Look for RB Horton to get more carries

As of Thursday, it was unclear if Kentucky’s all-purpose leader Stanley “Boom” Williams was going to be available for Saturday’s game.

Of the true freshman running back, who suffered an apparent head injury in last week’s game at Louisiana State, Coach Mark Stoops said: I’m not comfortable commenting right now on his status, OK? I’d rather just not comment on it right now.”

If Williams misses, the player most likely to get his rushing reps is fellow true freshman Mikel Horton, who was the leading rusher last week at LSU with five carries for 29 yards.

“He played well,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “He did some really good things. He was one of those guys coming out of the game that I was excited about, because he ran the ball late in the third and the fourth quarter and I thought he did some nice things.

“He put (himself) in a position, especially if Stanley doesn’t go, then he’ll get some more reps, get some more carries.”

For the season, Horton is the Cats’ fourth-leading rusher with 38 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. His 5.3 yards per carry is third on the team.

Horton said he’s just happy that his hard work is paying off.

“My mindset was just waiting on my moment,” he said. “The coaches stress a lot about not being selfish and stuff like that, so I kept it in (my) mind about not being selfish, not being upset that I’m not playing as much.”

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Stoops’ final thoughts before Mississippi State

MARK STOOPS
“Good Thursday practice. Guys have been good all week. We’ve had good energy and good practices, so hopefully we’ll get a few mistakes cleaned up. Seems like we have, and looking forward to a great game here Saturday.”

On Boom Williams’ status: “I’m not comfortable commenting right now on his status, OK? I’d rather just not comment on it right now.”

On what he liked about practice this week, what made him feel better: “I don’t know if better’s the right word, because all the time — I mean, you’re gonna have some ups and downs through a long season. Going into the LSU game, maybe it wasn’t great energy, but I still felt like the guys were focused and had good practices. So I don’t know if much is different other than maybe a little bit more bounce in their step and just have been locked in. We got our butts kicked, so hopefully we learned a little bit and took a little pride in what we’re doing here this week.”

On how common it is to send plays to the SEC for review, as LSU did with Dorian Baker’s hit: “We get clarification on calls and calls that we just want to educate our players on what to do differently or why it was called or why it was not called. So I think it’s fairly common. I’m not sure about other teams, how many calls they send in or anything like that. But our playlist some weeks is very minimal and some weeks it’s up to nine plays or so, nine or 10 plays. Just depends on what’s going on. And again, a lot of times you just want clarification.”

On how Zach West is doing: “He’s doing good. He was fine this week. No setbacks.”

On challenging Ryan Timmons, did you see response from him: “I did. Ryan’s always relatively quiet but goes about his work, does a good job, we just need him to be more competitive, make competitive plays in big games and like I said, we just need him. He’s one of our playmakers, so he’s got to make plays. He’s had a good week and a good attitude, so looking forward to him getting out there Saturday.”

On No. 1 team at home vs. on road: “Well, I think we’re starting to create a great environment at home and we’re looking forward to that, so obviously, always a lot nicer playing at home than at some of these venues in the SEC. It’s pretty challenging. So hopefully we’ll get some good home-field advantage and it will help us.”

On difference between normal big game and a No. 1 big game: “Umm. I don’t know if there’s much difference in that. A big game’s a big game. You kind of feel it in the air and the energy and the practice and the focus, so they’re really all big games. Once you get to the point where we’re doing what we’re doing and trying to win a bunch of games, then they’re all important. We’ve got a tough stretch and this is our next one.”

On if Mississippi State looks like a legitimate No. 1 team as opposed to one that is No. 1 because it’s just one of the last undefeated teams: “Well, they definitely look like the No. 1 team. They’re the only team that’s heated three tops 10s — that’s for sure — in a row, so they deserve it. They look like a complete football team to me, so how they respond I have no idea. I’ve been on No. 1 teams before. There’s always going to be ups and downs, whether you’re one or not. So, it’s just a matter of how you manage it and how they play.”

