Most Recent Posts
- Receiver Jeff Badet has broken fibula, receiver A.J. Legree “gonna quit and go play somewhere else”
- Jojo Kemp: “I’m trying to make this like high school again”
- Alex Poythress to return to Kentucky for junior season
- Jordan Swindle improving, becoming leader going against “freak” Bud Dupree in practice
- Julius Randle knew he had to sacrifice just like others for Kentucky to succeed
- Dakari Johnson appreciated the way Kentucky fans “stuck with us”
- Neal Brown would like one running back to emerge, but okay with running back by committee
- Julius Randle “can’t speak” on what Harrisons will do, but expects UK to have “amazing team” again
By LARRY VAUGHT
When Neal Brown was offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, he went against Missouri twice and knows what Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel can do with his personnel in Saturday’s game here.
“We had two really competitive games against those guys. I think when you talk about Missouri, everybody thinks about their offense because they’ve been so good going back to (quarterback) Chase Daniels. And they still are. I’m aware they’re very good on offense and that goes into my train of thought as I get our game plan together, too. But they’ve been very good on defense, too,” said Brown.
“They’ve had as many good defensive linemen in the last five-seven years as anybody in the country. The first thing that jumps off the film when you’re watching Missouri is their defensive line. They go two or three deep at each position. They can really run. They have the fastest D-line that we’ve played and they play super hard and they chase the ball probably better than anybody we’ve played and their Mike linebacker, 48, his name’s escaping me right now (Andrew Wilson), he gets a lot of tackles.
“Those inside guys do a good job of keeping the linemen off him and he does a good job making tackles. The secondary guys, a lot of them are the same that we played against. They’ve gotten a lot better.”
Brown said Missouri is also “doing some different things” because of their defensive line depth compared to when Brown faced the Tigers at Texas Tech.
Brown hopes sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow can settle down and make better throws and decisions.
“I think he rushes, and his base gets real narrow. He’s got to train his mind to really focus on it all the time. I think it’s — I don’t know if experience is the right word. I think it may be a lack of reps, you know what I mean? He needs repetitions where he was hurt a little bit and where he had to split some time when we were trying on doing the quarterback competition, I think that’s part of it,” Brown said.
The offensive coordinator said Whitlow played better against Alabama State in last week’s 48-14 win than he originally thought because he focused on the “four or five really bad throws” and not the good throws he did make.
“I was really encouraged after watching the film because he threw the ball well, especially downfield which is something he hadn’t done a whole lot of. Some of those underneath throws, we can get that fixed,” Brown said.
With Alex Montgomery (knee) out for the season and Ryan Timmons (ankle) likely out for Saturday, Brown said older receivers like Demarco Robinson and A.J. Legree need to “step up and produce” against No. 9 Missouri. He said tight ends Anthony Kendrick and Steven Borden both could play some at Montgomery’s spot to provide depth.
Both Legree, a sophomore, and Daryl Collins, a junior, have played sparingly this year but will get their chance to play more Saturday.
“Legree’s picking it up. He made a great play in the game on Saturday night. He took the ball, really took it away from the Alabama State defender. He’s practicing a lot better. His confidence really grew on how he performed on special teams. He’s really done some nice things for us on special teams and gained some confidence and he’s brought that to offense,” Brown said.
“And Collins, he just hasn’t been productive with the snaps he’s had earlier in the year. He’s obviously, he’s got increased reps this week and if he continue to produce then he’ll get in there and have a chance to play on Saturday. I think he’s got some skills. He’s got to be focused every day. He’s got to take advantage of opportunities, but I definitely think he’s got some skills. I think he runs pretty well. He’s a solid built kid. I think there’s no reason why he can’t help us.”
Brown said he does not want to use true freshman quarterback Reese Phillips this year to void his redshirt season unless it is absolutely necessary. Maxwell Smith, a former starter, continues to be Whitlow’s backup.
“You always take the player, Reese’s, situation into account but as part of the whole unit, the whole football team. If it was a situation where he was going to be the guy, I think it’s still a viable option for him to play,” Brown said. “If it’s a situation where maybe it’s just to finish a game or do something like that — and it’s coach (Mark) Stoops’ decision — I think we would be cautious and try to keep his redshirt on him. In a perfect world we’d love to keep him redshirted. We’ve redshirted him this long. We’d like to keep Jalen healthy and go with him for the rest of the year.”
