Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops

COACH STOOPS:  That is just how we draw it up. [Laughter] It was really a great night. I could not be more proud of this football team the way they hung in there and played a hard-fought game. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Just the overall day, that is the big thing. Let’s not kid ourselves, we have been building for this moment for a couple of years with the stadium and the anticipation and the fans and just an improved football team. We are an improved football team. I know it didn’t always show out there tonight, but that’s why you play.  It’s an opener.  It’s a start.  There’s going to be so many opportunities for us to learn from this.  But just very proud of everybody involved.

Again, I thought that, since the moment I arrived on campus, that it was going to take a big commitment from a lot of people to have us be successful.  It was evident that there was very much support from a lot of people tonight.  The people that have worked on this stadium, Mitch Barnhart, Russ Pear, and just all the coaches and support staff and people that have volunteered to help and put in all this hard work and just have this environment.

Special thanks to the fans.  To have a sellout — I’ve asked them to come, and they did.  And the catwalk, walking in here, and the atmosphere this afternoon, late this afternoon and this evening, when we walked in here, the atmosphere on that catwalk was amazing.  Believe me, that is a building block for our program.  That kind of passion, that kind of energy from our fan base will do nothing but help us, help build this program, help attract top quality athletes, and inspire the players that we have here right now.

So I thank them from the bottom of my heart.  We felt a big obligation to play a good football game and win this game.  So I’m not going to let the fact that it got a little sloppy in the second half take away from that.  It’s a victory.  We’re always going to be grateful for victories.  It was a good start.  But I’m just proud of everybody and just appreciative of everybody’s support.

It’s been a long time coming.  We are going to work.  We’re going to enjoy this tonight.  We’re going back to work, and we’re going to become a good football team.  So that’s a good starting point.

Q.  How much was the game plan to go deep early with Patrick (Towles)?  It seemed like in the first half especially, you hit a bunch of those passes.

COACH STOOPS:  We did hit some, and then we started missing them.  As we started missing them, they started daring us to gang up on the run and load the box and making us throw it downfield, and we started missing them.

We always have the approach, if they’re taking things away, if they’re loading it up, we have to be able to get the ball down the field.  If we make people play with numbers, then we have to take some shots and hit them, and we did that.

Again, all the credit to Louisiana, but we have some other shots that we missed, and we’ve just got to make them.

Q.  Mark, how did you feel Patrick played overall?

COACH STOOPS:  I’m sure — he did some very good things, but I’m sure there’s a lot of plays we need to improve on.  I think he got a little out of sync when he maybe overthrew a couple early, and then he started under throwing it and just got off a little bit.

But it’s not all on him.  He’ll improve.  It’s a good starting point.  You know what, it’s good to be in a tough game like that and let him go through some adversity and some tough plays and then come back and do what we have to do to win.

Q.  How much did you sense you’re down a couple key linebackers tonight.  There were some plays that got away from you.  Could you tell you missed those guys?

COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, it did.  I told you all along I was anxious and excited to watch some young guys play.  There were some moments out there where it was difficult to watch.  So we need to improve, but that’s why you play.

We have some — we have some young guys.  We have some freshmen that were put in a position that we needed them to win this game, and they did some good things, and they did some things we need to do a lot better.

Q.  Mark, you recruited a big back.  Is that what you expect out of him?

COACH STOOPS:  Absolutely.  The run by Mikel (Horton) at the end of the game there was impressive.  He had a great desire to get in the end zone.  We felt like we were close on the play before and came back, and we even ran the same play.  I think it was the same play.  We made him come back with power.  We hit it, and then he finished off the last guy and got in the end zone.  That was great.

Q.  You guys have talked to him about that.  Don’t try to run like a little guy, run like a big guy.  He really lowered his shoulder.

COACH STOOPS:  He did.  Lowered his shoulder, and he finished the run.  The thing that’s a little bit nice and deceiving about him is that he is light on his feet and he does have good vision.  If you noticed, he got through there, and then he finished the run.

Yeah, there’s a time for all of it because he really can be a complete back.  It was certainly great to see him finish like that.

Q.  When you talk about the sense of responsibility everyone felt to come out and win tonight, when they roar back and it’s a tie game and they have the ball with six minutes to go, I guess, feeling that, what’s going through your mind?

