job of finding openings and moving within the pocket, and I think Brady does the same thing. They will intentionally give him some half-sprints (sprint outs) or rolls (rollouts) a little bit, but he does a nice job at just buying time. He likes sitting back there because he’s got some weapons. So, when he has time, he’s going to find one of those guys.”

On your message to your staff after loss at Georgia…

“First of all, I believe in each and every one of them and everything we’re doing, and I have great confidence that we’ll get it fixed — there’s no panic. But I also don’t ever put my head in the sand and just think that we just have to move on, status quo. We’ve have to take a serious good look at ourselves each and every week, and make sure we’re doing the things necessary to put our players in a position to be successful. When I say that’s on me, that’s not ‘coach speak,’ it’s the truth, that’s on me. But I believe in our coaches. They can take hard coaching, too. They can look at themselves, as I just said, I told you it’s not ‘coach speak.’ We’re going to look at it, we see it. Then we have to own it. And then we have to solve it.”

On your optimism for Kenneth Horsey coming back for Missouri game…

“We’ll see. I hope we’ll get him back out there. We need to get him back.”

On your nephew, Oklahoma wide receiver Drake Stoops…

“My nephew — I gotta give a shoutout. We went right into a team meeting, so I didn’t see the last drive. As soon as we got on the bus, I looked at — whatever that is on – where you can follow the drive. I saw that he had two catches, and I saw some highlights. So, I’m very proud of him.”


And here is a replay of Stoops’ Monday call-in show.