“Disappointed. Disappointed with the loss. I was proud of our guys’ effort. I felt like we fought, played tough at times, had our opportunities. Disappointed that we didn’t make the plays when we needed to. Give credit to Louisville. They made the plays when they needed to. So that’s where we’re at. We’re going to continue to fight and get better. I thought we made some improvement in certain areas and we need to keep on working and keep on grinding.”
Q. Was it a little shocking to come out and play that well on defense, maybe think it’s going to give you a chance to hang around, the offense can’t make a play?
COACH STOOPS: I was proud of the stops. I felt like we had a good plan. I felt like our guys were starting to play more aggressive, make them earn their yards. Had a few wrinkles here and there.
But overall, yeah, I was happy with the effort. It was disappointing that we had a couple turnovers. We had the ball down there even at the end of the first half. We had our opportunities. We needed to score. Going into that game, you know you’re going to need to score some points.
Q. Maxwell Smith’s status?
COACH STOOPS: I’m not sure of Max’s status right now. He got banged up. Banged up his shoulder. We’ll see where it’s at.
Q. Can you talk about what you did with your defensive line?
COACH STOOPS: We just wanted to mix things up a little bit, get a little bigger, have some different looks, get Jason (Hatcher) on the field.
I said it all week, that they could run the ball when they wanted to. Late in the game, they ran it on us.
But, yeah, it was just a different look, different defense. Gave us a chance. I thought it gave us some stops early.
Q. How tough was it for the defense not to get much rest?
COACH STOOPS: I think it did hurt us a little bit. It’s always like that. We understand that. Sometimes it’s going to go your way that way, where the offense is going to have long drives, kill some clock. Sometimes it’s not.
That obviously didn’t work in our favor today.
Q. How do you feel about the first two drives in the second half?
COACH STOOPS: We talked about that. We knew they were in there talking about coming out strong in the second half. We were talking about coming out strong in the second half.
I thought they moved it on us. They ran it a little bit. We had some mistakes that are correctable, again, that we just need to keep on working. There were some things that we could do better and we will.
Q. How would you evaluate Jalen Whitlow?
COACH STOOPS: Jalen did some good things and obviously made some critical errors. He’s not unlike a lot of our players. It’s hard to swallow when you’re the quarterback and he’s very visible. He can’t afford to make those mistakes. We need to get that corrected.
I thought he did some good things. He stepped up. We had to go with him for a good portion of the game. He gave us a chance. Again, we got to play better around him, as well.
Q. Reese Phillips was warming up a little bit.
COACH STOOPS: We were into the next guy. If he got banged up, we would have had to go to the next guy.
Q. What would have been the preference there if Max was out?
COACH STOOPS: We would have went with Patrick (Towles).
Q. Some of the drops by your receivers, youthful mistakes, inexperience?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it was disappointing. Those are drive killers. There were some shots in there early, even a screen, I forget who dropped it, but we had a screen. That was a big play at a critical time.
The next thing you know, instead of hitting that you’re third‑and‑10. That’s not good against a very good team. You can’t do that. That’s what we talk about. Neal (Brown) has talked about that. It’s so true.
Until we start making the routine plays, we’re going to have a hard time beating a top‑10 team. But had we made routine plays, then we have a chance, better chance than the way it turned out.
Q. Do you feel like you did a good job of containing the quarterback?
COACH STOOPS: I thought we did a nice job. He’s very hard to contain the whole game, as you know. I mean, that’s why he’s a Heisman contender.
We did have some stops early. You saw it. We did have an opportunity. We got some pressure. We had some different looks. We had a ball hit us in the chest.
For the quality of player that he is, I thought it was good to get some stops. Then you just got to hang in there and you got to finish.
Q. What are you seeing on third downs?
COACH STOOPS: Just a lot of things. Poor decisions, time, not manageable third downs. We were fighting it most of the day, whether it be behind the chains early, then late in the game having to score and things like that.
It’s a lot of things that we need to get cleaned up on our third downs.
