“Good victory, once again, going back to ULM. Proud of the guys. Obviously we’d like to start better. We gotta work on that and get off to a better start. A little flat, but give ULM credit. I thought they had some good schemes and played very well early. It was good to see our team have the ability to make big plays on both sides of the ball. So overall, good team victory. Really excited and looking forward to the great challenge of going to LSU this week. Typical LSU team, extremely physical, well‑coached team. We’ll have our hands full, but again, looking forward to it. It’ll be a great challenge and a great opportunity.
On dealing with fan noise on Saturday versus LSU and how it could affect the offense:
A: We’ll do what we do on the road. Same communication that we used in the Swamp (at Florida), you know. So of course, you know, each of these challenges going on the road in the SEC, it’s going to be loud and all that, so we gotta deal with it. We’ll be OK.
On how the linebackers responded Saturday:
A: We were better. We were much better. I really was proud of Khalid (Henderson). I thought he played his best game. He really improved. Josh (Forrest) played better against the run as well. Like I’ve said over and over, Josh does some things very well, but overall as a unit, they took great pride in trying to improve, and obviously that’s going to ‑‑ we’re going to need a great week of preparation this week, because it’s a different challenge this week. You know, they (LSU) run the ball extremely well. They’re extremely physical. You know, with the emergence of their freshman tailback, (Leonard) Fournette he’s a physical guy, and of course, Kenny Hilliard, their senior. They got some good backs. Very big, very physical. Their whole line does a great job, so we’ll have our hands full this week.
On needing to be physical against LSU:
A: We need to do a lot of things better. As a coaching staff (we have to) do a better job of putting them in position to be successful and so scheme-wise, we have to be good and on point. And we need to continue to play great technique up front and we’re going to need improved play from the linebackers and we’re going to need great support from our secondary as well. So it’s always team defense. You know, obviously starts up front with the technique of the D line and the linebackers. So it’s a combination of things that we’re ‑‑ you know, they keep you off balance. They know what they’re doing. They can run the ball a lot of different ways, and it’s not just about brute brawn. They’re big and physical, but they also know what they’re doing.
On UK winning games even though it hasn’t played its best and whether penalties are a concern:
A: Well, I think that’s part of it. You know, we’ve talked about it. We have not played our best. That is the good news. I think there’s an awful lot of room for improvement in all phases. We can coach better. Guys can play better. We can be more disciplined with penalties. So that’s what we’re looking to continue to get better and improve. So we’ll continue to work on that with penalties. When you have an aggressive team, there’s going to be some penalties, too. So we will work on that and continue to work on discipline, but we do want an aggressive team.
On Stanley “Boom” Williams:
A: Yeah. Boom, it was great to get him back again last week, he had a big impact. He’s explosive. You know, the kickoff return, getting him on the perimeter with some of those runs. He’s got the big‑play capability. So he definitely helps us and gives us that added dimension of a home‑run guy.
On running back Braylon Heard not getting a lot of carries:
A: No. Again, we had 59 touches and splitting it up. That’s the good news as we move forward here with a big, physical game coming up this week, we have a lot of backs that we have confidence in.
On whether safety A.J. Stamps is OK:
A: He’s fine. He’s been playing ‑‑ he’s been a little bit sore, but he’s been playing through it and he’ll be OK.
On Darrian Miller being injured:
A: Darrian will be fine as well. He could have gone back and played, but you know, once we were in control of things in the second half, we didn’t feel the need. And you know, so he should be healthy and ready to go.
On wanting guys to play with emotion, but keep emotions in check:
A: Yeah. Well, we just need to constantly preach being unselfish, and you know, I want aggressiveness. I want them enjoying it. We’re always toeing that fine line of letting the guys be who they are. I want them excited at practice. I want them excited in the games. But we can’t be selfish. We’re not good enough to overcome foolish penalties and all those things. So we’ve gotta continue to work on that, and it’s a situation this week where I’m going to self‑impose a penalty on one of our guys that’s going to miss the first half of this game for that very reason. So we just (have to) continue to grow.
On whether he wants to say who that player is:
A: Not really. (Laughter).
On Kentucky’s depth at running back:
A: Yeah. You know, it just depends who gets hot, and we feel ‑‑ each of those backs are a little bit different, and maybe it depends on what’s hitting and what style, whether it be the Wildcat, like we talked about or Braylon hitting the big crease or Boom getting on the perimeter and Mikel (Horton). Mikel is kind of the complete back as well. He’s a guy that has good vision for a big guy. Some of those yards don’t look real fancy, but really he’s got good vision and he’s a big, strong guy. Mikel is a guy that I think the more and more touches he gets is better and better as well. So we have a nice mixture.
