‘We had numerous opportunities.’ Everything Stoops said after UK’s loss at South Carolina

Everything University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops said during his press conference following Saturday’s 17-14 loss to over Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina at Columbia, S.C.:

Stoops’ opening statement:

“I’ve been doing this a long time in this league and at Kentucky. That’s about — that’s a very difficult loss for us right there. I feel very disappointed for our players that we didn’t do a better job of putting them in a position to be successful. We had numerous opportunities. After getting in a hole to start the game, I thought we fought back extremely hard. We had several opportunities in the first half, I want to say two in a row, the last two possessions where we left points — two possessions in the first half where we have it down there and turn it over, don’t get any points. Turn it over later.

“Defensively, had some really good momentum shifts for awhile. We’re playing really good for a good portion of the game that contain it to a decent number, but it comes down to situational football. The plays on the possession where they scored was really the key. To give up a second-and-extremely-long, then they converted on that possession to go down and score a touchdown was a killer because we were playing really good in stretches. But, you’ve got to finish it off. I also thought having a couple possessions when the defense was getting stops, we had several opportunities to extend that lead and couldn’t do anything with it. Critical penalties, critical turnovers, you’re not going to win. It’s not a very good recipe to beat anybody on the road with the critical penalties and with the turnovers. Tough beat, tough loss. Give them credit. I think we had our opportunities to extend it and just didn’t do it. They did and made some plays.”

On what happened on the fourth-and-10 where they got a delay of game:

“I was really torn on what to do. I was really torn. I think some analytics will tell you to go for it there. I didn’t feel real good about it when we were on our headset and let the time expire and took the delay. In hindsight, it couldn’t have worked out any better. We had two opportunities after that. With pinning them at the one, getting it at midfield or right around there, I wouldn’t do that over. If we knew it was going to be that result, we’d all do it. So, I was in between. I was listening to the formation. We knew we were running a little late, but I didn’t love the play, I didn’t love the matchup and I let it expire at that point.”

On if all the deep shots were by design or if Devin Leary was making the wrong reads:

“Early, we had our opportunities and missed them. Those were by design, and we had some opportunities and we missed them. Late, one of them there wasn’t really anywhere to go and he threw the one post. Maybe a couple he forced as well.”

On what limited the offense other than turnovers:

“Just terribly inconsistent. I thought our run game was just terribly inconsistent. I thought we didn’t run the ball very effectively. In the way they were playing, this new style that we saw early in the game last week. We call it ‘spoke’ — they have three safeties back there, and you can do a variety of different things out of that look. We practiced it, we were ready for it. And they did go to some four-down (formations) when we went in bigger personnel, in 12. We had a lot of good opportunities. We missed it. Even late, we had a seam and got tipped by a backer. That could have been a big game. All the way down to maybe it was the second-to-last play of the game. I can’t remember exactly. Had a chance right there and couldn’t get it done. I just think inconsistent. We didn’t play very good offense today, period. Then when we were moving it, got a little hot there in the first half, we finished it with turnovers. That can’t happen. We convert a big third down, run after catch and fumble it. It’s going to be first-and-10 there.”

On team at least rallying to take a lead after getting down early after letting other games like that get out of hand:

“I expected us to do that. I really did. We talked about it here. … That play that Deebo scored on the first play of the game, we’ve been down before (here). You’re going to hit some adversity on the road. I feel like we have the type of team that has the resolve to come back and to do that. I think we’ve got to do a better job all the way around. I just think we had our opportunities and we couldn’t put them away.”

On if Ray Davis being off the bench a lot was the result of an injury or them just trying to get a spark from other running backs:

“I think we were just trying to get something going. He’s a very good player. He’s not perfect. He maybe missed a couple. Maybe we need to get him going. It’s not all on him, but some other guys got some good reps too.”

On why Kenneth Horsey only played one series and didn’t start:

“I think he had a tough time a week ago or so. Just felt like with where he’s at right now this was the best option for us.”

On defensive struggles on third-and-long recently:

“It’s a real problem because we got to get pressure. With time and operation a lot of times in extra-long yardage it’s predictable pass. We’ve got to do a better job of getting pass rush. There’s certain cover issues where we’ve got to have more awareness. Then we’ve got to look at all aspects. We’ve got to look at our coaching, where we’re putting them and what calls we’re making in those situations, what out guys can do. It was really a weird game that way because you felt the defense played so good in so many situations and then so bad in some critical situations.”

On why he thinks this was one of his toughest losses:

“They’re all important. They’re all important. I just felt like we had our opportunities and it just didn’t happen.”

On Deone Walker’s play:

“Yeah, Deone — the negative yardage plays that the defensive line created during those stretches was super important because we were getting them in some extra-long situations. All the way down and we couldn’t capitalize with the one there late where they scored.”

On Izayah Cummings being more involved tonight:

“I think with the tight ends, a week ago, two weeks ago they all played pretty good. You get guys banged up, you get guys injured. Josh (Kattus) was far from 100%. We have confidence in Izayah and tried to get the ball to him some.”

On if the passes tipped at the line are a byproduct of Leary’s size or something else:

“No, not just his size. I think there’s some there that he’s just got to put a little air under it. There’s some there he’s got to trust it, trust the call. I think he’s maybe worried about somebody coming from the backside. Like even early we had somebody open. We ended up scoring on that drive, but we missed one there. Just layer it a little bit more and trust it.”

On how they bounce back for the Louisville game:

“We have no choice. Our players, I have confidence in them. We have to lean on our team, lean on the leaders. We’ve got to do a great job of coaching and we’ve got to get them picked up, motivated and finish this thing off. We’ve got a big game next week, on the road again.”

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops yells on the sidelines during Saturday’s game against South Carolina.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops yells on the sidelines during Saturday’s game against South Carolina.

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