On what he makes of Mississippi State ranking toward the bottom of the country in passing yards allowed per game but toward the top in passes defended and interceptions: “I don’t know. I don’t even try to make of all that, because just like last year when everybody was on me about the interceptions and things, you just — sometimes things go your way, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes you’ve got a bunch of opportunities to defend passes. They’re winning a bunch of games and they’re up by a lot, so that helps. And a lot of times they may be just playing cautious and giving up some yards because they’re up a whole bunch of points. So, you can’t really put a whole lot of stock in that. You don’t beat the teams they beat without being good across the board.”

On Mississippi State’s wide receivers opening up a few long runs against Texas A&M with big blocks and how important it will be for Kentucky’s DBs to provide support in the run game this week: “It’s always important, and that’s where we’re trying to limit. You heard me talk last week about the explosive plays and limiting those explosive plays. And that goes into it with the secondary support there. So we need guys to step up. That’s something that we take great pride in when we play well. We generally get some good downfield blocks, and our coaches are very tireless and relentless in the way they coach that and get guys blocking down the field. They do the same thing, so it will be a physical game at all levels.”

On if Matt Elam is where he expected him to be at this point: “Yeah. There’s a difference between where you want and where you expect. Yeah, he’s about where we expect him to be. Yeah, it is. It’s — I think he’s right on track. I’m not disappointed at all. He’s going to be a very good football player. He’s done some very good things this year, and there’s been some times when he hasn’t played as well. That’s why he needs the experience and the work and all those things.”

On how Elam has changed his body: “Well I think we’re always going to be a work in progress there, with any of the players. They’re constantly trying to get in better shape and physically better and quicker and all those things. So Matt’s no exception.”

On Marcus McWilson making more of an impact: “He’s just been more reliable. He’s been better practice habits. He starting to mature a little bit and we’re constantly leaning on him, because we need him to be. He’s got a lot of talent, so we’re pushing him to be a complete player. And he’s getting closer.”

On safety A.J. Stamps being banged up before the LSU game, then taking a nasty shot on the punt-return TD: “He’s held up fine this week. We’ve limited some of his contact, but overall he’s been fine.”

On LSU and MSU’s length and the idea of recruiting longer guys who might even be a step slower to add that length: “I do and I like that trend. I think (Mullen) has done a great job recruiting. I think I touched on it Monday I think at the press conference, but a lot of times they’re getting those players and they’re developing them. They’ve got great frames. And I noticed that last year playing them, during warm-ups and just watching teams and seeing physically how we’re matching up and all those things. Just looking at them, they were impressive on the hoof. And this year, they’re just much more experienced and playing at a high level. But they are – they’re big and they’re long and very athletic-looking guys. That’s always good to have. Jimbo (Fisher at FSU) used to have a saying; he used to say some of those guys, they do more by accident. You know? You get a big – you just get that great size rather than somebody that’s smaller.”

On who UK’s do-more-by-accident guy is: “We have a few. Matt’s one in particular. You put him in the middle there sometimes – but we gotta get him going.”

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‘See Blue’ at Keeneland on Friday

On the last day of its fall meet, Keeneland will take on a decidedly blue hue.

As a part of Kentucky’s homecoming festivities, there will be a “See Blue” day at the racetrack, including an event on The Hill, the track’s popular tailgating area near the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

Starting about noon, the UK pep band, cheerleaders and dance team will lead fans in a pep rally of sorts.

All UK students, alumni and faculty receive free general admission to the track with a valid UK ID.

Lextran will offer a shuttle for students between Keeneland and UK for $1 each way from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The first 500 students to ride the shuttle from campus will receive a free T-shirt.

During the day, several UK groups will be recognized in the Winner’s Circle, among other activities.

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D.J. Eliot previews Mississippi State

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good practice. Guys were communicating, playing hard, flying around. We weren’t perfect; it wasn’t a perfect practice, but it was a good effort and good enthusiasm, something we can build on and clean up for the next couple days.”

On stopping Dak Prescott: “He’s an excellent player. He’s a veteran player. He’s been there. He’s gotten those reps that’s made him such a great player. He can run it; he can throw it; he makes good decisions. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us. We’ve been working really hard to defend him this week, but we know they’re a great offense, and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”

On what characteristics Prescott has that are different than last season: “I think that he’s making better decisions and he’s getting rid of the ball quicker than he did last year. He’s always been a great runner and they’ve always had a great quarterback run game plan, but now he’s added that dimension of being able to throw the ball and make great decisions as well.”