He also said that sophomore running back Dyshawn Mobley, who Stoops joked needed to get the ball more or he would put him on defense because of his stellar special teams play, would play a “key role” against Missouri.
“He’s gotten more opportunities the last two weeks. It took him awhile to kind of figure out his role and to really get a good feel of what we’re trying to do in this offense. I think he has that now, and he gives us a different running style. He’s a physical, downhill runner,” Brown said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said “it doesn’t look good” for freshman receiver Ryan Timmons playing Saturday against No. 9 Missouri.
“ Looks like he’s got an ankle sprain. Unless he makes a drastic improvement here in the next day or so it doesn’t look like he’ll be able to go,” said Stoops Wednesday on the Southeastern Conference coaches teleconference. “It definitely changes us. He’s a guy that we’ve featured and tried to find ways to give him the football. We have to have some other guys step up.”
Timmons is UK’s second leading receiver and one of Kentucky’s fastest players. He hurt his ankle in last week’s 48-14 win over Alabama State in the second half just a few plays before he was going to come out of the game.
Stoops did confirm that receiver Javess Blue — who didn’t play last week after getting hit in the eye with a football during pregame warmups — “should be fine” for Saturday.
“(Blue) is fresh with sitting out last week. So Javess is good,” Stoops said.
Freshman receiver Alex Montgomery is out for the season after injuring his knee celebrating a touchdown catch last week. But Stoops said junior Demarco Robinson is improving as is sophomore A.J. Legree.
“Jeff Badet had a very good game last week with another freshman stepping up and improving. Our other guys are starting to come along. Demarco is as healthy as he’s been in a while. So it’s good to get him out there and get him going. A. J. is starting to improve. So we just need some other guys to step up (at receiver),” Stoops said.
The coach said junior Daryl Collins, who has played sparingly, is also “working a little bit” more at receiver this week.
Kentucky will face another top 10 team in Missouri, one that Stoops says has no glaring weakness.
“Missouri’s a very good football team, very well-coached. Good in all areas of the game. Their offense has been outstanding and very balanced with the run and the passing,” Stoops said. “I think they’re a very physical team. Their o-line is playing extremely well, and of course we know about the quarterbacks and their big wide receivers, so we’ll have our hands full. Defensively, they’ve been extremely aggressive playing very good football. The thing that jumps out at me is how hard they’ve been playing and how passionate they seem to be playing and flying to the football.”
Stoops again said it didn’t change preparation if quarterback James Franklin, out three games with a shoulder injury, came back this week or if redshirt freshman Maty Mauk continued to play quarterback.
“It’s a great testament to their team and the depth that coach has built there. You see these guys, and you see their maturity. I think you look at them last year and look at them this year and you see the maturity and really the health of their offensive line,” Stoops said. “Their wide receivers are big and strong.
“I don’t think it really matters what quarterback’s in there. You watch both of them, and they’re both very impressive. Maty Mauk’s done a very good job in leading their offense, and you really don’t see much drop off. I think earlier in the year when you watched James, you see a very talented quarterback and a guy that’s very comfortable back there and the poise the he has, just the experience. But with getting all these games under his belt for Maty Mauk, I think I’m sure he’s getting more and more comfortable each time he’s back there.”
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said the Missouri “offense doesn’t change” no matter who plays quarterback.
“They still run the same offense. Both the quarterbacks are very good players. I look at both of those guys as guys that could be starters on just about any SEC team,” Eliot said.
He’s also impressed with the Missouri offensive line.
“Those guys are very, very good blockers and most of the guys who played last year are young guys and now they’ve developed into good veteran players. It’s going to be quite a challenge for our guys,” Eliot said.
Stoops hopes Kentucky quarterback Jalen Whitlow is feeling more comfortable, too, after throwing for two scores and running for two last week.
“He seems to be rolling along pretty good,” Stoops said.
The coach knows UK has to start well because of the way Missouri plays.
“They come out firing. That tempo with the great execution that they’ve shown in just about all their games early, it’s hard. But we’ve got to make some stops. That’s just it. Like I’ve said over and over, there’s no — you’ve got to go out there and make plays against a good football team,” Stoops said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops confirmed Monday that receiver Alex Montgomery is out “for the remainder of the year” after tearing the ACL in his knee celebrating after a touchdown catch against Alabama State last week.
“It’s probably not good news for Ryan Timmons for this game. So we’re getting pretty thin.” Stoops said.
