(On how proud he is Kentucky held on during a rocky second half to win the game) 
“Well, very proud of our football team. I think there were a few critical plays in there where we had a chance to take it to another level, or, I wouldn’t put it away, but make us feel a lot better about it. I think the penalty at the end of first half, where we settled for a field goal when we actually threw a nice fade for a touchdown and our tight end lined up off the ball, but that’s on us. We actually should have gone right back to the call the play I had before with the same formation. But really proud of our team, proud of our coaches. People don’t realize it, but it’s a pretty big deal when you’re down three of your full-time offensive coaches. And really proud of (associate head coach/tight ends/recruiting coordinator/NFL liaison) Vince Marrow, (assistant coach – wide receivers) Coach (Javon) Bouknight, (quality control coaches) Mark Perry, Josh Estes-Waugh, Cody Lasita, Maxwell Smith, guys really stepped up, did a really good job, some young coaches, to go win a bowl game. To win the Gator Bowl with two of your full-time coaches and a bunch of analysts and graduate assistants, guys that stepped up and really did a good job. Proud of them. Proud of our seniors; led us to three straight bowl victories. That’s a really big accomplishment and I greatly appreciate all of our players. All of them, once again, really wanted to be here, played a good game. I’m disappointed with some of the things that went on during the game. We’ve got to get cleaned up. Some of that, I’ve got to look at it. It was hard to tell, but some of that unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, I’ve got to get cleaned up and I will. That’s not us, we’re not going to accept that. I’m not going to get into touchy or not or whatever, I really couldn’t tell. But these were clearly not officials we’re used to, but that also is on me and it’s on us and we’ll get that addressed. When you’re in these bowl games, you’re not used to certain officials, and I’ve got to do a better job preparing us for that.”
(On how important it was to close the season with a happy moment and celebration) 
“I think it’s very important. You know, again, it’s been well-documented, the investment, and it’s also been well-documented, the toll that it’s taken on all players across the country. And to once again see our players step up and want to do that and travel back and forth during their break after, really, being mentally exhausted and still laying it on the line all the way through to the fourth quarter, says an awful lot. We talked about it in chapel last night, about finishing – Aaron Hoge always does a remarkable job – and I talked about it this morning and I addressed it, one of the last things I said when we left the field was recognizing (linebacker) Chris Oats and (late Kentucky assistant coach) John Schlarman and having their memories in our mind today and wishing they were with us. A very emotional year, but great to cap it off with a big victory.”
(On what kept him from putting in quarterbacks Joey Gatewood or Beau Allen) 
“Yeah, I wanted to and I probably should have, to be honest with you. I have great confidence in (quarterback) Terry (Wilson) and he did pull out the victory, but it was also important to get the win. I’ve seen Terry rally us back many times before, but I wish I had got them (Gatewood and Allen) in, Mike, to be honest with you, but I didn’t. Fortunately, we came out with a victory.”
(On running back Asim “A.J.” Rose ending his career at Kentucky with a great game) 
“It was really big and I was really happy for him. I’m really proud of A.J. Just like a lot of our players, if you’re around here for four years, for five years, you’re going to go through some ups and some downs. He certainly has, but he’s been there. He’s been consistent, he has a wonderful family (and) he was the MVP of the game this afternoon. (I’m) just really happy for him, really proud of him. He’s been here for a long time and he’s helped us win a lot of games. Again, you’re going to get criticism, you’re going to get people coming at you and talking about other people, but he just kind of always stuck to himself and worried about his game and his self, and happy that he went out that way.”
(On the graduate assistants and other assistants who can be credited with coming up with Kentucky’s offensive game plan) 
“Yeah, the guys that were promoted to full-time are, again, Mark Perry, Josh Estes-Waugh, Cody Lasita were all promoted and were full-time roles for this game. Maxwell Smith has been a graduate assistant for us and all those guys really contributed and really worked hard leading up to the game. It was a group effort, and again, Vince (Marrow) and Coach Bouknight did a great job. (I’m) just proud of the whole group. It’s not easy; you’re down three full-time coaches and your two primary play callers, so a very different situation and I’m glad that we put it together.”