On Marcus McWilson’s play:
A: Yeah. Marcus is growing. And I (have to) continue to lean on Marcus, and we’ve gotta continue to really push him, because he’s got great ability, and it’s just a matter of just really being disciplined in his preparation. He means well. He’s just gotta concentrate and be more precise in his practice habits, because he’s got some big‑play capability, and he’s a big, physical guy. And so we have to continue to work with him and continue to push him.
On whether Stoops talks regularly with former UK special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, now with LSU:
A: Yeah. He always sends texts, and we communicate back and forth throughout the year. Bradley Dale has been a close friend of mine for a long time, and we’ll continue to be. I don’t think we’ll talk much this week. Maybe he’ll send me over some crawfish to the hotel or something, but we talk throughout the year.
On whether he changes anything UK does as far as signaling, with Peveto on the opposite sideline:
A: We’re different ‑‑ we already have different signals this year.
On UK and LSU being similar teams with similar weaknesses:
A: I think any coach will tell you just look to improve in all areas. Again, talking about them, they’re just very physical. That’s what you expect when you play LSU. I’m sure Coach Miles prides himself on that, and they are. They’re big and physical up front, big strong backs. They’re inexperienced at certain positions, but very talented. They’re extremely talented in the secondary. You know, that’s something that I noticed right away in watching them. Just have great appreciation for the way they cover people. They’re big and long and athletic, and obviously very well coached with Coach Chavis (defensive coordinator John Chavis) being around forever, doing a great job. So they’re just good across the board. And that’s us, all we’re doing is do is improve in the areas like you talk about, maybe we’ve not been strong, we gotta continue to improve and that’s the good news is we’re just scratching the surface. I think we can be a much better football team.
On LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis and the characteristics of his defense:
A: Just well coached, always in position. Aggressive, but they’re in position. They’re not going to give you anything. You have to earn it. You have to beat them. And just a well‑coached team. And always play hard. That’s always a compliment to any coach with the attitude of your players.
On whether there are things a team can do to prepare for the hostile environment:
A: I really don’t think there is. Crowd noise is not going to simulate what it’s like down there at 7:30 kickoff. The good news is we’ve been to a hostile environment, and hopefully as I commented last week, I think we grew from that game, and hopefully we can take something away from it again, because if we execute and do what we’re capable of, you know, they can’t get down there and play. But I love the atmosphere. I’ve been down there before. They are passionate fans, and it’s a hostile environment, and that’s why we play. That’s why we coach. We want to continue to win games to put ourselves in position to play in big games. So this will be a great challenge.
On what went wrong offensively that led to slow start versus ULM:
A: Yeah. It was a variety of things just like we talked about before. It was always one guy. You know, that’s the good news because we talk about being flat and whatever. There’s no excuses. They performed better than we did. But it was one guy. It was a breakdown here or there, and those are things that we gotta get fixed.
On whether it’s a problem players saying they came out flat:
A: You’re always glad to get through with a victory. I said it in a press conference last week, I believe, but you can talk till you’re blue in the face. You can put all kind of examples in front of them. We try to prepare them the best we can, and hopefully they learn something from it. It’s not just emotion either. You don’t just turn emotion on on Saturday. It’s about the week, and I know I talk about that all the time, but it’s so true. They’ve gotta walk in our building today with a great attitude about them and a strong mindset to have a great week of preparation to put ourselves in position to win a game.
On how he’d evaluate his team at halfway mark in season:
A: Progress. We’re making progress. And I think there’s still a lot more in our tank. There’s a lot more we could do better.
On Kentucky’s return game:
A: No, I think we’ve been solid. I really do. I think we’ve been solid across the board on special teams and our return game. You know, we had a muff here and there of a punt return; that’s an individual decision that we got corrected. But overall I’m really proud of our team’s effort on special teams. I’ve gotten some comments and some compliments of the way our teams are playing, and special teams is a big indicator, because you have to be unselfish to play special teams, and they don’t get a lot of credit all the time, and I think our guys are playing very hard, and I think that’s a credit to Coach (Craig) Naivar, and he’s very passionate about what he does, and our players really love playing for him and they played very hard and they’ve been unselfish.