Timmons, a receiver, sprained his ankle against Alabama State.
Stoops did not that receiver Javess Blue, who hurt his eye in pregame warmups against Alabama State, “should be fine” for Saturday’s game with Missouri.
The coach does plan to address touchdown celebrations with his players after losing Montgomery.
“We have to address that today as well. I do think about it. When they are doing that stuff, even in practice sometimes we’re having fun. You don’t want to take away the energy. You want them excited,” Stoops said. “We want to be cheering quite a bit and creating big plays. We want the excitement there. We’ve got to be smart about that. We’ve got a couple of those guys that can do back flips and sometimes they’ll do that before practice and get guys sparked up. I’m a little leery of that as well.
We might have to get our feet on the ground for our celebrations right now. We can’t afford to lose anybody else.
“We lose enough guys during games and practice. We can’t lose them in pregame and doing celebrations, that’s for sure. We’re not going to overdo it, but I’m going to definitely talk to them about relaxing a little bit with the jumping and chest pumping and all that stuff.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown was talking to recruits when receivers coach Tommy Mainord came to find him before the Kentucky-Alabama State game.
“I could tell it was not going to be good,” said Brown.
However, he had no idea that Mainord was going to tell him UK’s top receiver and kick returner Javess Blue was not going to play because he injured his eye throwing football with teammates on the field before the Cats even started pregame warmups.
“Coach Mainord told me Javess got hit in the eye, it was swollen and did not look good,” said Brown after Saturday’s 48-14 win. “There were a lot of things we were going to try to do early to get him the ball, and we had to adjust at the last minute.”
Brown thinks Blue “will be fine” to play in UK’s next game against Missouri.
“You just have to be careful with eye injuries. I know because I had two when I played here,” Brown said.
However, that was not the only receiver Brown lost.
Freshman Alex Montgomery caught a 6-yard scoring pass on the first play of the second quarter. He was all alone in the end zone. After making the catch, he went to celebrate and jumped to chest bump teammate Demarco Robinson. Another Wildcat also joined the celebration and when Montgomery landed, he hurt his knee.
He had to be helped off the field and later returned to the sideline on crutches.
“I am just better off not commenting,” UK coach Mark Stoops said initially when asked about the two injuries. “It is frustrating. He was just out there throwing it around like the guys do, getting out there, getting loose, and just took a ball right in the eye. So that closed up and he couldn’t see out of it. Then I popped him in the other eye; he couldn’t see out of that one. So he had two black eyes.
“No, you guys (in the media) are going to put that in print and people are going to start arresting me. You know I’m joking. Then with Alex, that was really disappointing with Alex, and we’ll see. Hopefully, it’s not serious, but I’m afraid it may be because he’s been solid all year and getting better for a young guy. To get that touchdown, we’ve got to learn to celebrate better.”
Stoops said while it is a good problem “for sure” to talk about how to celebrate touchdowns, he will do that with his team.
“I think we need to talk about it certainly because we may have gotten somebody seriously injured doing that. And somebody was telling me today, I guess, a Georgia player or something did the same in the first game. So we definitely need to look at it,” he said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
One Kentucky player who doesn’t need an energy boost, or hasn’t one game days, has been freshman running back JoJo Kemp. He is Kentucky’s leading rusher and has the swag about him that Stoops wants from more players.
Kemp has not been discouraged by UK’s 1-2 start going into the Florida game Sept. 28 and says future UK commits should not be, either.
“To those guys who are getting recruited by Kentucky, if they really want to go to a program where they can just change a program around get their name out and be part of something special, this is the place to be,” Kemp, a Florida prep star, said. “When I was getting recruited here, I just always wanted to go to a place where I could make a name for myself.
“I didn’t really want to follow nobody’s footsteps. I just wanted to come to a place where I could say I was part of that team when it was on the rise and Kentucky is a place where the fans love them and the coaches are going to push you and support you. This is the coaching staff to do it with and I am very pleased and happy with my decision.”
He says roommate, Florida receiver Jeff Badet, feels the same way and is the same type explosive playmaker.
“Jeff, he is the man. He is a good player. Every time he gets a chance, he is going to make plays that you won’t expect,” Kemp said. “I know he made some plays in practice that opened my eyes. I know when he gets on the field, he is going to make the best of it as well. We always talk about it. We keep each other motivated and keep pushing. That’s the kind of guy he is.”