(On if today was a statement game for linebacker Jamin Davis) 
“I think every opportunity, every time Jamin steps on the field, he’s getting better. He and I had a good talk last night, and I appreciate the way he went out and played today. He’s getting better with every rep and every opportunity and it doesn’t surprise me. But I will say, from the sideline to the far sideline, I noticed him showing up several plays. Certainly it looked like he played a very good game. I’ll have to go look at the tape.”
(On how he sees Kentucky’s passing offense evolving in the next year or two) 
“We’re going to say goodbye to 2020 today. It’s onto the future. I really greatly appreciate the win, but also very excited about the future of Kentucky football. We’ll address that when I get back in January. I need a few days off.”
(On the play of punter Max Duffy and him eluding an NC State player to get a punt off) 
“Yeah, that’s a great point. Field position was such a huge deal in this game. What he did on the punt, when I was watching it live, I’ll have to look at it, (it was) really a big-time play. It just goes to show you how savvy he is and how talented he is. Definitely we’re grateful for his background of Aussie football right there on that play because to have the confidence in that to elude the rush and then punt it the way he did, he’s just a talented guy. He really is. He’s got more tricks up his sleeve too. I wish we had him for more years, but like I said before, we’re grateful bringing in another Aussie.”
(On the play of safety Vito Tisdale and defensive back Carrington Valentine) 
“Vito was really looking good towards the end of the season and bowl prep and then he got a little injury, a hamstring injury, that I was really pleased that he was able to play. He missed the last three practices, I believe, with that hamstring. But he’s out there, he’s a fun guy. I like the way he plays. He brings some energy and some juice and he did a good job. And then Carrington, we have high hopes for him, we really do. I think he’s going to be a really good player. I thought he did a good job today. He was a little passive at times, keeping things in front of him, but that’s okay. We can work with that and get him tightened up. He’s also good at press, and just overall, really pleased with him.”
(On the assets of Carrington Valentine and what he’s going to bring to the program in the future) 
“Carrington, he’s got some length and you know the biggest thing he’s going to bring is he’s a competitor. That’s what I like about him. He’s not afraid to get up and play tighter. Again, some of the calls today, he was off, but later, when he rolled up in press, he’s a competitive guy.”


(On if he saw this game as a validation since he didn’t make the All-SEC Team) 
“Just all season I already was playing with a chip on my shoulder, I didn’t look at this one any different. I just wanted to come out and play for 22 and ball out and do what I could.”
(On why he thought it got so emotional between the two teams) 
“I mean, both teams just fighting for that trophy. It’s always going to get chippy when there’s something to lose. We’ve just got to bounce back and everybody’s got to keep their composure, I guess.”
(On what was going through his mind before the last series) 
“Honestly, in the back of my mind, we just wanted to refuse to lose the game. We just wanted to keep our backs against the wall and don’t let nobody take it from us. That’s been the same thing we’ve been preached to all year – if the ball’s in the air, it’s our ball – so that’s my main mindset is keep playing and ice the game.”
(On what did it mean to end such an emotional season on a high note and what it can do for the program moving forward) 
“Definitely. It was extremely emotional. Even walking into the locker room, we were saying, ‘That was for 22, that was for [John] Schlarman.’ It’s definitely something to show to the younger guys, that we keep playing through all the adversity, whatever’s going around us, all the outside noise, block it out and keep playing. We know what we go through on a daily basis to put in the work and we’ve got to keep going, regardless.”
(On if he’s made a decision whether he’s coming back next year) 
“Honestly, I’m just trying to enjoy the bowl win. I’m not really worried about anything else right now. I’m just trying to go and enjoy everything with my teammates.”
(On who impressed him on his defense today) 
“I can’t single out anybody. Everybody didn’t back down. All 11 guys, we did what we could, we tried to keep playing to make sure, like I said before, that in the back of our mind we refused to lose the game, regardless. Of course, we had a bunch of, I guess you could call it mess-ups here and there, but at the end of the day we’re just going to keep playing, stay together and just play to the next play.”