On what to key in on with a player who can do both so well: “Well, when you’re good at both, you’ve got to be able to defend both, so there’s not just one certain area that I’m emphasizing on. I’ve got to emphasize on all aspects of an offense to defend that offense and a quarterback like this.”

On Jabari Johnson getting into the rotation: “Well, probably one of the biggest reasons why he’s been able to work his way into playing time is we found a spot for him. We run a lot of 3-4 now and moved him to an outside backer, and that fits his abilities the best, and then he’s put his nose down and gone to work and earned playing time.”

On whether a defense has to rush a QB like Prescott differently: “Definitely. You can’t give him a window. You give him a window, he’s going to take it. And when he takes it, he’s usually successful.”

On whether teams are playing Bud Dupree differently: “Yes. On pass plays, he’ll very rarely have one guy blocking him. And then on run plays, it’s kind of the same thing. People are doubling up to him and he’s going to face that. He’s a good player and that’s just part of it.”

On whether Dupree has been frustrated at all by teams scheming against him: “No, not at all. Bud is one of the greatest team players I’ve ever worked with or I have ever coached in my entire career. The only thing Bud is concerned about is helping the team. He doesn’t care about individual stats. He just is a Kentucky football player through and through, and he just wants to do what he can to help the team.”

On his praise for Dupree sounding like coaches’ praise for Avery Williamson last year: “I feel very much like they’re similar in a lot of ways. We needed a leader to step up this year, like we had last year with Avery, and he’s done that.”

On how Jabari Johnson played against LSU: “I thought he did some good things. You know, Jabari has length and has size. And you know, when you play bigger teams and bigger sets, then you need to make sure you’ve got some people that you can put in there that fit that need.”

On length becoming a priority in recruiting: “Size, length and speed are the three main aspects that you need in a lot of positions on defense. And Mississippi State as a team, they have a lot of players like that.”

On the attitude of players after the loss at LSU: “I felt like that obviously they were upset and disappointed and discouraged Saturday night. And then Sunday some of that started to wear off, but for the most part by the time we came over here on Monday and watched the game and pointed out the corrections and moved on to the next opponent I thought they were ready to play and they came out and had a good practice.”

On whether he thinks the corners are better prepared to face big wide receivers this season: “I think the corners — like I mentioned before, the good thing is they were young last year, but they got all those game reps. So I think that they’re better in general, and a lot of that is because of their experience that they had last year and then the more reps that they got throughout training camp and into this season.”

On whether he saw progress in the run defense against LSU, as Mark Stoops did, despite the stats: “Our biggest problem in that game defensively was what’s called explosive runs. So, run efficiency we were good, which that means how many runs they run did you hold them to a certain amount of yardage? And so, they had 51 runs and for the most part we met our run efficiencies, but on the ones we did not meet our efficiencies they were explosive. They were 10, they were 20, they were 30. And so, we did have something that we can say, ‘Hey guys, you did some good things,’ but we can’t let these long runs get out.”

On whether the long plays sort of ruin all the good plays in between: “It does. But first-down efficiency for us, we met our goals. We did not meet our goals on third-down efficiency. We’ve been pretty good at that throughout the year, so our biggest issue on defense from that last game was explosive runs and third-down efficiency.”

On Josh Forrest playing more physically against LSU: “Yes, yes, I saw improvements with him, and I was very pleased to see that. The first play of the game, he had a tackle for a loss. It was a very physical and violent tackle, and I was glad to see some improvements from him in that aspect.”

On the long plays if it was different things that hurt UK on each of those or a common thing: “Actually, this time it was different things. There wasn’t one area that I could point to and say, ‘This particular thing we have to get fixed.’ It was different things. It was different people. It was different calls. It was an array of things. And they had a lot of opportunities in the run game. They ran the ball a lot, you know? It was 51 runs, so, …”

On the idea that if a team runs it 51 times, they’re going to break one: “Well, I’d like to have a defense that they don’t break any. I’d like to have one where they don’t break any. But sometimes that happens, yes.”