What about Alex Montgomery, another freshman receiver from Florida?
“Alex is another one. When he gets his chance, he will do big things as well,” Kemp said.
And what message would Kemp give to future Cats?
“The guys coming in next year, I want them to know if they ain’t ready to work, they better get ready to get their heads on straight. Like I said, Kentucky is on the rise from here on out. We are on the rise,” Kemp said.
Kentucky Postgame Notes
Louisville at Kentucky
Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Ky., Sept. 14, 2013
FINAL SCORE: Louisville 27, Kentucky 13
Team Records and Series Notes
- Kentucky is 1-2 and Louisville is 3-0.
- Kentucky leads the series 14-12. UofL has won three in a row.
- The series is tied 8-8 in games played in Lexington.
- This was Kentucky’s first game against a team from the American Athletic Conference. UK has an all-time record of 46-24-4 vs. teams from the new league.
- Kentucky rushed for 162 yards on 31 carries today, averaging 5.2 per attempt. The Wildcats have averaged at least five yards per rush in all three games this season.
- For the second consecutive game, both of UK’s quarterbacks passed for at least 100 yards each.
- Kentucky has an open date Sept. 21 before playing host to Florida on Sept. 28. Game time and television assignment will be announced Monday.
- Freshman Jojo Kemp rushed five times for a career-high 80 yards, an average of 16 yards per carry. He also had a career-long run of 47 yards.
- Quarterback Jalen Whitlow completed 8 of 17 passes for 105 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The pickoff broke a string of 160 consecutive passes without an interception, the second-longest streak in school history.
- Freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons, making his first collegiate start, had three catches for a career-high 72 yards.
- Freshman wide receiver Alex Montgomery, making his first career start, also scored his first collegiate touchdown on a three-yard catch.
- Senior kicker Joe Mansour hit field goals of 37 and 30 yards. He has made all six field goal attempts this season.
- Senior linebacker Avery Williamson led all players with 15 total tackles, including one for loss. He has a streak of 22 consecutive games with at least three tackles.
- Junior defensive end Alvin “Bud” Dupree had eight tackles, including one-half quarterback sack. He has a streak of 18 consecutive games with at least three tackles.
- Junior safety Ashely Lowery had three tackles, a career-high two pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
- Defensive end Za’Darius Smith shared a quarterback sack among his three tackles today. He has had a sack in all three games this season. The last Wildcat to sack in three-straight games was Jeremy Jarmon in 2007.
- Nate Willis blocked a field goal. UK’s last field goal block was Collins Ukwu at Florida on Sept. 22, 2012.
- Linebacker TraVaughn Paschal had a career-high eight tackles.
- Safety Eric Dixon had a career-high seven tackles.
By LARRY VAUGHT
For the first time since early in preseason practice, sophomore cornerback Cody Quinn says his ankle is not hurting — and that could be really good news for Kentucky as the Cats get ready to face No. 7 Louisville and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, a Heisman Trophy candidate.
“I feel good. My ankle’s not hurting anymore. I can move. At first I didn’t have, I wasn’t conditioning, but now like I’ve been staying after practice and getting my leg back right and just like doing a lot more conditioning to get back in shape,” said Quinn.
He also downplayed speculation that there had been any other reason for him missing the first two games.
“They just wanted to take their time with me and work me back into it,” Quinn, a starter last year, said. “This past game I was ready to go but like once we got up it was like really no point of me going in and something bad happening. So they just decided to hold me back and just wait for this week. But this week I’ll be ready to go.”
He said he got hurt when receiver Alex Montgomery was running a route and he rolled his ankle going up to deflect a pass.
“I didn’t think it was nothing major, but like I said, once I got the x-ray I guess it was a high ankle sprain,” he said.
The Middletown, Ohio, native played in 11 games last year and made six starts. He had 25 tackles, including seven in the disaster at Arkansas, and led the team in pass breakups with five. He has incredible speed — 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash — and helped his high school team win 10 or more games three straight years before suffering through a 2-10 campaign at UK last year.
But not playing in a loss to Western Kentucky or romp over Miami (Ohio) might have been even more frustrating to Quinn, a confident player, than last year’s fiasco.
