UK’S coordinators after South Carolina loss

NEAL BROWN
“I thought the positives: third and fourth downs. We were 7 of 13 (combined) and had one called back by penalty. Didn’t turn the ball over. We were better on first down, too. I talk to you guys all the time about that. Finished the game well, 4 for 4 in the red zone. Things that we’ve gotta get better at: The negative plays really hurt us. We can’t overcome those big negative plays. Thought we had two huge plays that killed drives. I think it was the first drive of the first half, we got that illegal formation; I’ll have to see that one to believe it. And then the first drive of the second half, on that second-and-8 or something like that, we had the huge negative play on a quick game, which was just – by our left guard – very, very poor technique that set us back. But (only) two three-and-outs, and I thought those both were self-inflicted.”

ON STICKING WITH A QB: “Yeah, well, we needed to let him play. We needed to let him play. I thought he got better as the game went. Obviously, I think he had two really bad-looking passes. Other than that, he gave guys opportunities. I thought we had maybe one ball that should’ve been caught that was dropped. So I think that (would’ve been) 18 for 24, which is pretty good. We had a couple shots down the field; we need to do more of that. But felt like he gave us the best chance versus a good defensive team. Obviously they didn’t have their best player (DE Jadeveon Clowney), but those guys are still really good up front, even without Clowney. They’re good up front.”

ON THE UGLY WHITLOW THROWS, WHAT HAPPENS: “Well, I think he’s in too big a hurry. You know what I mean? We move the pocket, which he should be good moving the pocket, and he gets in too big a rush and his feet get really close together. Those both should be easy completions, and he’ll get better at that.”

ON HOW MUCH WHITLOW NEEDED A GAME LIKE THIS: “He needs it. Yeah, he needs it. He needs to play and get better, you know? He needs to practice (well). He practiced very poorly on Tuesday, bounced back and was better the rest of the week. But he’s gotta practice. He gives us a chance, because he can make plays with his feet. By no means was he perfect tonight – you all watched the game – but he got better. This was a positive step against one of the top teams in the country here at their place, in a great atmosphere.”

ON SEEING YOUNG GUYS STEP UP IN THEIR FIRST SEC ROAD GAME: “Yeah, I didn’t think they flinched, and that’s the encouraging thing. By no means, we don’t have moral victories in our program. I’m sure Mark said that. I’m not sitting here happy, at all. I’m happy about how our guys competed. I’m not happy that we didn’t win the game. Because I feel like those two drives I’m talking about, the one with the formation penalty and the one where we gave up the sack – I mean, that should never happen. That was pitiful technique on a quick-game play that’s catch and throw. That should never happen. So we have those two self-inflicted wounds and (otherwise) I really feel like we’re in control. I felt like if we had another chance, I felt like our guys were in rhythm and we could go down and tie the football game.”

ON HOW YOU BUILD ON THIS: “Well, we came on the road and played in one of the best environments in college football. Our young guys did not flinch, which I didn’t think they would. They did not flinch. We came on the road, hostile environment, and we’ve got a chance to win the game. Late in the fourth quarter, we had a chance to win the football game. That’s what you build off of. You show them those negative plays that happened and you show them, ‘Hey, if we make this play, this is a different game.’

“Because here we are, we had 60 plays and if those two plays that I told you about – two critical mistakes – we’re up in maybe the 70-75 (range) and it’s a whole different game. Because that’s maybe a drive that they don’t get on offense. So you build off of it. Obviously we’ve got a tough – best team in the country that’s coming in our house next week, but we’ve got to build off of it. We’ve gotta keep getting better. I keep telling you guys, I keep telling our fans: We are getting better. And I think that showed tonight. We are getting better, all right, and we’ve just gotta continue to do that.”

ON THE DIRECT SNAPS TO RUNNING BACK PLAYS. WAS THAT A SOUTH CAROLINA SPECIFIC PLAY? “No. We just needed to add it. We needed to add it. I’d kind of been depending on Jalen to do that and I felt like our running backs are better between the tackles. You know we were one of the best third-down teams in the country last year at Texas Tech — I know everybody will get after me a little bit on that — but we were one of the best third-down teams in the country last year at Texas Tech and we used the Wildcat effectively and I felt like we just needed to bring that. It’s a more natural fit on some short yardage for the running backs.”

ON FOURTH DOWN PLAYS: “I really felt good about our plan coming in. Our guys’ confidence really started showing in the fourth quarter and it’s all about that. We can definitely build on that. And then we executed. I talk about that all the time: In critical situations  — and we did a couple of things different in practice this week where we really emphasized critical downs, you know third and fourth downs. I think that helped us also.”

