Mark Stoops previews Louisville

Excited about this week. It’s going to be a great challenge. Obviously, we know Louisville has done a great job, very good on both sides of the ball, well coached. So it will be a real challenge. We’re looking forward to it.
Just looking to improve. I thought we made some strides last week to improve our team, and we’re looking to do the same thing against this week.
WHAT’S THE KEY AGAINST TEDDY BRIDGEWATER?
COACH STOOPS: He’s just very good at what he does. He has a great feel in the pocket. He eludes the pressure when and where he needs to, and the rest of the time he sits in there and distributes the football. But he’s very athletic, and he’s very live. He’s just very fast. He’s very quick with everything he does. Very, very good delivery and gets the ball there in a hurry. Again, he eludes the pressure when he has to.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF HOW THE QUARTERBACK ROTATION WENT?
COACH STOOPS: I liked it. I liked it. I think Neal had a great feel for it, and it may be what the quarterbacks needed as well. Just eliminate a little bit of pressure from them, and they both have their strengths, like we said, and our offense has some good packages with both of them.
Obviously, our offense can run the same with a good percentage of it with either quarterback, but then they each have their strengths as well.
HOW MUCH OF AN EQUALIZER IS THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE, THE CURVEBALL OF HAVING GUYS DO TWO THINGS COMING AT YOU AT THAT PACE?
COACH STOOPS: I do think it helps with that pace like you talked about. The tempo in general is difficult at times, if you’re executing. And that’s the big thing is execution.
We’ve talked a lot about that and not getting behind the chains and all those good things. So it still comes down to just executing well.
JONATHAN GEORGE SAID THERE’S AN EMPHASIS ON BEATING LOUISVILLE. DO YOU WANT THEM EMPHASIZING AND TALKING ABOUT THAT?
COACH STOOPS: Well, like I said early on, we know it’s important. It’s very important to myself, this team, our program, the fans, and everybody. It’s very important. But we’ll be in a lot of big games here, we hope. As we improve this program and keep on making those steps and getting better and better, we’ll be in a lot of big games in the SEC.
DUPREE TALKED ABOUT CHANGING THE PASS RUSH WHEN GOING UP AGAINST A MOBILE QUARTERBCK. WITH THEM GOING UP AGAINST JALEN WHITLOW IN PRACTICE WILL HELP UK DEFENSE?
COACH STOOPS: It will. It helps in certain ways. It does help with how quick they are, you know, getting out of the pocket. It could help. We don’t go    we do go against them, but it’s not that much during the game week. But we will.
Again, we’ll go against them seven on seven, which there will be no rush, and in team periods as well for about 12 to 15 plays a day.
WHERE ARE YOU GUYS HEALTH WISE THIS WEEK?
COACH STOOPS: I think we’re getting better. We’re in decent shape. There are no complaints. I think everybody is a little bit banged up.
HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT FIXING PENALTIES THIS WEEK? COACH STOOPS: Just keep on stressing it. We’ve got to get some of it cleaned up. Some of it, we’re trying to be more aggressive, but that doesn’t mean lose your sense and do silly things out there. We’re not good enough to overcome bad decisions. So keep on working on that.
WHAT DOES LOUISVILLE RUNNING GAME LOOK LIKE?
COACH STOOPS: They’re good. They’re physical. Their O line is good. That’s what    you know, you start watching their team in depth, they’re good across the board, they really are.
I think they do a nice job of keeping you off balance. They run it. They threaten you with their run game, and they love taking their shots and their play actions off it because they’re very skilled at wide receiver, and (Teddy) Bridgewater does a heck of a job with the play fakes and getting the ball down the field.
That’s always — from a defensive coach through all the years  — and I get all the defensive questions as I’ve been a defensive coordinator    always the teams that threaten you are balanced. You know, the teams that can pound it and run the ball and have a physicality about them, and then they’re skilled outside, can throw the ball and distribute the ball down the field as well.
So that’s what they do. They put you in a run/pass conflict all the time. Again, they’re good at what they do.
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU MATCH UP AGAINST DAMIAN COPELAND AND DEVANTE PARKER?