On Kentucky’s leadership:
A: I think the tone is set by our older guys. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they’re doing to try to change the culture in our locker room. They’ve really been good, and they’ve been a pleasure to coach. Our older guys have really kind of set the tone, and you know, are constantly working to continue to improve and be an unselfish team and a team that is doing the right things. We’re not perfect, but there’s a bunch of guys that are working extremely hard and doing a lot of good things.
On Bud Dupree providing leadership early in season even while his stats were suffering:
A: It’s a great example, because all the great players, they want to jump out right away and get all those statistics and everything. Everybody talks about them off-season and in the preseason and all those things, and that’s where you can get in trouble. And we had some circumstances where, not Bud, but certain people were trying to do too much, and it was hurting us. And everybody’s bought in trying to do their part. You have to be very unselfish to play D line, and I think we’re getting good D line play. No matter what the recognition they’re getting, they’re playing very hard and fundamentally getting better and better and Bud is starting to get his statistics. Z (Za’Darius Smith) is starting to get his stats but the bottom line is those guys want to help us win football games and obviously play good and improve their stock in the draft and things like that by just playing good football, and people recognize it. And they’re just doing good things and they’re getting better and better. And again, I think, you know, you need that type of unselfish play. The recognition and the plays will come if you play good.
On UK’s interceptions this season and players saying it was a frustration how few they had last season:
A: I think, as you’ve seen throughout the year, some of it has been great individual efforts. Some of it has just been good team defense. Some of it’s just been a fortunate break here and there. And you know, the harder you work, the luckier you become. I think our guys have really bought into that and we’re working hard to put ourselves in position, and you have to have great structure and great position on the football to make plays. And I think you’ve seen a variety of things, like I just said, some individual effort and some just good position on the ball with team defense.
On defensive backs breaking on the ball faster and taking more chances:
A: I think it’s a combination of things. I think our coaches have done a good job of working with them fundamentally getting better. I think a big part of it is understanding. You have to be mentally sharp to play this game, know where and how to take your chances, where your help is, just understanding the whole situation. And so a big part of it is technique, and a big part of it is mental, just like a lot of things.
On how Towles graded out in Louisiana Monroe game:
A: Patrick did some good things. I thought we took care of the football better in this game, outside of Jojo’s pass. So I thought Patrick really did some good things, and you know, maybe wasn’t flashy and all that, but really threw the ball well when he had to and really had some good throws. We were off a little bit at times, too, whether it be a receiver or high throw here or there, so we weren’t perfect, but he did some good things.
On Towles’ decision-making:
A: Yeah, I liked his decisions, yeah.
On Jojo Kemp’s pass:
A: Gotta keep them honest. (laughter) We’re working two or three more this week.
On Patrick Towles being a game manager:
A: Well, I think if you’re going to play quarterback, you better embrace that tag because there’s times when, you know, they may be covering you. You may call for more runs. You gotta protect the football and play defense. Game changes all the time. It very rarely goes according to script. But with that being said, I think Neal’s done a nice job, and certainly I try to, of instilling a bunch of confidence in him. We believe in his ability and we want him to go out there and throw, and there’s going to be moments when he’s gotta go win us a game, too. It goes with the territory of playing quarterback.
On whether Towles likes or dislikes the ‘game manager’ label:
A: I don’t know. I don’t know what he thinks about that. I’m not going to ask him. I know he’s going to have to throw the ball well for us to win some games. And this week it’s not going to be easy, and he has to be more than a manager in this game. His talent has to show and he’s gotta play confident and he’s gotta throw the ball and he’s gotta play aggressive.
On Boom Williams owning up to his mistake:
A: Yeah, I did not pay attention to what he said. I didn’t see it or hear it. Sorry to offend you guys like that, but I can’t ‑‑ (laughter). I can’t read the good stuff because I know you’re going to get me when it goes bad. Believe me. So I don’t. But I do want him to own up to his mistakes, and that’s what we try to do. Again, we’re far from perfect, but we’re going to hold guys accountable. We did some things amongst the team that holds that accountability at a pretty high level where they had to address the team and talk to the team and not just, hey, I’m sorry or any of that. They came into a team meeting and sat and addressed it with their teammates. So I think, how they are dealt with by their peers is as strong as anything. And we’re trying to teach them some lessons. They’re good kids that made a mistake and I’m glad we’ve put it behind us now and hopefully we’ll learn from it.
