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 and maybe 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 you can 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 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 if you have 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 if teams are playing 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 Bud 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 Bud 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 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 if he thinks 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 if he saw progress in run defense against LSU like Mark Stoops 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 if 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 physical 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 if 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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Q&A: Stoops discusses No. 1 Mississippi State

MARK STOOPS
Anxious to just get back to work today and get back on the practice field with our players after a disappointing loss. After reviewing the film, as I said in the postgame, you have to give credit to LSU. They outplayed us, outcoached us, but there are certainly a lot of things that we need to get corrected and can get corrected, so looking forward to getting back out there. Another great challenge that week, playing the No. 1 team in the country. We will have our hands full and need to play a whole lot better. So, again, need to get back out there and improve this week on the practice field.

On stopping the run vs. Mississippi State after struggling at times in run defense this season: Well, it’s very important. Another physical football team, but not only physical, just, it’s a numbers game as well. Very well coached, puts you in some hard predicaments. Obviously the way Dak (Prescott) is throwing the ball as well, they stretch you constantly. So it is a concern. If you look back at last week, I think we did — believe me, I’m not crazy, I’ve coached defenses that were pretty darn good against the run. The good news is if you take away some of the explosive runs that can get corrected in certain spots, just physically we actually did some very good things. They ran the ball, what, 51 times, something like that. And a good portion of some of that yardage came late and it came on some finesse runs, some 11-personnel Q run, and things like that. So if you look at the power run game we actually improved quite a bit in that game and had some good plays and some good stops and did some good things. And, again, I know you can write it how you want, I’m not crazy. I know what good run defense looks like and does not, so certainly we all know we need to get better and improve in certain areas, but like I said, I think some of it was improved.

On Stanley “Boom” Williams condition: Things look better, not cleared to play yet, obviously. I’ll wait until the doctors tell me he can get on the field but, I think, yeah, things are looking better. When he will be cleared to practice or play I have no idea.

On if the run defense improving make things better with a positive even in the blowout loss: I think that was part of it. We all knew going into that game that was a big, physical football team that wanted to run the ball and they certainly did, but, again, I thought there were quite a few plays in there where it wasn’t, just constantly getting pushed around, where I thought  you know, just right at the start, again, there’s a lot of mistakes we can look at in that game but we start the game with the poor kickoff return and get the penalty. Then we get a zero-yard gain on first down, incomplete pass on second, and get the penalty. That’s just the discipline we need to continue to work and get better and get more disciplined on this team, but that penalty hurt. If you look throughout the first half, when we get the punt return for a touchdown, but we were hanging in there. We knew it was going to be difficult, not an easy task, but physically defensively we were holding up pretty well and doing some good things. Then it gets to be a little much when you’re on the field that long, and obviously some big plays that we can and will get corrected.

On if they just need more players: Well, I’m not going to make any excuses, but we just, you know, need to find a way. As I said, going into that game you really need to play well on all sides and we certainly didn’t do that. We didn’t play good enough on any side but I thought we had a chance defensively.

On if he’s saying when he looked back on the film they were not just physically dominated: Yeah, that’s fair to say. I don’t think we were physically dominated on the field and, again, you just look at, hey, they ran the ball for 300 yards, you’re not generally going to win a lot of games when teams run for 300 yards. We know that’s not acceptable but there are a lot of good, physical plays in there by our defensive guys. But when you make mistakes, they’re magnified. Mistakes are going to cost you games, they’re going to cost you on the road at LSU, making mistakes we did early in that game, it’s going to cost and you it’s going to be magnified. It gets out of control at that point. We can’t have that and we’ve got to coach ‘em better and be more disciplined across the board.

On how Mississippi State’s corners compare to LSU: They’re different, a different style of play and they’re just different guys.