COACH STOOPS:  We talked about it — I can talk about it all week.  I can talk about it to the players all the time.  Things don’t always happen the way you want.  We come out, and we run 75, 80 yards on the first play of the game and get ahead of them early and really had things in pretty good control.  Then they flipped the script on us.

You know, that’s what happens.  The game is never going to go exactly as planned.  Very rarely does that happen, and that’s where you have to learn from that.

I believe that the moment you’re talking about, we came back with a stop, a score, and a stop.  So that’s a character builder again.  I think that’s good.  Sure, I wish we could have pulled away from them and made some plays and played a little bit cleaner, but in certain ways, in some ways, that’s even better, to have to come back and do it that way.

Q.  Khalid Henderson filled in for Ryan Flannigan tonight.  Can you talk about his performance?

COACH STOOPS:  I thought he did some good things.  All along, Khalid has been practicing and playing for a few years now.  I thought he did some good things, it looked like to me.  When I notice him, that’s a bad thing sometimes.  So some of the other guys I noticed, and we’ve got to get some things corrected.  That’s what happens with some real young guys.

Q.  It seemed like J.D. Harmon made a couple of big plays tonight.  What kind of progress has he made?

COACH STOOPS:  He’s been making progress.  Again, he’s the guy that has earned our trust and our respect a little bit by his play throughout this camp because he needed to improve and he has improved.  So we felt that way going into the game as we talk about guys that we trust, and we knew we’d need to get into some depth with being so hot and everyone being so amped up.  Such a long day, hot.

Guys were excited, ready to play, when you come out and start that way.  So you know you’re going to have to put some guys in and get some depth.  I was confident with him because he had played better throughout camp.

Q.  When you go into a season thinking you have some playmakers, a bunch of playmakers at wide receiver, but they’ve got to go do it, to see five, six guys go make a huge play over the course of that game, how significant is that for the offense?

COACH STOOPS:  It was very significant.  That’s what we’ve got to see.  Like who’s going to continue to make those plays when the game’s on the line.  Again, I thought they were working hard.  We’ll hit some more because we missed a few tonight.  We’ll hit even more as we move forward.

Q.  Mark, you talked about the hype and so forth leading up to the game and the young players and so forth.  Do you think that maybe hurt you in the second half, that maybe they expended too much energy and were so hyped early on?

COACH STOOPS:  I don’t know why.  It does worry you some.  When you go in at the half — and it wasn’t a perfect half the first half, but you felt like you had things in control, pretty good shape.

I did feel — I felt like there was the energy started coming down a little bit in general.  I think — and that’s what I was talking to the coaches on the sideline actually.  Let’s go.  Get your group ready to go, and they’re going to feed off us and our energy.

So, again, I felt like they were put in a pressure situation because there was a lot of pressure on us to win this game.  We had it all teed up.  We had the stadium, the packed house.  We had a very good opponent that we know that — maybe the general public doesn’t always know that, but a team that wins nine games four years in a row and four Bowl games in a row, they’re no pushovers.

We talk about that often.  Nobody’s going to give you anything.  You’ve got to make plays.  You’ve got to earn victory.  We’ll learn.  We’ll get better.

Q.  How did you feel about Boom’s game as a whole?  Obviously, had the big play early.

COACH STOOPS:  Big play early.  That’s the way to break it in right there, break in the turf.  Overall, that’s Boom.  He’s going to have some big plays.  I thought all the backs had their moments.

Jojo’s big run, when we were a little bit bogged down a little bit, and he had that big 30-yard run or so.  That’s what all those guys, keeping their head in the game and pulling for each other.  You never know who you’re going to count on to step up and make that play.

Again, just a great night, great victory.  Completely happy with the turnout.  Our team felt that, felt the energy, and just appreciate everybody’s hard work.  It’s been a lot of fun.

Q.  Charles Walker catch there on that last drive …  

COACH STOOPS:  Pretty key, you think?