On needing to rest some guys and whether they have backups he trusts: “We need to. We need to continue to build our depth and we need to continue to rotate our players, especially in games where they start to get worn down, so that we’re fresh in the fourth quarter.”

On preparing for a team that’s as balanced run/pass as MSU is: “You know, it’s tough. It’s when they have a quarterback that’s a runner that makes it even harder, because a lot of your keys that you teach defensive players are based off of the running back being the runner, so you have to kind of adjust some of that for the week and then on top of that, you just have to be really sound in the pass game. Because as soon as you tighten up for the run game, that’s when they try to get one over your head.”

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Stoops declines to discuss Baker hit consequences

It’s not clear whether or not a hit by Dorian Baker will cost Kentucky’s freshman wide receiver any playing time against Mississippi State on Saturday.

On his weekly Southeastern Conference teleconference Wednesday, Coach Mark Stoops was asked if Baker would be available for the whole game against the Bulldogs and he said: “We’ll see. I’m not going to comment on that at this time.”

Louisiana State Coach Les Miles said on Monday that his staff had sent in Baker’s block on Kendall Beckwith the league office to be reviewed for a potential targeting violation by the wide out.

“That’s something that the conference is looking at,” Miles said on Monday. “College football is developing what is right and expected and it takes some work, and I think that certainly that’s what the conference is doing and, you know, I think they recognize the issue of that block and they’re handling it the best way they can.”

For his part, Stoops did not divulge what he discussed this week with league officials.

“I’m not able to elaborate on anything the league and I discuss as far as calls and non-calls and things like that,” Stoops said. “So I’m really not permitted to discuss anything that the league and I talk about with that.”

Kentucky wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord was asked on Tuesday if he would’ve wanted his freshman to do anything differently on that block in particular.

“We’ve coached him to do different,” Mainord said. “We don’t coach him to go launch and lead with your head. That’s what the SEC described it as, and that’s not what we want. We’re not trying to hurt people. We’re trying to set blocks, and we’re trying to do it the legal way. That’s what we’re coaching, and so we’re going to keep working on that as well with Dorian and keep getting better at it.”

Plays like that, whether it’s ruled targeting or not, need to be taken seriously, the wide receivers coach said.

“We’re going to do things to help the team,” Mainord said. “So, if it penalizes him, it penalizes this football team. It penalizes all of us, and it penalizes the University of Kentucky. And that’s not what we want. Didn’t get penalized there, but we got to do it right. We’re not out to hurt people. We’re out to block.”

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Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Excited to get ready for Mississippi State, a team that’s well-deserving of being ranked No. 1. They’ve had some impressive wins and they’re playing outstanding football. We’re looking to improve this week and eliminate some mistakes if we’re going to go out there and compete with a great Mississippi State team. So looking forward to the challenge. Looking forward to being at home and playing in Commonwealth Stadium.”

On if he’s heard back from the SEC on Dorian Baker’s hit: “I can’t – I’m not able to elaborate on anything the league and I discuss as far as calls and non-calls and things like that. So I’m really not permitted to discuss anything that the league and I talk about with that.”

On if Baker will be available for the whole MSU game: “We’ll see. I’m not going to comment on that at this time.”

On the physical response in practice since LSU loss: “Yeah, it’s been a good response. We had a good meeting and got a lot of things corrected. You know, we made a lot of mistakes at LSU. I think LSU had a lot to do with that. Give them credit. They beat us in all phases. I think our team has responded very well. We come back with a good meeting and light practice on Monday and had a good, physical, hard practice Tuesday, and the guys were excited. Good to get out there in practice, and I thought we responded well. So we’ll see how we move forward the rest of the week.”

On defenses having a lot to do with miscues: “Yeah, obviously LSU had a lot to do with a lot of our mistakes. They played extremely well at home. We didn’t respond very well. It will be the same this week. Obviously we’re at home, so we’re (in) a little friendlier environment, but that doesn’t matter. We still have to go out and execute on the field. And Mississippi State has a dominant front seven that are very disruptive and create a lot of negative-yardage plays, so we’ll obviously have to improve a great deal. And just overall as a whole team, we’ll have to play much better.”