On if the film showed any common theme to the special teams mistakes: Well, there’s mistakes. There’s mistakes that can and will be corrected. We’ve all made our mistakes this year, offensively, defensively, special teams. Again, they’re magnified against a very talented team on the road, and when you open the game that way, it doesn’t set the tone. That’s not what you want. So they’re magnified but they’re things that can and will be fixed. The punt return, same thing. A little unfortunate that we hit it so good. He kicked it so well, outkicked his coverage a little bit. We had guys down there. We had, honestly, five or six guys clean, and we’ve got to do a better job of closing that gap, spreading the net and gettin’ ‘em down. Once you get a talented guy started and give him some space, bad things are going to happen to us. So those are things that we can get fixed and will. We all take responsibility for that, and we’ll make the corrections and we’ll move on.

On the opening kickoff and if they intended to kick it short: That’s something that in hindsight we would do differently. (Laughter.) So, you know, I told you that at one of my news conferences, anybody that tells you they wouldn’t do it differently in hindsight is lying. (Laughter.) It was poor execution and poor call, and we didn’t kick it where we were supposed to, either. So what we were supposed to do on the kick wasn’t there. Therefore, it magnified it. So, sure, we would do it differently. That’s one instance where we were too cute there. Again, I take that responsibility. We take that and we move on. The rest of it is just fundamental things.

 

On if he would have believed Mississippi State would be No. 1 when they faced Kentucky: I wouldn’t have put no thought into that, I would have no idea. I would be going on a limb and I don’t like to do that. If you look at their quarterback and their team it’s not a real big surprise. They’re a very talented football team. You could tell they had a lot of confidence coming into the season just by the way they carried themselves at SEC Media, just listening to them with their quarterback and leadership. Dan is sixth year in the process and they have a good looking team. I noticed that a year ago. I noticed how big they were and how long and just, you know, they’re developed. They do a great job of coaching, and good things are  it’s coming together for them. They’re playing red hot, and it starts with their quarterback. He’s as talented of a guy as there is in the country. He can run it, he can throw it. He’s making great decisions and their offense puts stress on you. Like I said at the beginning of the statement, they’re well coached, they put stress on you across the board.

 

On if he remembers anything specific about Prescott from last year’s game: Physically, good-looking guy, strong, leader, tough, just everything you want in your quarterback and in particular with what they do, with the dual-threat and putting that stress on you.

 

On if Dan Mullen’s success at Mississippi State is sort of the model for what he wants to do here: Certainly anybody that’s having success in your league and guys you watch, certainly you look at them and see what they’ve done. I think they’ve done a nice job of recruiting and a lot of times — give them credit under the radar with some of the guys that they get out of their state, that maybe not a lot of people know about. But they have that great length and size and you gotta give them credit for developing those players. Yeah, they’re a good-looking team top to bottom.

 

On if he has any fear at all about the confidence of his team after a loss like that during a rebuilding process: Yeah, you worry about it, and we need to address it, because, you know, you’re going to go through ups and downs, you’re going to lose some games. When you self-inflict against a good team — and I’m not taking anything away from LSU because they flat beat us across the board — but when you make a lot of mistakes, you can have a tendency to lose confidence. I told you, other times, speaking to you and to our team, we’ve gotten beyond the belief. Then it’s about execution and doing things and then we go out and don’t do it very well, so now we got to make sure they don’t slip back and start doubting, and it goes back to preparation and work and controlling the things we can control.

 

On if this is unfamiliar territory since they haven’t had a loss like this yet: Yeah, it is this year. It’s a new team, first time we have gone through that, it is new to this football team and every team is different. So, yeah, we’ll see how we respond.

 

On what he hopes young wide receivers learned from LSU game: I hope they learned how to get open versus press. That’s a physical bunch that doesn’t give you a lot of space. You have to beat ‘em, you have to make plays. We can compete at a higher level. We need to be more detailed on some of our routes, and there is a lot of things we can all do better.