Q. Six guys dropping passes. You said it had gotten better. Have you been seeing that in practice?
COACH STOOPS: No. It has not been that bad. We just got to keep on working. I mean, unless Coach Brown and Coach Marrow can go out there, we got to keep on working.
I believe in our players. They’ll get better. We’ve got to continue to fight. They can do it. Again, that’s something that we’ve got to do, we’ve got to make routine plays.
That goes back to the third‑down question. He can’t drop second‑down plays and get third‑and‑longs all the time. We wouldn’t have had so many third‑down plays had we made plays on second down.
Q. On defensive line
COACH STOOPS: We’re not as deep as we’d like to be. That’s a fact. In the second half they rushed it a little better than they had been. I’m sure not having Donte (Rumph) is a factor. I haven’t seen the tape yet.
Q. On Jojo Kemp
COACH STOOPS: Jojo has got to see more time. He does. He’s good. He’s been coming along. We have to continue to bring him along.
Q. On play of Jason Hatcher
COACH STOOPS: Jason is going to continue to play as well. We love Jason. He’s going to be a very good player. He’s a young guy. He’s out there. He went through some growing pains a little bit. He did some very good things, but he did some things that he’ll get better at.
Q. On Louisville’s balances offensively
COACH STOOPS: We talked about that all week. That’s a big part of it. You could see the big play receivers that they have that can make plays. So when they get the run game going, then the play‑action off it, it’s very hard.
Q. Defense improvement from first game until now
COACH STOOPS: We made some steps. Like I told the team, we’re never going to accept losing and all that. I could give that whole same speech and everything like that.
It’s hard for me to say that. When you look at it, it’s all said and done, there were probably a bunch of yards in there. But we had a bunch of stops against a very good team. I think there were five or six stops against a very good team.
We have to continue to fight, finish, learn how to win, make plays when the game’s on the line, so…
Q. On Cody Quinn’s return
COACH STOOPS: I thought he did some nice things. He made a nice play down there. We left him man‑to‑man down there at the end against a very quality receiver. He made a nice play.
That’s the bind you’re in sometimes. Hey, let’s go. We got to tighten up, play man coverage. He made the play on third down that gave us a shot.
Q. Was experience showing in some of these games when Javess Blue’s able to make plays?
COACH STOOPS: He’s a big‑play guy. Again, I think he’s getting better and better. He’s so new here, he missed all summer. He’s getting better. He’s definitely got the skills that we’re looking for.
Q. How much further do you think you are from the opening game?
COACH STOOPS: I think we’re quite a bit better. I do. I think we’re better. Same thing I told them. If we continue to do that, just go to work, just get better, next week is a bye week, we’ll watch the film, clean things up on Monday. We’ll practice hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get better.
They’ll be off for the weekend to heal up. Only long break they’ll have. We got to get better. Next Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we got to get better. I believe they will. We’re going to continue to make strides and move in the right direction.
Q. Do you feel this bye week comes at a right time knowing you have Alabama, Florida, South Carolina in the next three weeks?
COACH STOOPS: I guess so. I think we’re a little banged up. I think most teams in the country are. It would be nice to be at full strength during that stretch.
Q. Seemed like a lot went wrong in the offense in the second quarter.
COACH STOOPS: Sure. I may get knocked for saying it, but I think it’s fair to say. Honestly, I think we’re getting better, I do. We have a ways to go. We’re going to continue to fight.
That’s what I told them. We’re going to hit the reality of this situation head on. That’s what it is. We need to learn how to make plays when the game’s on the line. We need to learn how to make stops.
I don’t care how many stops you need to make, you got to make them. You need to learn to catch, secure the football, all the things necessary to play good football. We’re going to continue to work at it.
I’m not discouraged, but obviously disappointed with the loss. I’m not discouraged with these players, their attitude, their work ethic. We just got to keep on getting better.
Q. On that fumble hand off
COACH STOOPS: I couldn’t even tell you, to be totally honest with you. I didn’t see it or listen to it. I don’t know.