(On what the locker room was like and what did Coach Stoops say to the team after the game) 
“Like I said before, it was really emotional because everybody knows it’s been a pretty rough season for us. We’ve had our ups and downs, Chris [Oats], Coach Schlarman, everything, so it’s definitely something for the younger guys to keep going basically moving forward.”
(On if he heard anything from NC State players regarding ACC vs. SEC and pride in their conferences) 
“Honestly, I don’t really pay any attention to any outside noise, and I’m pretty sure the rest of us don’t either. Like I said before, it’s always going to get emotional when you have a lot to lose, so of course you’ll have a bunch of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties here and there, but at the end of the day I didn’t really pay any attention to anything being said or whatever, just made sure I got my guys’ backs and to prepare for the next play.”
(On what did the coaches say to the team when things were getting out of control on the Kentucky sideline) 
“Basically to keep our composure and go out there and play our game, do what we got to do and get back to the sideline, that’s all that needs to be said. We just let our play do the talking.”


(On potentially ending his career at Kentucky with a win and what he thought it brought to the memory of the late Kentucky assistant coach John Schlarman) 
“John was definitely looking down on us. Coach Schlar definitely inspired us all. It was a great way to end, if this was my last game. I’m definitely blessed to be here and participate in this bowl game again. My first bowl game (was) here, we lost, but it was a different outcome this time. (The) offensive line did a great job today. They was moving people all around all day. Give credit to all five of those guys.”
(On how much it helped Kentucky’s offense with the team’s defense setting them up with great field position throughout the game) 
“That was big-time. The defense came away with a couple steals, a couple interceptions that put us in great field position. We capitalized at those times and credit to the defense and those guys who caught those interceptions and put us in a great position to score the football.”
(On if he was surprised on how chippy the game got, especially towards the end of the second half) 
“It was surprising, but it was chippy throughout the whole game. It was an emotional football game. Both teams wanted to be here, both teams wanted to win. Unfortunately some flags were thrown and (there were) a couple penalties here and there, but throughout it all, we still managed to come out with a win and that’s all that matters.”
(On if he can finally exhale now that the season is over and what that feeling is like) 
“It feels great. I mean, it’s unfortunate that the season’s over, but it feels good to end on that win, how we did, getting that bowl win for this community and for the school. It’s been a long year, a tough year with most of these COVID restrictions and everything that’s going around, but I feel like we managed it and we did a great job keeping players safe and keeping everyone that was around us safe.”
(On, as someone who has been at Kentucky for the entirety of its bowl streak, what it says about the team and program that their season didn’t fall apart when everything seemed to be going wrong in the middle of the season) 
“It just shows the type of guys that get recruited here. They come here and they stick to the program and they stick to where this program wanted to go. Five straight bowl games since I’ve been here, it’s only been on the up. I feel like Coach Stoops has done an amazing job. The whole coaching staff (is) recruiting players that want to go here and just want to contribute to this team. I feel like, throughout it all, this was a great win and I’m ecstatic right now. I can’t even put it into words.”


(Opening remarks) 
“It was a great football game. I’m proud of the way we fought back in the second half and had multiple chances to get it back and get a lead. Obviously, it’s one of those games when you lose by two points there’s a lot of plays you think about, and we were without a lot of players today. I thought our defense really battled not having Alim [McNeill] and Payton [Wilson] and Drake [Thomas] and Tanner [Ingle], the kids who had to play in their place played hard. Offensively, we just turned the ball over three times, missed two field goals. We had our chances to make that a different game and we didn’t. You have to give Kentucky credit for that. It was a really hard-fought game and a physical game, as I expected it to be. Proud of the way the kids fought, proud of our season. This doesn’t make me feel like we didn’t have a good season – we did. It was a great experience. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to be down here, and I’m really excited that so many of these players are back. It’s going to be a great offseason with them.”
(On why he thought the game got so chippy) 
“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask them [players]. I’m not sure. There was a lot of stuff underneath, on the ground, in the piles and different things like that. It’s hard to say.”