DID YOUR PLAN CHANGE WITH NO JADAVEON CLOWNEY IN THE GAME: “Umm. I just was less .. That’s a good question. I knew he wasn’t in, where if he’d played, I’d have been very, I’m trying to … I would’ve been very aware of where he was on the field. But it’s like this, too. I think Clowney’s phenomenal, obviously will probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft. But those other kids, Chaz Sutton. If Clowney wasn’t on this team, everybody would be talking about Chaz Sutton going in to play this game. The No. 5 kid (Darius English) was really long, think he got a hand on the ball that affected us on a third down also. They’re really heavy inside and they run a lot of guys in there. They were able to stay fresh. That’s why, on those two crucial plays I’m talking about, if they don’t happen, we’re able to get those guys a little bit tight.”

DID JALEN WHITLOW PLAY WELL ENOUGH TO GIVE HIM THE BULK OF REPS THIS WEEK IN PRACTICE? “I don’t know. I’ve got to watch. I think it’ll be ongoing. He’ll probably, he got probably 70-75 percent of the reps, something like that in practice. I think we talked about it on Wednesday. So we’ll watch the film and see. Maxwell’s still a viable option. He throws the ball well. He was phenomenal on the sidelines today. He gave me some good ideas just from watching. And I think he’ll still continue to get some reps, be ready to go when called upon.”

ON JOJO KEMP GETTING MORE REPS, WHAT HE SAW: “I think his production was OK. I thought there was some runs where he could get north and south. I don’t think he was in awe, though. That kid’s not going to back down from anything. I think y’all can tell that just from the brief encounters you have with him when he talks to the media. But he’ll learn from it. He’ll get better. I thought Ray (Sanders) did some good things tonight.”

ON TIGHT END USAGE, NEW WRINKLE? “Yeah, I thought they’d been playing well. Jordan Aumiller had been playing well and I thought it was important — and he was a captain tonight for the game, too — thought it was important. We’d been using him in some run situations, thought we could use him to catch some passes, kind of keep the defense off balance a little bit.”

IF YOU DO SETTLE ON ONE QUARTERBACK, WILL OFFENSE IMPROVE FROM THE CONTINUITY: “We’re playing Alabama next week. So I don’t know about exponentially. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I think the quarterback will get better. We may function better, but it’s hard to say.”

D.J. ELIOT
WHAT CHANGED IN SECOND HALF: “We made a few adjustments. He’s a good coach and he did some things that were really tough in the first half. We made a few adjustments to try to help there. But most importantly I think the kids came out and just fought their tail off the second half.”

WAS THERE ANY MEASURE OF ‘WE TRIED TO TELL YOU THIS’ AT HALFTIME: “We told ‘em at halftime, ‘We told you all week they’re gonna come at you fast, but we got to buckle down and now we got to play in this second half.”

ON HOW JASON HATCHER PLAYED: “He did some good things. Yeah, Jason did some good things at some times. But he’s a young player, so he still makes some mistakes that young players make. But he’s getting better every week.”

WHAT IT FELT LIKE TO BE IN THAT THIRD-DOWN SITUATION WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE: “Fortunately for me, this is the only job I’ve ever had. So I’ve had a lot of games and a lot of situations. But at that point right there, it was make it or break it, and we were so close to going the other way.”

IF HE THOUGHT THEY HAD A CHANCE TO MAKE A PLAY ON THIRD DOWN: “We had a chance, yep. We had a chance to make it. There’s plenty of opportunities there laying on the field to be made. It wasn’t just that one play. There was plenty of opportunities that were laying on the field to be made that if we would’ve made ‘em, then the game would’ve gone a different way.”

ON IF THE TEAM IS TAKING SOME CONFIDENCE EVEN OUT OF A 1-4 START: “We try to just coach and play one play at a time and not look at the outcome. As Coach Stoops always harps on, we’re focusing on the project. I think the players, if they continue to have that approach, getting better one play at a time, even throughout a game, then we’re gonna get better.”

ON GOOD TEAMS GETTING HIT IN THE MOUTH AND BATTLING BACK LIKE UK DID:  “I believe so. I think the guys, they came back and fought their butt off the second half, which is what we needed them to do. We didn’t play good enough to win and there was plenty of things on defense that we didn’t play well, we didn’t coach well, we just wasn’t good overall to win. But I am encouraged with their effort.”

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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