Q.  I thought so.  I don’t know what you think.

COACH STOOPS:  But that’s him.  That’s him.  Just give him a lot of credit.  He got hit and spun around, what, two or three yards short and somehow got it to within an inch.  That’s Charles.  He brings a good toughness, and he’s going to continue to earn playing time of the he’s a good player.  Brings good energy, and he’s good on special teams.  He’s been tough inside there.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports

Kentucky Student-Athletes

#4 Mikel Horton, RB

On final huddle with Patrick Towles…
“Score. He said, ‘Let’s go.’ I was talking to the offensive linemen and told them, ‘It starts with y’all.’ And they did a heck of a job. That’s really who scored the touchdown, especially our fullback.”

On if the thought of the team losing crossed his mind …
“Losing didn’t cross my mind. It was about executing. We worked so hard through the summer and spring and now we have the opportunity to show what we have worked for. That was the frustrating part for us.”

#9 Garrett Johnson, WR

On big offensive plays …
“It pretty much shows everyone how explosive our offense is. Everyone was able to see how many different playmakers we have.”

On the final possession …
“We knew there was no other way around it and we had to score so we put Mikel back in and let him do what he did.”

#45, Josh Forrest, LB

On the win …
“It was definitely a good feeling. Kind of like the South Carolina game last year.”

On being a veteran leader during a tight game …
“Telling the young guys that if they make mistakes to keep their heads up. Denzil (Ware) lost an edge on one play and came to the sideline with his head down. I said, ‘It’s alright. We got this. We’re going to be OK. (The) offense is going to get it done, and we’re going to come out and make the last stop.’ I think last year I would have argued and been frustrated, but I know that people mess up. We play better when we’re calm. When we’re arguing and are uptight and upset, we don’t play so good.”

On how the young guys played in a tough situation …
“I think they played good.  We all have room for correction, but I think they came out and handled their own. They didn’t get stage-fright.”

#13, Jeff Badet, WR

On having concerns on UL Lafayette’s second-half comeback …
“No concerns at all. The whole point of fall camp is to go over situations like these. We all remember going in that Louisiana is a good team, so there wasn’t one point where we were nervous. It’s just all what we practice.”

On the importance to come away with a victory in tonight’s game …
“It was a very good win for us, you know, (to) get out all of the jitters and everything. Now we can actually get our minds right and just know that college football has really started. The atmosphere was crazy. I haven’t been out there in so long, so I loved it. I was nervous at first, but the atmosphere was beautiful seeing all of the fans come to support us.”

#18, Boom Williams, RB

On the run to start the game …
“We talked about that all week, going out there and scoring on the first play – a big emphasis on it actually. I just want to give credit to my O-line and the outside guys, the receivers and the fullbacks that were in on that play. They did their job so it was my job to get us going. It was good to score and get in the end zone early and get us going.”

On how Patrick Towles played …
“Patrick played well. Obviously we have to clean up some film here and we will watch it and move on to South Carolina. Patrick played well. He made some good decisions. We have a lot of players on the outside that can make plays, so it really makes him look good when we have a lot of talented guys on the outside that can make plays and catch the ball and get us down the field.”

On the atmosphere …
“We just wanted to come out and get this win in the stadium. Everyone in the stands had great energy and we thank them for that. We’re not going to move too far ahead, but we’re going to work from this film and see what we can work on to get ready for South Carolina next week.”

On the feeling on the sidelines when UL Lafayette tied the game…
“That’s a good team. You can’t take anything away from them or expect them to quit. So shout out to those guys who came out and played really hard. We respected that. Our main thing was when that happened we had to come out and respond. Mikel Horton did a great job on that last play for getting us in the end zone and being able to put the job away.”

#11, J.D. Harmon, CB

On the first run on the stretch …
“Coach told us before the game that things are going to go bad and not go as planned so you have to keep your composure and do the things you’ve been coached to do. Those are the things that show up and bring you through the tough games like that.”

On the feeling when they tackled you following the 60-yard kickoff return …
“I couldn’t really overreact. Like I said, keep your composure. Keeping your composure is the one thing I had on my mind the whole time because I knew things would go opposite of how we wanted them to go. So I was just harping on that and telling everybody to keep your composure, we got it, stay calm, we’re going to fight through this and win.”

On the atmosphere …
“That atmosphere right there might have made a difference in the game. We had the momentum going into the game, had the momentum after that big run by Boom (Williams), and after that it carried on throughout the rest of the game.”