 

On if he has to guard against guys getting too psyched to play a No. 1 team: As I have said many times I would rather say “whoa” than giddy up, so if we have a good practice and I got to hold ‘em back, that will be a good thing. But the emotion, I’m only looking forward in our preparation. You certainly don’t want ‘em flat walking into the building, you don’t want ‘em being “down” and all those things but the excitement level and how we prepare and as long as they’re focused and they go through preparation and are mentally ready to practice every day and putting ourselves into a position to win a game that’s what I’m looking for.

 

On importance of a fast start for confidence: I think it’s always important. It was important last week on the road and we fought it uphill the whole game this week, even though we were at home, we’re playing the No. 1 team in the country, you can’t fall behind, I think it’s important. If we do, we got to learn to face adversity a little better than we did last week.

 

On what Demarco Robinson did differently than other receivers: He did do better, you’re right in saying that. Number one, he’s a senior, that helps. So he’s got a lot more experience playing against these big dudes that are up there locking ‘em down but Demarco has done a nice job of beating people and playing one-on-ones.

 

On if they gain confidence from playing well at Mississippi State last year: I think every team is different but I think, you know, I hope it helps us a little bit and we’ll see how we prepare and how we go through the week.

 

On if in his experience coaches tend to set the same tone after a lop-sided loss: I’m not sure if everybody takes the exact same approach every week. I don’t know what other people do. It’s been different from the coaches I’ve been around each week. As I’ve said before, I think, you know, you have to have a good plan, but I go on my instincts and my gut a lot and they’re, sometimes right and sometimes wrong, even in making decisions on the field, you know, and that’s where that hindsight comes in. But I think, you know, with this, definitely I put some thought into the message.

 

On if he almost has to be an actor in that situation: I don’t think it’s ever an act. I would never use that word to define it. It’s about making sure that you clearly define the message that you want them to hear. That really doesn’t change much for us a lot as well. Maybe how you deliver it and in those things it does, but the bottom line is we’re all going to accept our responsibility and we’re going to look at things, get it corrected and move on. So, again, we’ll see how well we respond this week.

 

On if he can take away anything from moving the ball at 17-3 and appearing to weather the slow start for at least awhile: No, I don’t know if you could take much from it, because I felt like, as you know, from watching the game it was an uphill struggle from the first kickoff of the game. But I do feel like we were battling there. That’s what I was commenting on defensively for a while there. We were hanging in doing some things. And offensively we were moving it. We had 3rd-and-1, a long drive, and we missed that opportunity. That was part execution and part would you do it over? Well, yeah, because it didn’t work you would do it over. So there are things that we can and need to do better in that situation. The bottom line is we didn’t make it happen, we didn’t deliver, they stopped us and that was a big turning point, because I believe there was roughly five minutes in the half there. If we get a first down, obviously that’s time off the clock and even when we got the ball back after that I believe we stopped ‘em right after that, maybe a three and out. They hit a great punt and backed us up, and even then I’m trying to get out of the half. That’s what I want to do at that point. It’s been an uphill climb, it’s 17-3 on the road, we haven’t moved it well, we’re backed up, I want to get first downs and get out of the half, unless we make big plays and get movin’, of course, but I’m really trying to cut our losses at that point. And then, as we know, they get 10 more points from there and that was impossible for us to catch up from that point on.

 

On importance of playing well in a nationally showcased game vs. No. 1 team: I think it’s very important. It’s important for us to play well. Anytime you’re playing a No. 1 team in the country, you’re going to have great exposure. We want to play well and represent our program and what we’ve been doing and all the hard work so it’s important for us to go out and play well.

 

On what Jabari Johnson has done to work his way into rotation after not playing at all last season: He gave us size, and he’s been doing a nice job at that position, what we call the “Jack linebacker” there. He’s big. He has a nice feel for it. He’s good on his feet, and we felt like we needed more size in that game. So he’s done some good things, he’s earned the right to play. So we’ll continue to rotate between Bud and Jabari and Hatcher at those spots.

 

On how Johnson played against LSU: He did good. He played well, he really did.