On team talking about being able to call each other out now without hurt feelings:
A: Well, there’s no place to hide. There’s accountability at a high level, and we’ve gotta continue to push that higher and higher and that’s what we’re preaching more. We want more, whether it be more effort, more accountability. You know, and players’ self-awareness, too. The players gotta understand they can’t be naive, and that’s what helps with some of the things we’re doing, whether it be peer evaluations and different things. We don’t want to create a culture where they can hide anywhere.
On Stoops managing his emotions on the sidelines and how he does that:
A: Yeah, and again, you know, there’s a balance there. There’s a fine line. We want to be intense, and you know, play with great emotion and great passion, but we have to keep that in control. You know, I’m certainly not perfect in that area. I told you, I think it was after the South Carolina game, (Jordan) Swindle, he said, “Coach, you got too much juice’ (laughter), which means calm down. So we always tease each other about having good energy and having good juice in practice. He told me, smiled at me during the game and said, “coach, too much juice” (laughter). But I think there’s a balance for all of us, and that’s the great thing about sports and that’s the great thing about college football. You gotta go out there and play, and there’s times to be poised and there’s time to be enthusiastic and energetic and all that. You gotta have great emotion and great passion or we’re going to have a difficult time winning some games in this league.
On the closest he’s come to losing emotions on UK sidelines:
A: I’ve been pretty good. I do make a conscious effort to make sure things are in control, and again, I think your team is a reflection of you as well. So there’s times to be passionate and there’s times to be calm, and I’m by no means perfect at any of those, just I am who I am. I think you all know that by now. I really can’t be any other way.
On if he has a get-back coach to keep him off field/officials:
A: Yeah. We got some stories about that. (Laughter). Coach (Corey) Edmond and I go way back, back to Arizona. And he had that job at Arizona, and he will not do that here. He’s done with that (laughter). So we got some other guys.
On players like Swindle feeling comfortable calling him out:
A: Yeah. We have an open relationship. I think there’s great respect amongst the coaching staff and the team, and we’re all in this together, and so I think we have ‑‑ we have a good bond in our locker room and within our program right now.
On whether it’s a challenge to manage the juice in a big game:
A: It is. It always is. Like we talked about last week is if we want the opportunity to play in big games, then you gotta take care of your business, and last week taking care of that business to move on and play in a big game like this one. So for me getting them excited to play this game shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
On how leadership program has helped UK get through difficulties off field recently:
A: It’s helped a bunch. I think it’s helped us all give us some structure and how we manage this situation and communicate about it and hold accountability to all of us in the program.
On UK-Mississippi State being showcase game on CBS and what that means for program:
A: You know, that’s great. Obviously I’m not going to get ahead of myself. But every time you win in this league, you’re going to put yourself in position for a bigger game. So I think it’s a compliment to our team what we’ve done to this point, and every game gets bigger and we have a huge one at LSU this week, and that’s what’s on our mind.
On the balance in Southeastern Conference:
A: I believe so. We’ve commented on it a little bit through some of these press conferences through the year, and I’ve mentioned it before. You don’t see anybody backing up in this league, and I know quite a few of the coaches in this league and their staffs and the commitment from a lot of people. So nobody’s going back, and I believe it does give you a little bit more parity.
On discussing Kentucky’s turnaround with other coaches:
A: We’re all busy and different things. Just congratulations here and there and texts. You know, so we have some ‑‑ I have some friends throughout the conference, like most people. Like a lot of people in this business, just like Coach Peve and all the other guys.
On the best compliment he’s been given about how his team is doing:
A: I don’t want to get into too much, but the bottom line is just about the attitude and how hard we’re playing. You know, if it’s a group that plays hard, then that’s a compliment to me, so they’ve gotta be passionate and hungry and playing hard.
On Javess Blue’s one-handed catch:
A: It was beautiful at the time, you know. I loved it. It was great to see guys make individual efforts. I think as a team it’s well documented, we’re trying to do things necessary to improve, but you gotta have some individual players that make those great plays and that was great to see.
On if he knows Les Miles:
A: I know Les just from the years of coaching. Not on a personal level. I really like him. I think he’s fun to watch. You gotta give him credit. Boy, he wins a lot of close games. And he’s obviously doing something right, and I think, again, going back to the things I just talked about the best compliment you get is your team is tough. They’re always tough and physical and that’s a direct reflection of him.
On difficulties of coaching against someone who goes off script as often as Miles:
A: I don’t know. I don’t know why, but he wins close games, and obviously his team’s belief in him and what they’re doing, because they’re never out of it.