On what difference he sees in Mississippi State’s defensive line this year: “Well, I’m not sure what’s different other than some maturity, as you said. I think quite a few of those guys are seniors with the exception of the one d-end. Three of their front four are seniors and just have a lot of experience And they’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re just playing very good as a team. And I think as a defense, you know, they can pin their ears back and play aggressively when they know how well they’re playing on special teams and on offense as well. So, just put that all together, and they’re active and confident and playing very disruptive.”

On if there is any good answer for a guy like Dak Prescott: “Yeah, I think with what they do offensively, schematically and with a guy like Dak running their team it puts a lot of stress on a defense. There’s no easy way around it. Any time you incorporate the quarterback with designed runs, you’re going to be short unless you just want to play zero across the board. And that’s difficult to do when they have playmakers outside, so it comes down to being very disruptive up front and guys getting off blocks and making plays. But, it’s difficult, like I said, because they spread you out. They can spread you out or they can play power football with the quarterback running the ball or one of their talented backs. I don’t know if anybody is capable of completely shutting down a guy like Dak. You just have got to try to contain him as best you can.”

On Boom Williams’ status: “He’s not cleared to play today, so he will not practice today. It’s always day to day and as I said Monday at my press conference, he will not be back on the field until the doctors tell me he can be out there.”

On run-pass conflict: “Well, as far as being that balanced this far into the season and being the No. 1 team in the country, it’s pretty good on their part to be so balanced. That’s a credit to what they’re doing schematically and a credit to their coaching staff and obviously a very talented group. I guess it’s fair to say it’s a little bit unlike anybody we’ve seen in recent history here. So very balanced and like I said, they present a lot of problems because they can certainly be as physical as they want to be but also have the ability to spread you out and throw it around, too.”

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Brown: Cats have to learn from mistakes

If Neal Brown had his way, the tape from Kentucky’s throttling at Louisiana State last week would go directly into the trash can.

But no matter how stomach turning it might be, the offensive coordinator has to use that tape as a teaching tool to make sure the same mistakes aren’t recycled over and over again.

“There’s a lot of learning points, especially where we’re at,” Brown said. “If we had a veteran team, hey, we may have came in and not even watched the video. Really. And just said, ‘Hey, we’re better than that, let’s go.’ But I think where we’re at, especially on offense, we’ve got to learn from those mistakes, or you repeat them.

“When we met yesterday, we were hard on those guys because we’ve got to be better. In those type of games and those type of atmospheres, we’ve got to be better.”

Citing the Tigers as “not a great matchup for us,” Brown believes the 41-3 LSU domination is not a good indicator of what his offense has become, nor what it will look like in the future, including this Saturday against top-ranked Mississippi State.

“Do I think we’re better than we showed on Saturday? Absolutely. I think we’ve got six other games to show that,” he said. “I think absolutely we’re better than that.”

Brown thinks his players are so much better than that in fact that the “six other games” he discussed would include the Cats going to a bowl game since they only have five left in the regular season.

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Mullen: UK one of hottest teams in college football

Kentucky has Mississippi State’s undivided attention.

Coach Dan Mullen is throwing out the Cats’ 41-3 loss at Louisiana State as an anomaly.

“I don’t know if you can judge any team by how they perform on a Saturday night in Death Valley,” he said this week. “They had a tough game last week and some things went wrong for them, but if you look at their overall body of work on the season.”

He’s been impressed by the turnaround job done by Kentucky’s coaches in just their second season, calling the Cats “one of the hottest and most improved teams in college football.

“I think Mark Stoops has done a great job,” Mullen said of the UK coach. “The first thing you start with is getting guys to play hard. You can get the talent, but the guys have to play hard. They are playing hard and with a lot of energy. There are guys stepping up and making big plays for them when they need them.

“That is a sign that they have bought in to what Coach Stoops is trying to build. I think you are seeing those steps pay off on the field for them this year. They are 5-2, with both losses coming on the road in the SEC. One was a triple- overtime game. When you look at the improvement that they have made, they can compete with anyone.”

And even though UK put up its worst offensive numbers of the season at LSU last week, Mullen sees playmakers that will challenge his defense, which is ranked in the top 20 nationally.