 

On Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith having discipline issues playing containment on the outside at times and how they stop an athletic quarterback like Prescott: It’s not always on them. I mean, it’s always team defense. Sometimes he may step up and then get out as well so they’re trying to get speed rush and our inside guys have to be disciplined. Thing of that sort. We’ve had our discipline issues but containing on the pass rush is not always one of those with them. It’s not always with them, let’s put it that way. But it does bring up the point that you’re making here, that we need to have great team defense and great discipline with our pass rush. They have disciplined runs and plays where he ad-libs and makes plays. He’s very talented. Anytime it’s tougher on defenses and it’s frustrating at times anytime you play a quarterback that has the experience and feel that he does of making plays. That’s why they’re No. 1 in our league in total offense.

 

On if he can see the comparisons between Dak Prescott and Tim Tebow: I could see that. I could see people making that comparison. I never played Tebow but just as a fan and watching him I could see people making it, just with Dan coaching them both. The stress that he puts on you with that offense with a guy that could do both run and pass. They’re both physical. I could see people making that comparison. Obviously that’s a great compliment to Dak, because, you know, Tebow won quite a few games.

 

On Mississippi State having a bye week before playing Kentucky for the fourth season in a row: Really? We better talk to somebody. (Laughter.) Well, it is what it is. Nothing I can do about it. It’s above my pay grade.

 

On if he thinks the state of Kentucky could eventually have the same football success with UK and UofL as Mississippi has with Ole Miss and Mississippi State this season: I don’t see why not. I really don’t. I feel like we’re both working extremely hard to build our programs, we both have great support, and they’ve been a very talented and good football team and we’re working our way toward that.

 

On if the long, explosive runs came from a specific area: It did, and I think some depth issues hurt us as well. In fairness to a few of our players. we got to get ‘em out and get ‘em spelled as well. We’re certainly were we’re not as fast later in the game as we were early. That’s coaching. We’ve got to develop guys and get some guys in there to help. Give them credit. If they’re going to run it 51 times with those dudes, they’re going to break some, too. It’s not like going into the game that you didn’t think they were going to have any explosive runs. I think I guess the point I was trying to make with the power-run game if you take those explosive runs, it wasn’t that bad. We had a good dose of some good people in there and we played more physical than we had been.

 

On if he expects Zach West back this week: I do expect him back but I don’t know how at this point he will respond but I do expect him back this week.

 

On what they need to do to get the run-game jump-started: It’s important, just like last week. You know, that’s where the run game is always important. We all want explosive offense, and we need that and want to throw it and will throw it, but you gotta have some balance. Look at Mississippi State, what are they, 264 to the run and 265 to the pass. Try to defend that. Makes a difference. It’s very important to be physical and to have balance. It puts a lot of stress on teams. We’ve done that well at times, and against some teams it’s a little more difficult for us because we’re trying to physically get to where we want to be. So to answer your question, it’s important to get the run game going, at least be able to have those aggravating runs, three, four, five then break one here and there. We’ll continue to work on that.

 

On if he’s surprised at the run game struggles considering all their explosive backs: Like I said, it’s been good at times. Wasn’t so good last week, and you have to give credit to LSU for that. They beat us. They played more physical than us and didn’t give us much room.

 

On Mississippi leading the SEC in sacks per game: Well, they have an incredible front seven, number one, and number two, they’ve been ahead quite a bit and scoring some points, so teams are going to have to take some chances and maybe drop back and pass more than they want to.

 

On if passing game struggles were because of LSU DBs or is Patrick Towles could have done some things better: Certainly Patrick can play better and needs to play better. We missed some opportunities and that’s going to happen. Again, not to make an excuse for Patrick because he doesn’t need me to do that, but there are going to be some times where maybe they’re covered, then maybe they’re open and we miss ‘em, either way it’s not good. So when you are off and not playing your best, again, it’s going to get magnified against a great team, especially on the road down there at LSU.

 

On if in a game like that he has to make those plays when given the opportunity: You have to make those throws, yeah, you do, and we gotta catch ‘em and get open and all those things and we definitely were not at our best.