“It was real frustrating because like right before then I was just like getting in a groove and I was just like starting to be in a rhythm and just like really feeling it. Then all of the sudden, ‘Dang, that happened.’ At first I didn’t think it was bad as it was then it turned out it that I had a high ankle sprain,” he said. “But now I’m good to go and ready to get back to it. I’m not going to say that I’m all the way back to where I was before I left, but I’m getting there day by day, just doing extra stuff after practice.”
He’s like what he has seen from junior college transfer Nate Willis, who started the first two games at the spot where Quinn expected to be playing.
“Nate is a great player,” Quinn said. “He a real smooth guy and good cover guy. Now that he has picked up the plays and stuff you can see like improvements in him.”
He knows how good Bridgewater is, but he’s not overwhelmed about the challenge.
“I mean, I’m in the SEC so, like I’m going to see this stuff night in and night out. I’m ready for it. We’ve got a great game plan,” he said.
What about Devonte Parker, a physical receiver who is one of Bridgewater’s top targets?
“Technique, like I’ve been preaching to probably all of you guys the whole camp and during the spring. Just like technique and executing what like coach (Derrick) Ansley has taught us and just using that the game plan we’ve got and just using that to my advantage,” Quinn said.
He said “flying to the ball” for four quarters is the best way — and probably the only way — to disrupt Louisville’s offensive flow
One plus for Quinn, and with UK being a decided underdog it’s hard to find any real pluses for the Cats, is that he is at least well rested after not playing last week.
“I kind of wanted that, to like wait out and come back. I was still ready to go for Miami, like regardless if they put me in or not. But I kind of wanted to wait to Louisville,” Quinn said.
By LARRY VAUGHT
One thing Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown often talks about with coach Mark Stoops is that “success is contagious” at any level.
“We’ve had success other places, and we’ve got to be the catalyst for that success,” said Brown.
But other than the coaches, Brown believes UK has new offensive playmakers that know plenty about success, too.
“Javess Blue played in the national championship last year at junior college. Jeff Badet came from a winning program,” Brown said. ”Jojo Kemp won a good amount of games in high school. Alex Montgomery played in the state championship game in Florida at a big school. Jalen Whitlow is a young kid, too and he won state championship in Alabama.
“A lot of our young guys have experienced success. That is not new to them. With some of our older guys, things have not gone well the last couple of years and we have to repair confidence. With those young guys, we don’t have to. Those guys, they’re not shell-shocked. They’re not beaten. They’ve got a lot of confidence about them, and the more success they have, it goes out to the rest of the football team.”
Kentucky certainly had success Saturday when it rolled up 675 yards — the third highest total in UK history — in a 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) that had the Air Raid sirens sounding like they did when Brown played at UK under Hal Mumme. In fact, UK had not gained so many yards since the 1998 game against Louisville when Tim Couch was quarterback and Brown was a walk-on receiver playing his first game — and making his first catch.
“The kids had a different aura about them. We were really hard on them this week in practice. I didn’t think we played with the tempo we wanted to play with last week (in a loss to Western Kentucky),” Brown said after the win. “We didn’t play as hard, as a unit, as we’ve played at other stops I’ve been. And we didn’t play as physical.
“So on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we practiced really, really hard. We didn’t give an inch. I was probably worried a little bit too much about confidence going into that opener and should’ve coached them harder, so that’s my fault. But we got that corrected this week and I thought the guys came out and executed and played with a lot more energy. Our No. 1 goal today was ‘be excited to play,’ and I thought they were from the first drive on.”
Brown admitted he thought Mumme would have been pleased with UK’s 28-point first-quarter against Miami and having the Air Raid sirens sounding.
“It’s fun. There’s no question about it. It’s a good thing I think the fans got into it. Hopefully we’ll fill this place up next Saturday (for Louisville). We gave them a little excitement,” Brown said. “I don’t blame them for being a little frustrated last week. I was, too. But it was fun.”
Still, it was far from perfect despite the yardage total.
“We didn’t play as many plays as we want to, No. 1 because we got some penalties that were lack-of-discipline penalties, and No. 2 is because we were scoring,” Brown said. “I was pleased with the total. But there’s obviously — everybody in that stadium knows, too — we’ve got a long way to go.
“I think we are at the real infancy of the offense really. We are still not fluid at times. I was disappointed how we played the middle of second quarter to middle of third quarter. They changed what they were doing and we didn’t adjust very well. But I was pleased with how we finished. We rebounded there later in the third quarter and in the fourth quarter we came back and play solid. We are going see a lot of corrections to make. We have to play with more discipline. We had a lot of penalties. That’s one big thing.”