COACH STOOPS: It will be a tough matchup. It’s tough on a lot of people. I’m sitting here watching film of last year. Again, they put you in that conflict. If they make you play with numbers, they can hurt you outside, and they do it to a lot of people. They’re pretty skilled.
WHAT IS THE REPUTATION OF A SHAWN WATSON OFFENSE?
COACH STOOPS: I don’t know what (his offenses have looked like) over the years, but I’m just looking at what they do there. I see them very balanced and very talented. Like I said, just the things I just said, when they make you account for the run game, it opens things up.
DID HAVING TO CHANGE YOUR DEFENSE AT LAST MINUTE AGAINST MIAMI HELP YOU IN GETTING TO PLAY SIMPLER, ASSIGNMENT FOOTBALL?
COACH STOOPS: It did in that regard. It let us play a little bit simpler and line up and play. I think you can see we played a little bit more confident, a little bit more physical, and I think it helped in certain ways.
WHY DO YOU THINK TWO QUARTERBACK SYSTEMS ARE RARE?
COACH STOOPS: I think you’d like to    I think in a perfect world with one quarterback, he gets in there and gets in the flow and gets the continuity going and the leadership and all those things that come with it.
DO YOU REMEMBER A TIME WHEN YOU HAD TO PLAY TWO QUARTERBACKS THAT REALLY GAVE YOU HEADACHES IN PREPARATION?
COACH STOOPS: I can’t think of one right off the top of my head. Obviously, just watching quarterbacks that have had success, and Coach (Steve) Spurrier through the years, he’s been successful. I’ve heard him say before    I don’t remember the exact words, but if you have to do it, you have to do it. That’s just the situation we’re in.
YOUNGER PLAYERS ABLE TO GET FEET WET AGAINT MIAMI. DOES THAT HELP THEM?
COACH STOOPS: Pardon me? This last game, did you say? Well, it did help. I think any time you could start and get some wins and have some success and play a lot of guys and let them get in there and get their feet wet, it helps an awful lot. So I hope we continue to grow.
I had a good feeling we would improve between week one and week two, and I hope we improve the same amount between week two and week three.
BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BUD DUPREE AND ZA’DARIUS SMITH AND WHAT THEY WERE ABLE TO DO THIS WEEK VERSUS LAST WEEK? COACH STOOPS: Obviously, they were a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more stout. We talked about those things last week, about not doing too much, do your job, do your job well.
We took the one play at a time mentality, and we’ve got to continue to do that. We need to execute each and every down the best we can.
WHEN YOU WERE AT FLORIDA STATE, DID WINNING THE FLORIDA STATE-FLORIDA GAME IMPACT RECRUITING?
COACH STOOPS: It didn’t impact recruiting at Florida State Florida, it really didn’t. A lot of our guys were committed before that game, to be honest with you. I don’t know whether it will impact recruiting or not. I really don’t know. We have quite a few guys committed. I think they do too.
PLAYERS WERE SAYING THAT YOU GUYS WERE TOUGHER IN PRACTICE THIS WEEK. IS THAT THE PLAN THIS WEEK, TOO?
COACH STOOPS: Well, absolutely. It’s just accountability. We’re all accountable. That’s just it, not getting ahead of ourselves. We need to improve this week. We need to get better today. We need to watch the film, correct our mistakes from this past Saturday, and move on.
Again, get better. Get better with each rep, and making them more accountable to their actions.
NEAL BROWN SAID HE MAY HAVE BEEN TOO WORRIED ABOUT BOOSTING CONFIDENCE AND NOT MAKING THEM PLAY HARDER. IS THAT ONE OF THE THINGS YOU’RE LEARNING AS A COACHING STAFF? COACH STOOPS: Well, absolutely. I think it’s always easier to have a tougher week this week. They thought last week was tough. We’ll be more tough this week.
So it’s always better to be harder on them after a win. You know, and, again, I said that after week one. Somebody mentioned it to me that one of the kids said they were overconfident or whatnot. That’s just silly to me because we have such a long way to go.
But that’s where we’re at. You have to educate them on everything, and that’s your job to stay on them. Just again, just have them improve and understand the accountability that comes with it and the discipline that comes with it.
DID HAVING DEMARCO ROBINSON OUT HURT YOUR SPECIAL TEAMS? COACH STOOPS: It did.
HOW MUCH CAN YOU IMPROVE THE GAP AT THE RETURN POSITIONS?
COACH STOOPS: I think we need to improve a great deal, and I think we will. I think we will be very clear on our rules on the basics of when to field the ball and when not to. Of course, I fully anticipate getting a lot of that ironed out.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT KENTUCKY-LOUISVILLE RIVALRY:

COACH STOOPS: Obviously, just as a coach, growing up watching it, you know it was a rivalry, obviously, just from watching TV. So that would probably be the first time.
DID YOU KNOW CHARLIE STRONG?
COACH STOOPS: I’ve known Charlie for a while, yeah. I can’t recall the first time we crossed paths or whatnot, but just being defensive guys, and I have a lot of respect for Charlie and what he’s done and have known him for a while.
ON JON TOTH’S JOB AT THE CENTER POSITION:
COACH STOOPS: I thought he did a nice job. We were pleased. I told you after the game we made that decision last week, and we’re going to continue to go with that. I think he’s got an opportunity to grow in that position and take it over, be a good player for us.
HOW DID TRAVAUGHN PASCHAL DO AT LINEBACKER?
COACH STOOPS: He did a good job. He really did. He got rolled up, nothing major. He’ll be fine. We were pleased with him. We thought he did a nice job.

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL HAVE DEMARCO ROBINSON BACK THIS WEEK?

COACH STOOPS: I’m not sure yet. I really don’t know.

HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT YOUR SECONDARY NOW VERSUS A COUPLE WEEKS AGO?

COACH STOOPS: Big test this week, but I do feel like we’re getting better in the secondary. The guys are working much harder. You know, I think Cody (Quinn) will be back full speed this week, which will help. He was ready to go last week in an emergency situation. He was ready to go if we needed him.
I think he should be healthy and ready to go. That will help give us a little bit of depth. I think Nate (Willis) is getting his legs underneath him, starting to get in shape and playing better. So I think we’re improving there.
And Fred (Tiller), I think, has been working hard and technique wise and just being more aggressive and working harder to understand the game. I’ve been pleased, yeah.
TEACHING POINTS OUT OF SATURDAY’S WIN:
COACH STOOPS: The big thing is discipline. The pre-snap penalties, the foolish penalties after we make a play, obviously, we can’t afford. But just execution. We were still rough in our execution at times. So there’s plenty of things to improve on.
DO YOU THINK IT’S GOING TO TAKE BIG PLAYS TO BEAT THEM OR CONTROL THE POCKET AND TIME OF POSSESSION AND BEAT THEM THAT WAY:
COACH STOOPS: I think it’s going to take a complete game. They’re a very good team. They’re a top-10 team for a reason, and we’ll need to play good on all three sides to win these games. To beat quality teams, you have to play good in all areas. Yeah, I think that’s what it will take.
I think execution    and part of our offense is that. Execute, execute, and then get a big play. And the same thing defensively, we need to be much better than we were in week one, for instance, at the basics. You know, and then we have to have our change ups and all that, but we just have to be better at the basics of the game, and that’s position on the football, tackling, all the things we’ve talked about.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO TRY AND STEAL ONE OF THESE GAMES AWAY IN THIS BRUTAL STRETCH?
COACH STOOPS: Well, we really don’t look at it that way, but obviously, any win is important. Last week’s win was important. This is our next game, and that’s always our approach. It’s boring, but it is. It’s our next game, and that’s our approach. We’re going to approach it the exact same way we approach any other game.
We’re not going to look at this game any differently at all. We know it’s important. We will practice with that urgency. We will coach with that urgency. But it’s the next game up, and we’re looking to get better each and every day. So we need to have a good Monday to get us in position to get the week started.
THE PLAYERS SAID THEY DIDN’T THINK YOU WOULD TRY TO DOWNPLAY THE RIVALRY AS JUST ANOTHER GAME. WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY?
COACH STOOPS: Well, again, our players need to understand that every week is important, and we will be very systematic in our approach. But I’m never going to shy away from a big game and a rivalry, let’s put it that way. We know it’s important.
We’ve also learned from week one too, trying to get them hyped up and amped up maybe wasn’t the answer. We have to go about our business to prepare to win.
AS YOU WATCH TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, DOES HE REMIND YOU OF OTHER QUARTERBACKS YOU’VE PLAYED?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, that’s a great question.
Again, I don’t know. I hate to be quoted on that. He’s just    he’s darn good. He’s just a very good player. You just see a guy who’s very confident, like I said. I think you watch the games    and we watched the films, of course, and all that, but you could bring pressure, and he eludes it. He’s so fast and so patient. He doesn’t hurry anything.
He plays fast without being in a hurry, if that makes sense. He’s very cool, and he’s got a very live arm and he can make any throw. You could just see the confidence in him the more he’s played.