 

On the play where Ryan Timmons appeared to not see the ball: I’m not even sure, to be honest with you. I didn’t ask him yet or couldn’t tell.

 

On Ryan Timmons’ struggles: Ryan needs to continue to improve. He needs to compete at a higher level and needs to step it up. We need him to. If we’re going to win games at LSU or if we’re going to win a game at home against the No. 1 team in the country, some of our playmakers need to step up and compete at a high level and make plays and win some one-on-one’s and make some plays. That’s what he needs to do. Again, you asked me specifically about him, there’s others, there’s all of us. We all accept the responsibility and, again, accept the things that we need to do better and that’s something that he needs to do better.

 

On if film showed what happened on the squib kick: We addressed it before they went on the field. We had a good idea they were going to squib it. We had a player make a poor decision.

 

On if having young players in a situation helps because they can forget a loss like that more easily: I think that goes back to Alan’s question. You know, we’ll see. I think because we got whooped and had because we made some mental mistakes, sometimes that can shake somebody’s confidence, and we’ll see how they respond. I have no reason to believe that, though. I have a good feel we’ll bounce back and prepare well and play well.

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Mark Stoops after LSU loss

MARK STOOPS
“OK. You know, there’s not a whole heck of a lot to say. They really took it to us from the opening kickoff return all the way through the game. They did an excellent job. Give them credit. They were more prepared, they were better coached. They were a better team, more physical than us and outplayed us in all three areas. So you have to give them credit. We will not let one game define us. We did not play well. They had a lot to do with that. We’ll get back to work this week and see what we can do to improve.”

On if it feels like a setback after building so much positive momentum: “Any time you lose it’s a setback. Nobody likes to lose that way. To be really physically handled was what sticks out to me, along with our mistakes. We need to coach better. I take responsibility for that. We’ll get it corrected and we’ll move on, but we can’t let one game define us. We always talk about it — win or lose, you got to move on. So we’ve got another opportunity next week.”

On LSU’s fourth-down stop of the wildcat in the second quarter: “Yeah. As bad of a start as we got off to, I felt like we were at least — we were playing. We were moving the ball. We weren’t getting big chunks. We weren’t getting in the end zone, obviously, but we were moving the ball a little bit. And defensively we were holding up early. We got off to the kickoff return, the facemask and then we get them third and 10 on the first two possessions of the game, we hold them. And then we get the penalty. So lack of discipline by us that we’ve got to get fixed. And then they punch it in and they get the punt return. And you’re right, I thought that was the turning point. It was 17-3, we were moving it and we couldn’t convert the third and short or the fourth and short and things break open a little bit from there.”

On what happened on special teams: “Just got outplayed. We got outplayed. We’ve been solid all year to this point and did not play good enough in this game. Give them credit. That’s a good bunch, and they physically played better than us.”

On if they missed J.D. Harmon that much: “He’s a good player, but I don’t know if he’s going to make that difference or not. I don’t know. I got to look at the film.”

On Boom Williams: “I’m not sure. I think it’s a head injury, so we’ll see how he recovers.”

On if they got rattled on the squib kickoff: “That was very disappointing, because we had just told them about — they were backed up, we thought they may squib it. We had our players just make a poor decision and didn’t make the play. That’s unacceptable.

On if he thought UK was past lopsided scores like this: “Yeah, I did, but it’s week-to-week. You gotta go prove it. This is a physical football team. That’s what we’d like to look like some day. They’re extremely long, very physical. I thought their secondary guys were excellent.”

On Towles being blitzed, under pressure a lot, what happened up front: “I think they’re very good, they were bringing a lot of people and they can cover you.”

On how to regroup for a game against No. 1 Mississippi State: “Well, we gotta go back to work. We gotta go back to work, and we’ll see how we respond. We’ll see how resilient we are and how tough we are. I have no reason to believe that we won’t respond and go prepare and play well.”