Kentucky quarterback Patrick “Towles really throws the ball well and has the size to be able to stand in the pocket and throw it, Mullen said. “He is very deceptively athletic. He is a much better runner than he gets credit for. They rotate their running backs through and they all bring something different to the table. They have some explosive wide receivers. They certainly have a lot of big time players on their team.”

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More on Dorian Baker hit at LSU

LSU Coach Les Miles said on Monday that his staff sent in Dorian Baker’s hit on Kendall Beckwith to the Southeastern Conference to be reviewed for a potential targeting violation by the Kentucky wide receiver.

“That’s something that the conference is looking at,” Miles said. “College football is developing what is right and expected and it takes some work, and I think that certainly that’s what the conference is doing and, you know, I think they recognize the issue of that block and they’re handling it the best way they can.”

Kentucky wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord, who said he hasn’t heard if any decision has been made on Baker’s status for Mississippi State on Saturday, was asked if he would’ve wanted his freshman to do anything differently on that block in particular.

“We’ve coached him to do different,” Mainord said. “We don’t coach him to go launch and lead with your head. That’s what the SEC described it as, and that’s not what we want. We’re not trying to hurt people. We’re trying to set blocks, and we’re trying to do it the legal way. That’s what we’re coaching, and so we’re going to keep working on that as well with Dorian and keep getting better at it.”

Plays like that, whether it’s ruled targeting or not, need to be taken seriously, the wide receivers coach said.

“We’re going to do things to help the team,” Mainord said. “So, if it penalizes him, it penalizes this football team. It penalizes all of us, and it penalizes the University of Kentucky. And that’s not what we want. Didn’t get penalized there, but we got to do it right. We’re not out to hurt people. We’re out to block.”

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Neal Brown previews Mississippi State

NEAL BROWN
“After watching that game, it went about how I said in the postgame. Didn’t do a great job in preparation. We got beat in a lot of one on ones, but onward and upward. We’ve got Mississippi State rolling into town. I don’t know if y’all know, but they’re the No. 1 team in the country, so we’d better be ready to go. They’re really talented on defense. They’re playing with a lot of — they’re playing hungry, they’re playing hungry — they’re playing like we need to play, like I think we’ve played at some points during the season. They’re hungry. Geoff Collins, their defensive coordinator, I’ve gone against him a couple times in the past. He does a good job getting those guys playing with a lot of energy and they’re definitely doing that now. I think they’ve got the best front seven that we’ve played against, maybe the best in the league. I haven’t seen them all yet, but their front seven is very talented, d-tackles, they go four deep there and they’re big. It’ll be a challenge for our center and our guards. They’re very talented in there. The d-end Preston (Smith), I think he has two picks, so that shows you his athleticism. He’s about 270 pounds, so bigger than your normal defensive end, but really athletic. Their linebacker, No. 50 Bernard, I forget his last name, but Bernard (Bernardrick McKinney), he’s a stud. He made a ton of plays against us last year. I saw where he’s a projected first-round pick and I believe it. Like I said, they’re playing really well. Have been very effective on third down, been very effective in the red zone. Their passing stats are a little misleading because they’ve jumped on teams in a hurry. They got up on LSU quickly. They got up on A&M quickly. They got up on who’s the third? (Auburn). They got up on those three teams really quick and those teams had no choice but to throw the ball. I’ve been very impressed; I like how they play. Obviously, going against those guys last year what really jumps out to me, too, is I think they have eight guys that have 10 or more starts. So if you go back and you look, they’ve been playing for three years and it shows on film.”

On balls being batted down at the line of scrimmage: “The Hunter kid is long, man. He’s long. That’s 94 for LSU (Danielle). He’s long. We probably can mix in some cuts on the o-line, but he’s athletic. He’s batted balls down in every game. I watched him in high school when he was in Cady, right outside of Houston, knocking a bunch of balls down then, too. He’s a good player, he made several good plays on those.”

