By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says there is no division on his team even though the defense has outplayed the offense the past few games.
“We’re a team, and I thought the offense played extremely hard (at Vanderbilt). If they didn’t, I’d be very upset,” said Stoops Monday. “I thought we played very hard. On either side of the ball, and in special teams, we’re not always the smartest and we don’t always execute everything perfectly, but I thought for a team effort, that was as good an effort and the attitude was right and the fight was right, and that’s something that I’m proud of and happy to see.
“I think you’re starting to see more accountability on this team as guys understand us and start understanding that whether it’s off the field or little things, it all matters, and I think we’re starting to get some leadership. We need more, more accountability with everything that we’re doing.”
Kentucky plays at Georgia Saturday and needs a win then or in the final game against Tennessee to avoid duplicating last year’s 2-10 finish in Stoops’ first season as UK’s head coach. Yet Stoops insists he is not discouraged.
“I just looked last week, and I thought, again, under some tough circumstances with the wins and losses not going the way we want it to be, I thought our preparation was right and I thought our attitude was right and I thought our fight was right,” Stoops said. “As a coach you always look to do things better. You always look to execute better.
“We could all call plays better sometimes, myself included, and decisions and all those things. You try to do the best you can. But at the end of the day, I’ve got to look at how we’re doing things and are we moving forward and are we getting better and is the attitude right, and again, I thought last week was as good as we’ve played all year with that mentality, a toughness and a desire and a hunger across the board to go out and win.”
Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari noted after Sunday’s win how freshman Marcus Lee went the wrong way on the opening play after UK had practiced that same play seven straight times earlier in the day. Stoops understands that feeling.
“It comes down to habit. Under extreme pressure your habits come straight to the surface, and a lot of coaches have said that, and it’s very true, and that’s why you constantly try to do things right over and over and over again. Then when it’s just a habit you automatically do the right thing,” Stoops said.
“I don’t need to speak for coach Cal, but he’s playing with young guys, and I’m sure he’ll get it straight. But that’s why we do it over and over and over again. That comes to find balance all the time with what are we doing, how much are you doing on offense and defense and special teams and how much can you handle and how much can you execute for us, because there’s so much that goes into it that way.
“And I do feel like things are coming together. Again, go back to defensively, I’m very happy with the way we’ve progressed through the year and being very multiple and doing different things, and some guys stepping up, and the attitude is playing better.
“Offensively the same way. Believe me, (offensive coordinator) Neal (Brown) and the offensive coaches and players are very frustrated, but they play extremely hard. There’s good plays set up. We’ve got to make plays. They’re there. If you look at the last game, just look at that. They made some plays and we didn’t. Give them credit. They did it, and we need to learn how to do that.”