On if he expects to learn something about the team this week: “Yeah, yeah, I think that’s a fair question. We’ll see how we respond. I’ve got no reason to believe that they won’t come out and prepare, have a great week of preparation, and give it everything we’ve got. For this group, it’s not lack of effort. We need to coach better, we need to play better. We all take responsibility and we’ll all move on.”

On if Towles seemed rattled: “I don’t know if rattled is the word or not. I think he can throw the ball a lot and I think, as was mentioned, the pressure had a lot to do with it. And they covered excellent. You know, we’ve gotta do a better job – we’ve gotta win some one-on-ones. And that’s what we have to challenge (the players to do). These teams, they’re not going to give you anything; you gotta go beat them and you’ve gotta win some one-on-ones and, again, they won the majority of those today, and you have to give them credit for that.”

On what’s so good about LSU: “Oh, they do an excellent job across the board. They do an excellent job coaching. They do an excellent job recruiting. They’re players play well and they play tough. So they’re a good football team. I know by their standards they may be not as mature at certain spots, because they’ve obviously lost some great players, but they recruit very good players and very talented.”

On if LSU did anything better than what he saw on film: “They played very well. They’ve maybe had their ups and downs this year, like most teams, but they put it all together tonight and played a complete game. And, again, you have to give them credit. They played very well and they were well-coached.”

On being upset with Dorian Baker after his hit and celebrating it in a blowout: “I just thought there was a lot of jawing going on at that point. I want toughness and I want physical play, but it can’t be for selfish reasons. There was a lot of jawing going on, on the field, and at that point we’ve just got to line up and go play football.”

On if Boom Williams is OK to fly back with the team: “Oh, yeah. Yeah.”

On whether he’ll be evaluated in Lexington: “Well, we have the protocol. We went through it, they evaluated him on the field, and he’s with the doctors and I’ve just been told it’s a head injury – amongst other things, obviously, we gotta check on.”

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Neal Brown after LSU loss

NEAL BROWN
“Obviously it was ugly, even from the start. Didn’t have them prepared to play. Didn’t play well enough, didn’t coach well enough. Got beat in a lot of one-on-one situations and didn’t make plays. Didn’t start very well, got in way too many third-and-long situations. Not us, not very many people in the country are going to be successful in third-and-long against these guys; they’re very talented in the secondary.”

On how coaches seemed happy with practices this week: “Yeah. We had energy. We had energy. We’ve had a lot of guys out. That’s not an excuse, just the way it is. We’ve had some guys up front that’s missing days, had some skill guys that’s missing days because of sickness. But no, I mean, sometimes practice correlates, sometimes it doesn’t. We had a really good energy practice on Tuesday. Wednesday was so-so. But obviously it wasn’t good enough because tonight it was pretty one-sided.”

On miscommunications in pass game: “Yeah, we weren’t good enough in the pass game. We got our pad level high outside at X and Z (receiver spots) and they’re really talented, let’s not, it’s not all because we didn’t do what we’re supposed to do. They’re really talented at corner and they got in our pads. I thought Demarco Robinson competed and other than that we struggled out there at X and Z. Had some protection breakdowns. Patrick wasn’t as sharp as he has been. So the pass game we struggled tonight.”

On fourth-and-2, Wildcat play: “Well, I thought it was fourth-and-1 and it was a lot closer to one and we went to our Wildcat stuff and we’ve been pretty successful with that and they slanted into it, made a good play, got penetration up front. Jojo maybe could’ve stayed inside on it. They got us. That was a big turning point in the game. I felt like if we could’ve converted there, we could’ve stayed right in the game. I don’t know if we were good enough to win it. I don’t think with the way we were playing, but we would’ve made it a lot more competitive for sure.”

On if teams are adjusting to Wildcat: “No, I mean. We hit a couple. It’s one of those things, we need to continue to do it because it gives us a little unbalance. I’m not sure they schemed it any better, we just got beat in some one on one situations and to be honest with you, obviously our plan wasn’t good enough and we got beat in a lot of one on ones tonight. Wasn’t a big secret what they were doing.”

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