And Brown knows what lies ahead, too.
“Now obviously, no offense to Miami of Ohio (but) our deal gets a little tougher after this,” Brown said.
Kentucky plays Louisville, Florida, South Carolin and Alabama in its next four games.
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Let’s start with a disclaimer: There’s no way Kentucky’s offense likely will look this impressive again all season.
However, what the offense did Saturday in a 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) could certainly be a sign of what offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s system can produce when he has time to recruit even more playmakers like the young ones that UK put on display in this game.
Kentucky set a school record with 24 points in the first quarter and had more yards (279) in the first quarter than it did in six games last year. The Cats scored on 48 yards passes to Jonathan George and 88 yards to Javess Blue — third longest passing play in UK history — from Maxwell Smith along with a 9-yard run by backup quarterback Jalen Whitlow.
It was the perfect start for a team that got embarrassed/stunned by Western Kentucky in its first game and badly need a dose of confidence and excitement before starting a brutal stretch of Louisville, Florida, South Carolina and Alabama. Those teams won’t let the UK offense have its way like it did Saturday (Kentucky had 410 yards by halftime), but it was fun for a day to see UK roll up more yards (675) than it has since it got 597 against Vanderbilt in 2006. The 675 yards were also the third most in UK history.
“That’s great. That’s a good sign. There have been some very good offenses around here,” said UK coach Mark Stoops after his first win at Kentucky.
Stoops even got the game ball from linebacker Avery Williamson after the game.
“That really hit me. It was a wild moment,” Stoops said. “When he did that, it did mean a lot to me. Very proud of it and look forward to a lot more.”
For that to happen, especially with the schedule UK faces, more playmakers on both sides are needed. But at least in this game, the offensive newcomers showed what could be ahead for Kentucky.
“This is what we can do. And there is a lot more to come. This is not all,” said freshman running back JoJo Kemp.
Just look at what Brown’s new playmakers did in this game:
— Blue, a junior college transfer, had six catches for 114 yards and a score.
— Jeff Badet, a true freshman, had a shake-and-bake 56-yard touchdown catch and run for his first UK score. He finished with three catches for 80 yards .
— Ryan Timmons, a true freshman from Franklin County, opened the game with a 20-yard run and got the ball plenty. He caught five passes for 55 yards and ran four times for 37 yards. “We definitely wanted to get him the ball more. I made a concerted effort to do that,” Brown said.
— Alex Montgomery, another true freshman, had four catches for 37 yards.
— JoJo Kemp, another true freshman, got a chance to show his explosiveness and quickness a bit more. He ran 12 times for a team-high 78 yards, including a 27-yard run.
— Tight end Steven Borden, another junior college transfer, had just one catch for 12 yards, but it was perhaps the most difficult catch of the game.
Smith and Whitlow both had their moments, too. Smith finished 15 for 23 for 310 yards and three scores. He hit one stretch where he threw several passes behind receivers, but overall he was on target. Whitlow did what he does best in running situations, but he also had more accuracy and poise in the passing game than he did against Western. He ran seven times for 48 yards and a score and was 10 for 12 passing for 103 yards.
“We got yelled at halftime. We had 31 points for a while,” Smith said. “We had bad drives and I had some really bad throws on one series I can remember. It was all footwork. I missed throws that I had not missed all week or in camp. That was my fault.”
Still, Stoops could live with some mistakes and lack of execution because his team played with more enthusiasm.
“I thought we had more poise early (than against Western Kentucky). We were focused and excited, but not overhyped,” Stoops said. “We are excited about doing some good things offensively and defensively. There were some real good things to build on.”
That didn’t include special teams where UK fumbled a punt that gave Miami its only score and several other questionable judgment decisions fielding other punts that Stoops called being “sloppy.” And he was not at all thrilled with 11 penalties for 117 yards.
“We made some plays we are not very proud of. We need to be a smart team,” Stoops said. “It is always good to win a game and not be happy about things, but we are going to appreciate this win and then get back to work.”
Good idea because the wins could be few and far between with the schedule UK has left. But the positive sign was that UK has young playmakers — and players used to winning — that could help Stoops and Brown produce more games like this in future years.
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown has heard the chatter about where his Air Raid offense went last week against Western Kentucky.