On needing to see more from Ryan Timmons, other playmakers: “Well, he had a couple of chances to make some big plays. I thought he had a seam pass early in the game when I think it was 17-3, 17-0, we had a chance to make a play. He had a play on a zero blitz. I thought Patrick, maybe his best ball he threw him. Really what I want to see Ryan do — the plays will come; he’s a really good player; the plays will come — he’s gotta get better away from the ball. I always think the harder you play the more good things happen and he can play harder and we challenged him today, we challenged him yesterday, and he’ll step up and answer it.”

On what he hopes wide receivers learned from loss: “Well, they better’ve learned that they have to play at pad level and they’d better use their hands. And those guys are good. They’re really good. We’re not the only people they treated like that. There were some times, like Demarco Robinson got open a lot. And there were some times some other people got open. But Demarco, he won more of his battles than anybody else. And I thought our slot receivers won. We missed some throws, but they’ve got to play with pad level. It’s a leverage game and if you get high, especially if you lack strength, those corners are going to dominate you and they were long. You can tell people, ‘Hey, they’re 6-2,’ but until you get out there and you get that length right on you, it’s still a little bit shocking and I don’t think we adjusted very well.”

On if the team is over the sickness he mentioned after the game: “I hope so. Knock on wood. I hope so. Yeah, we had a little virus go through. That didn’t — trust me, that didn’t affect the outcome there. We would have played a little better maybe if we had everybody practicing.”

On if he can take some encouragement from Mississippi State’s success when trying to build a program from the bottom of the SEC: “Well, there probably are some parallels. Is Mullen — what is he, year five? (Six) Six. He’s in year six. I tell you what they’ve done a really good job, and this is a credit to them, I think they have done as good a job of evaluating talent as anybody in our league. Cause they just recently got the new facilities. I think their stadium got remodeled. I know it was getting worked on when we were down there last year. I think they’ve got a new football building. But what sticks out to me, if you watched them on offense — because we watched them last week when we were playing LSU’s defense — and certainly it speaks to this on their defensive side as well, is certainly they’re long. I mean, if you look at the length they have at wideout, at the length they have across their defensive line, the length they have at linebacker, they are a long team. I think they’ve done a really good job evaluating guys during the recruiting process. Maybe not always the four or the five star, but the guys like — I think the big wideout was a basketball player. The big kid that made a bunch of plays against LSU, he was a basketball player in Alabama. I think he played very little football, and he’s a stud. So I think those guys — what really speaks to me is they trust their evaluation process. They played some guys early, which is what we’re doing now, what we did last year and what we continue to do, and now, especially on defense, it’s paying off for them.”

On what it tells him when he sees a guy with length when he’s recruiting: “Well I think everybody runs well in this league. If you look at it, everybody runs well. I think especially at wideout what really differentiates is if you have length. LSU being the exception. LSU being the exception. They send two corners out there that are 6-1, 6-2, maybe plus. But for the most part people in the league and everywhere are going to be in that 5-10, 6-foot range at corner. So if you’re playing with guys that look like Blake Bone that are in that 6-4, 6-6 range, even if maybe they’re a tenth slower than the corner, they still have the leverage on them. They can go up and get those balls.”

On if they’re on the same page after caller on Mark Stoops  show said he thought they needed to call more north-south passes and less east-west and Stoops said he couldn’t disagree in some ways: “We should put him on staff, shouldn’t me? I don’t know. If you look at our stats, I think we’re pretty good as far as explosive plays. You know? That’s probably what I would say. I think we’ve been pretty good throwing the ball down the field. The other night, there were some times we called shot plays or downfield throws and really we just kind of got beat in some one-on-one situations. I probably should have called some more. I think, the east-west passing game that we had, that’s what’s been really effective against LSU. If you go back, you look at the Mississippi State game, they threw a lot of balls in the flats. OK? You look at Florida. When they had success, they threw a lot of balls in the flats. What we were trying to do is we were trying to get Stanley out there in one-on-one, and Stanley has got to do a better job of trusting his speed. OK? Then what we’ve got to do — we had some things where we were going to use Stanley as a decoy and then try to hit ‘em behind them. And I should have got to them.”

On if Boom Williams practiced: “No. He did not practice today. We’re — you know, I’m hopefully but we’ll see on that. I leave that up to the doctors.”

On if he’s pleased with the running game: “Pleased with the running game last week?”