#2, Dorian Baker, WR

 On improvement of the wide receivers this season …
“We came out with a physicality. We came out with a mindset to dominate like we always do. We make plays and we make big plays. It’s what we do. I expect us to do big things this year.”

On Mikel Horton’s late touchdown …
“He made a great touchdown. You know, we needed it. It’s definitely one of those joyful moments, so I’m just proud that he did that. He’s a great player, so I expect him to make those kind of plays.” 

#22, Khalid Henderson, LB

 On the message from older players to younger players as they prepare for SEC play…
“It’s a great learning experience. Like coach said, this isn’t the NFL, we don’t have any preseason games, so guys need to get the jitters out of them and just come ready to play. We’re going to take time in practice to get those mistakes corrected.”

#14, Patrick Towles, QB 

On tonight’s close win …
“It counts. It’s one. We got the best record in the country right now. We’re 1-0 and we’re moving on. We’ll learn from it. We had a really good start early. We didn’t stay consistent, but we made plays when we had to and that’s really encouraging.”

On the atmosphere of tonight’s game …
“We can’t thank the fans enough. I remember my freshman year. We had the Cat Walk that started at the indoor. So this is absolutely spectacular. For our freshmen, our recruiting, it’s wonderful. It was incredible.”

On the feeling when ULL tied the game… 
“We just got to go out and make a play. You just got to keep churning along and make a play. It’s hard, no matter who you’re playing. A lot of stuff has to come together. We prepared, but I’m glad we are facing this now and not in week six. We’ll learn from it and move on.”

On how proud he is of the team…
“I’m so proud of my guys and how they kept fighting. I’d much rather learn from a win than from a loss. We won the football game, so we’re happy about it. We’re excited. We’re going to move on and go play South Carolina.”

On bold play calling …  
“That’s the way we’re going to be. If people are going to come up and press us, we’re going to take shots down the football field. No matter if it’s Auburn or Charlotte, whoever it is, we’re going to take shots and we’re going to get after people.”

UL Lafayette Head Coach Mark Hudspeth

Opening Statement…
“It was definitely a tale of two halves. We came out the first half and it took us a little while to settle in a little bit, especially defensively. We didn’t get gapped out in the first play of the game and they popped a quick one on us and stole momentum right away.

“It definitely took us awhile to get going offensively. A lot of young freshman mistakes. We’ve got a young team, and a lot of those mistakes were glaring tonight, especially some of our kicks on the kickoffs. When they run forward, they’re pretty good.

“We’ve got some exciting young players. When you go back and look at some of the things we didn’t do well, the main thing was that in the first half we did not keep them off-balance enough, coverage-wise. We played a lot of press and we didn’t mix it enough to try to keep them off balance. I thought we did a much better job in the second half. They didn’t seem to know whether we were going to be in press or if we were going to back out and zone. I thought we really kept them on their toes. I thought, other than the first run of the game, that we really contained the run.

“Some of our top playmakers didn’t have their ‘A’ game tonight. They didn’t play bad they just didn’t have their ‘A’ game and that doesn’t happen very often. Those guys are going to come back next week and make plays, but we had some young guys step up. We overcame some adversity, overcame being down 24-7. We lost Al Riles early in the game, and so we traveled up here with 60 scholarship athletes to play an SEC team on the road and we almost found a way to win the game.

“Some critical penalties late gave them 15 yards late, which was critical. We just have to be smarter. Those were very untimely, but I thought we did some good things.

“I think both quarterbacks did some nice things. I didn’t think Brooks (Haack) got enough help as he should have with the wide-outs. I thought we had some drops. I thought he threw some nice balls and didn’t get a whole lot of help. Both quarterbacks played solid games.

“I really thought once we scored back-to-back touchdowns and made both two-point conversions I really thought we were going to win the football game. I did not see us losing that game. I give them credit, they found a way to pull it out. That penalty at the end gave them great field position and they found a way to win the game. But, there is no quit in our guys. I am encouraged by the effort to say the least. To come on the road in front of 60,000 in the SEC with a young team, young secondary, and to battle the way we battled. We are going to keep working, we are going to improve, and get better and hope we roust back next week.”