They’re a very veteran team, though. Again, I’ve talked about that in here, and I think he’ll tell you the same thing. They’re very good all around him, and they have a strong line. They have great backs. They have good wide receivers    I mean, great wide receivers. So they really are. They’re very talented across the board.
HOW DID YOU GUYS BECOME SO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE ON THIRD DOWN?
COACH STOOPS: It’s only two games, so we’ll see. We’ve been very good to places that I’ve been in the past on third down, and we need to continue to build our third down package. I think we’ll get better as we go.
IS IT BECAUSE YOU EMPHASIZE THIRD DOWN SO MUCH?
COACH STOOPS: I think it’s a big part of it. It’s a big part of it. You know, I went back at my last stop after year one and looked at the areas where I thought we could drastically improve, and I thought that was one.
It kind of gets into that same mentality of here it’s like, okay, you’ve got to teach them the basics and then be able to build on your package. That’s always the fine line, I think, early on in a program, how much can they take in and how fast and how well can they execute it?
Again, we can design hundreds of things. You’ve just got to be able to play. So that’s where the fine line comes in.
ALL OF THE TALK ABOUT LOUISVILLE’S OFFENSE, BUT THEY HAVE A GOOD DEFENSE. DO YOU KNOW THEIR COORDINATOR AT ALL?
COACH STOOPS: No. One thing that jumps out at you right away, they play very confident and very hard. Any defensive coordinator, that’s the biggest compliment you can give somebody. When they turn on the film and they see a bunch of guys running around playing hard and playing fast, that’s a compliment. That’s the biggest compliment I could give them is that they play hard, they play fast, they play confident.
They’re versatile. They’re much like I’ve been in that four down. They could get into some three down stuff. They could mix it up, and they don’t pressure a good bit. But they’re multiple.
VINCE BEDFORD, HE’S FROM FLORIDA AREA AS WELL. WHAT KIND OF INTERACTION HAVE YOU HAD?
COACH STOOPS: I really don’t know (Vince). I really don’t.
YOU KEEP TALKING ABOUT HOW WELL BALANCED LOUISVILLE IS. EKU SHUT DOWN RUN GAME AND THEY PROSPERED ANYWAY:
COACH STOOPS: I think some of that’s by choice. You’re loading up and picking your poison, doing some things that they could    some of those throws were like runs to them in alignments and how they were playing them. So believe me, they could run the ball when they want to.
Again, that’s football. That’s good coaching. From both sides, you’re always trying to be strategic in where and when and how you’re playing things. But it’s a simple numbers game to them a good bit. So you get numbers, and they’re throwing it, and they’re taking easy throws in the bubbles and just different things to complement their run game.
DO YOU HAVE TO PICK YOUR POISON?
COACH STOOPS: Well, they make it difficult because, again, going back to my original statement, as being a defensive coach for a long time and DC for a long time, anybody that can make you play with numbers, make you bring guys in the box, and they’re talented outside puts you in a problem, puts you in a bind, and I think they do a nice job with that.
HOW DID YOUR INTERIOR DEFENSIVE GUYS PLAY THIS WEEK?
COACH STOOPS: They played much better. They played much better. Again, I was proud of some things we saw Saturday that we didn’t have much practice at that just systematically we played right, and the guys were more disciplined, like we talked about going into the game.
ANY FEARS THEY MIGHT GO BACK TO THE WAY THEY WERE AGAINST WESTERN KENTUCKY BECAUSE IT’S A RIVALRY GAME:
COACH STOOPS: Yes.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT:
COACH STOOPS: Sure, I think there’s always that, but I think it was a valuable lesson. Again, we’re not anywhere near to where we need to be, but I think we made such improvement that our guys are conscientious enough, and that’s our job to coach them that way to get them to continue to build, to continue to move forward and doing their job.
But, yeah, I think there’s always a fear of some of that, but we’ll see. I think we’ll    you know, we’ll be looking for that and coaching for that all week to just, again, just prepare. All I ask them to do is prepare every day the best they can.
AFTER THE GAME SATURDAY, NEAL BROWN WAS SORT OF IMPLORING THE FANS TO FILL UP COMMONWEALTH THIS WEEK: COACH STOOPS: Well, of course. I would expect us to have a full house. I would anticipate there will be no tickets by the end of the week. Our fans have not disappointed us yet. So, sure, I’ll throw out a challenge to get them there. We need them there.
And then it’s our job to go deliver and play well. I think you’ll see us prepared to play a great game this week, and you’re going to see a team that’s excited about this opportunity.

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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