(On the reunion with other Youngstown alumni) 
“Mark Stoops and I have been friends for a long time and have had great defensive talks with him through the years when I was coaching at Kansas and he was at Arizona. We recruited against each other in Dallas, Texas, all the time and got to know each other well. Then he became the defensive coordinator at Arizona and I was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and we would clinic together. We’ve known each other for a long time. We were both hired the same year at our respective schools. We’ve both done a lot of good things, and there’s not many coaches who have been at their respective schools for eight seasons. So I think it says a lot about what he’s done, what I’ve done, what our staffs and our players have done. Tim Beck and him obviously grew up together, so there’s a lot of respect.”
(On how encouraging the young defense’s performance was today) 
“It’s very encouraging. They were put in some tough situations after turnovers, so to have short fields and have a fourth-down stop like we did, did a lot of good things on defense today – did enough to win. Anytime you play a game without Payton Wilson, Drake Thomas, Tanner Ingle or Alim McNeill – and those are four really good run defenders against a really good rushing offense – we were concerned coming into the game about it. Not that we stopped the run, we didn’t, but we did enough and kept them off the scoreboard enough to give ourselves a chance.”
(On if Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas were injured) 
“Yeah, they were injured. Drake’s been injured and has been kind of playing through some things. Just from a recovery standpoint for both of them, we felt like to have them ready for next year and the way we want them to be able to play, we needed to do the things to them that were needed right after the last game.”
(On what this team and season meant to him) 
“I love these guys. The players, the coaches, the staff, we went through a lot. We went through a lot last season when there was a lot of people talking negatively about us. We stuck together, we came back with a growing attitude. We grew a lot together, we learned a lot from each other. A lot of guys stepped up this year and stepped into roles where they weren’t starters and injuries took place and guys would step in and just play. Isaac Duffy’s a great example of that. I know Bailey’s [Hockman] disappointed in himself, but he had a good season for us. There were guys who stepped up throughout the season. I love this football team, I’m excited about the guys that are coming back, and there’s a lot of positives that we can take from the season.”
(On if he feels this was personally one of his toughest seasons as a coach with everything involved) 
“Mentally, it was. The number of things that we dealt with that you have never been through as a coach trying to make decisions on, all the unknowns, and the thing was none of the leadership had any ideas – [inaudible] was trying to figure out his side of it, president of the United States doesn’t know what to do – everybody’s trying to figure out how to handle this. You just made the best call you could and you learned on the run. We had a lot of really transparent conversations. We made mistakes along the way, learned from them, but it was challenging. There were so many times you weren’t talking about football, and obviously that’s not what I was hired to do. The whole thing was upside down. I feel like we did a really good job managing it and learned a lot through it.”


(On why things got so chippy in between plays) 
“I’m not sure. Most of the time I wasn’t really out there. I just think it was a matter of both teams just simply being undisciplined.”
(On what the season was like for him and what he’ll take from this game moving forward) 
“This game – I know I have to work on pass blocking more in the offseason. That’s kind of why they took me out in the end knowing it was kind of my weakness. I know that’s where my deficiency is, so I know I need to work towards that in the offseason and try to progress in that area.”
(On what the energy was like on the sideline during the game) 
“At the end of the game – after the touchdown – the energy just raised. Everybody was hyped on the sideline. Sadly, we couldn’t get the onside kick, and I think after that momentum kind of changed for us.”
(On if he felt the game was so physical because of teams taking pride in their respective conferences) 
“I honestly don’t think that would be the case. I think it was just emotions, people letting their emotions get the best of them.”
(On the feeling after completing this season) 
“I think everybody is relieved that the season is closing out, but in our case we aren’t satisfied with how the season just ended. We know what we need to work on going into the offseason, so we need to plan ahead and try to work on that during spring ball.”
(On if he feels a difference between this game heading into the offseason and last year’s finale) 
“Yes, although there was a lot of chippiness on the field, you could tell that on the sideline it was more of a family feeling versus last year it was more of individuals trying to do their own thing. On the sideline, people were keeping each other up, just motivating them, telling them we don’t need any more dumb penalties because it’s setting us back.”


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