On if he liked the answers he got from questions prior to the season opener …
“I have to go back and watch the film, evaluate our corners, and look and see who was the most productive. Then just there were a lot of little mistakes, turnovers, costly penalties, a dropped punt, just things that you take away when we had a chance to win the game.”

On deciding which quarterback to use during the final drive …
“It was, but just for the two-minute offense it was Brooks Haack’s deal, and so it was our decision. If we hadn’t gotten that last ball batted down we could’ve probably gotten it to the 50 and been able to throw a legitimate Hail Mary.”

On deciding which quarterback to play in the future …
It’s going to be interesting because they both did good things. They both moved the ball, we did put the ball in the end zone more with Jalen Nixon. But, some of Brooks Haack’s teammates dropped some balls. But we will have a good week of practice, evaluate the films, and look at some of the production and then try to make a decision based on that.”

On feeling the best he’s ever felt after a season opener…
“I thought we competed, I thought we overcame adversity. Defensively it took them awhile to figure it all out, but I thought we had a better game defensively in the second half. We have to get some turnovers, we got one in the second half and that was big, but maybe we can get a few more.”

UL Lafayette Student-Athletes

#52, Dominique Tovell, LB

On positives of second-half play …
“It stings a lot for us because we wanted to come in and win this game, but, like you said, you can always take something from a loss. I’m really proud of how our guys fought, and we came out the second half and didn’t lie down. I think that’s the most fire that I’ve seen out of this team since I’ve been around, and I’m real proud of them.”

On playing games as a senior with his teammates …
“It’s a great feeling. You’ve got guys behind you that you know are going to cover their man whenever. You know those guys aren’t going to lie down for nothing, and that’s what every player wants or every leader of a team wants. He wants to know that no matter what happens, that the person behind you has got you through thick and thin and that you can really count on those guys.”

On second half adjustments …
“Just making sideline adjustments and doing what the coaches told us to do, we went out there and executed them the best we could or if we could at all. We went out there and did what we were supposed to do and did what we were taught to do, coached to do on the sidelines.”

On overcoming mistakes …
“It goes back to the fight that we had. When you’re faced with adversity like that on a short field, it’s most likely that most teams are going to score six or seven with a field goal. Just to come out there and stop those guys (was big for us.) They missed a few field goals, I believe, so just to get no points from those series at all fueled our defense to come out, and we knew that we were ready to play.”

#6, Jalen Nixon, QB

On the team’s second half …
“We’re a team that is used to facing adversity and we dealt with that all summer. We prepare for these moments, and when it was time to execute, we went out there and got the job done.”

On coach making the call to go in …
“The whole game they tell me to be ready. I talk to my coach on the phone and he was like, ‘Be ready, your moment could come at any moment.’ So when the moment came I was prepared. We prepare our twos like we prepare our starters. When I came in the game it felt real natural, like no pressure was on. Just have fun and play ball.”

On 33-33 tie in the second half …
“I honestly thought we had the momentum as a team, you know, at their home turf. It kind of got quiet in the stands, so I felt like we could have possibly took over the game at that moment. And they came back and got the critical stop.”

On quarterback competition with Brooks Haack …
“I mean you know, like I said, me and Brooks always help each other out. We work together on and off the field. He see’s things I don’t see and I see things he doesn’t see, we alert each other. Being mentally prepared and helping each other, really makes the game a lot easier.”

#25, Torrey Pierce, RB

On what he did to spark the comeback …
“I just took advantage of what the defense gave. I made big plays and just tried to get my team back in the game, get a little electricity going on the sideline, get everyone amped up. Once I was able to do that it seemed like we fed off of it a bit and made a big turnaround”

On what was said in the locker room that led to a better second half …
“Coach just pointed out everything that we could do better, the muffed punt, the turnovers. That was the only thing that was really hurting us, and once we eliminated the turnovers we were able to get things rolling and good things started happening for us.”

On how the locker room views the loss …
“Coming in playing an SEC team, at this stadium with the noise and the talent that (Kentucky) has, it showed a lot about our team. Even though we came down with the loss, it shows where we could be headed In the future. We made a good comeback, it showed that we have a lot of fight in us and I’m just excited to see where we’re going from here.”

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