The Wildcats ran for 216 yards — and averaged 6.8 yards per attempt — and threw for 203 yards in the season-opening 35-26 loss. However, 125 of the passing yards came in the fourth quarter when Maxwell Smith, who will start Saturday against Miami (Ohio), replaced Jalen Whitlow at quarterback.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to win. That’s what we’re going to do. And here’s the deal: We’re young at wideout. We’ve got some guys, we’re getting better, but we’re young at wideout. And we’ve got some new starters up front. So I think you go in and you do what you’ve got to do to win the game,” said Brown. “And we felt like early in the game, what we did on Saturday gave us our best chance. And it did.
“We didn’t play like we wanted to (but) bottom line is it’s 24-17 and we had two drives to take the lead coming out of the third quarter. We didn’t take advantage of those. If we executed better, who knows? Then Max came in the game, and we threw the ball almost every snap there in the fourth quarter and we had some success. So we’ll see.”
Here’s what else Brown had to say after Wednesday’s practice about his first game at UK and looking ahead with the offense.
Question: Has Smith been any different since being named the starter?
Brown: “I think that comfort is a good word for that. It’s hard to be a leader as a backup. I think you can, but it’s hard. I thought he did a good job during the game until he went in went in giving energy and supporting his teammates on the sidelines. I definitely agree with that. I think it’s easier as a starter, no matter what position and especially at quarterback, to be a leader.”
Question: Why is Smith the starter?
Brown: “Well, he just made some more plays. I thought he did a better job handling the environment, and he played well enough, he led us on some scoring drives there. So, we felt like that he gave us the best opportunity this week.”
Question: Does the run game change with Smith at quarterback?
Brown: “No, not really. No, not really. I think we talked about this back during preseason camp. The run plays are basically the same. It’s how we – on our inside zone and our outside zone how we take care of the edge changes a little bit depending on who’s in, whether it’s Jalen or Max. I don’t think we’ll have any called runs. We may surprise Miami with that. I guess they better work it.”
Question: Could Smith be a player who performs better in games than practices?
Brown: “I’m not real sure. I have a hard time – I don’t believe in gamers really. I just don’t think they exist. I think he played better in the game, but I still think he’s capable of playing better in a scrimmage. I think he’s capable of playing a lot better in the game. I think he did some good things when he played the last two years. He needs to be a better player when he starts the game than at any point he’s been during his career.”
Question: What did Smith do better in the game than he did in preseason scrimmages?
Brown: “I think he was more productive. In the scrimmages, he wasn’t as productive as he was on Saturday. I guess he had three drives, and all three of them were points — I’d like to think the one that Ryan (Timmons) fumbled would have been also. We’ve got 1st-and-10 on the 26, so…”
Question: How has Timmons responded to his debut where he had a big run but lost the fumble?
Brown: “Those guys are going to get a little better every week. The Ryan Timmonses, the Jeff Badets, the Alex Montgomerys — he’s been a little sick, he’s better now — Jojo Kemps. Those guys are going to get a little better ever week. When you play young guys, you’ve got to be ready. There’s going to be some ups and downs, and I knew that coming into it. I don’t condone fumbling — and we work ball security really hard — but I thought he did some good things with the ball in his hands. He’ll be a bigger part of the game plan this week. But there’s going to be some ups and downs when you’re playing young people.”
Question: How did the receivers block?
Brown: “I wasn’t pleased. I wasn’t pleased with how our inside receivers blocked. Our tight ends and our H’s (slot receivers), I think we’ve gotta block a lot better. That’s one thing we really prided ourselves at, at the other stops I’ve been at, is being really physical on the inside. And I didn’t think we were.”
Question: How did you assess the overall offensive play last week?
Brown: “Here’s what I think: We did some good things. There’s a little bit — comfort’s not the right word, but we had some moments. We ran the ball effectively for sure, especially on some big plays. I was not pleased with how we ran the ball on first down. Did not run the ball in that situation, and I really think that’s what hurt us. If we could’ve gotten going on first down a little bit more, we would’ve run more plays, we’d have had a chance to get them more fatigued and really set the pace that we wanted to play with.
“I’m disappointed in how we played; I’m disappointed because we didn’t win the game; I’m disappointed that we only ran 60 plays; I’m disappointed that we had six penalties before the ball was snapped. But if we can pay attention to details and we can get more physical, we can play winning football on our side of the ball. That’s what I told the kids when I got in front of them, and I really believe that.”