On if he’s pleased with the running game in general after getting the third-and-short, fourth-and-short plays was a problem: “Yeah, well the one was a problem, but I think that was the one. But it was one. I think that was the first time we haven’t been successful in the wildcat all year in the short-yardage. What happened? W were just late off the ball. It wasn’t necessarily — the Hunter kid again, he made a really good play on that, but we were late off the ball. If we were on time getting off the ball, I think we’ve got a decent play and we’ll be successful. It’s not going to be a big play, but we’ll get the yard and a half we need. But I was not pleased with how we ran the ball last week. I think we’ve done a pretty good job, you know. With the exception of the Florida game, the rest of the season I think we’ve ran the ball effectively. Ran the ball really well against South Carolina. Last week, we just got beat. We got beat at the point of contact a lot of times.”

On if the LSU game is a “throwaway game:” “It wasn’t a great matchup for us. OK? It wasn’t a great matchup. Some of their weaknesses don’t necessarily match up to our strengths, so that wasn’t a great match up. I don’t think you throw it out, because I think there’s a lot of learning points. I think there’s a lot of learning points, especially where we’re at. If we had a veteran team, hey, we may have came in and not even watched the video. Really. And just said, hey, we’re better than that, let’s go. But I think where we’re at, especially on offense, we’ve got to learn from those mistakes, or you repeat them. When we met yesterday, we were hard on those guys because we’ve got to be better. In those type of games and those type of atmospheres, we’ve got to be better. Why did things go wrong? Here’s why, now let’s go out and fix them. Do I think we’re better than we showed on Saturday? Absolutely. I think we’ve got six other games to show that. I think absolutely we’re better than that. But we have to learn from it, because if we don’t learn from it, it’ll repeat.”

On if Towles can choose and audible or if it’s built in: “A little of both. He doesn’t have carte blanche, or whatever, but he has the ability to check some runs, he has the ability to tag routes.”

On what he sees from players when they are facing a national stage: “I think we’ve responded every other time. We had the South Carolina game, the Florida game, Saturday night games in the spotlight. The crowd here, the crowd down in the Swamp. I think we’ve responded. I think we came out, played well early in the season. The other night, for whatever reason, it didn’t work out for us.”

On if there is news about Baker’s hit under review by the SEC:
“I don’t even deal with that. You have to ask Coach Stoops on that.”

On if sideline changes when a player gets hurt like Boom Williams did at LSU:
“Not necessarily. I think they hurt for him, because he was out of it for a little bit. Like I said, I was just kind of looking at him and he was laying out there and I saw Jim working on him. So I think our team is concerned about him. Now I don’t think it necessarily affects the following plays, because I think you kind of have to be focused in the here and now. Now after the game, they’re definitely worried about him, you know?”

On what Boom’s possible absence means for Mikel Horton against Mississippi State: “I think he plays more. I thought he played well. I thought he did some really good things. He was one of those guys coming out of the game that I was excited about, because he ran the ball late in the third and the fourth quarter and I thought he did some nice things. He put his self in a position, especially if Stanley doesn’t go, then he’ll get some more reps, get some more carries.”

On what he tells Towles after the LSU game: “Here’s what we focus on with Patrick, is he was not accurate in that game, alright? Well it’s easy to say, hey, you weren’t accurate, but let’s figure out why. I think a couple of them were maybe his tempo and his drop wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Maybe a couple his body wasn’t aligned. I think he missed some throws and he started aiming, and he’s got to let it rip. He’s kind of a gunslinger and he’s got to play to his strengths. So, did he play perfect? No. I thought we had some balls that he threw well that we could’ve got to that we didn’t. But he’s got to bounce back. He’s got to play — for us to beat those types of teams, and he understands this, he’s got to play better than he did the other night. And we’ve got to play better around him. If you look at Dak Prescott, he’s a Heisman Trophy — well guess what? That running back has, what, 700 yards or so. He’s playing pretty good. You look at their O-Line; they’re playing at a high level. They got a couple of wideouts that can go get it. That makes the quarterback’s job a whole lot easier. When you struggle around them, especially when you’re ineffective running the ball, it makes your quarterback’s job really, really hard.”

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