By LARRY VAUGHT
On Kentucky’s fourth play of the season, the Wildcats had a punt partially blocked by Southern Mississippi. Certainly not a great start for special teams, but coach Mark Stoops said Monday that even though UK lost 45-34, the special teams play was fine.
“I thought our special teams were exceptional outside of – the real critical one obviously is the blocked punt. Luckily it just got tipped and we got some roll out of that,” Stoops said. “You look at hidden yardage, we won in a big way on special teams. So, our coverage units were outstanding.
“We need to punt the ball better. So, there was really one issue that you have to watch, and that’s a simple adjustment of being more firm with the guy inside on the one that got tipped. Outside of that, I thought they were exceptional really.”
What about kickoff and punt coverage and returns?
“Our cover units were as good as they’ve been. When you look at our kickoff return versus the kickoff and vice versa, you look at the hidden yardage on that, we had big returns and a chance for big ones. We’ve got to clean up some things because we missed a couple opportunities to hit some big ones in our kickoff return, and I felt that going into the game. I felt that we’d have a good chance to really hit some possible home runs there. We had some really good returns and really good starting field position. But we just need to clean some things up and we’ll get some more out of that,” Stoops said.
“And our kickoff coverage unit was outstanding. Again, I’ve told you this for two years – and I understand it when you talk about special teams – when you get a good kick our guys are humping it down there. They were busting it down the field, and we got really good kicks out of Austin (MacGinnis). And our coverage unit were really hustling and flying down there and playing physical. We had some great kickoff covers.
“Can punt the ball a little bit better. We’ll be better. And if you look at the other side of that, we had one opportunity for a (punt) return and we had some really good things. We got beat outside by one guy, made us fair catch it. The other two were really non-returnable. They made great punts. So, we got a chance on the punt return too. We had some guys really fundamentally doing some really good things inside and got it all blocked up. We’ve got to get the outside secured, so we can get started. So, I was really pleased.”