Kentucky-Mississippi State Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Mississippi State Postgame Quotes

University of Kentucky Football Media Conference
Saturday, October 15, 2022
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Head Coach Mark Stoops
Press Conference


Kentucky – 27, Mississippi State – 17

MARK STOOPS: Much better feeling this week than last week at this time. So, really proud of our team, obviously. As I told the team, I didn’t know the outcome going into this game, but I knew we would play like that. I knew we would play like we play; tough, resilient, together, and play hard like we do. And I knew we would respond.

And, again, didn’t know the outcome. Couldn’t predict that. And there’s things that happened in that game that none of us could have predicted. But surely proud of our team the way adversity came and went, and we responded.

A team effort. Put it together in all phases when we had to. Sure, there’s things to clean up, like always, like any team. But overall, just a great team victory. I thought our coaches had a good plan. I thought, surely, there’s things that we could do over and call over and, you know, replace a few calls.

But in general, we had a really good plan on both sides. And the players were just — I just greatly appreciate the players and their attitude and the way they prepared.

The way, you know, all of our pride was hurt just a week ago, just by the way we played. And, like I said, you’re going to have some wins, you’re going to have some losses.

The results are what they are. It’s all about preparation and the way you play. And, again, I felt really good about the response for our team.

I have to say before I forget and get into questions, that I cannot thank our fan base enough. We’ve had a lot of home games. We’ve had some ups and some downs. Came back this week again pulling in, seeing the people, seeing the tailgating, seeing the packed stadium, hearing them, staying till the end, cheering like they did. Thank you. Amazing.

It was a great night. The bye comes at a good time for us right now. The players need some time to heal up. It’s difficult going that many straight games. We need to get some rest and get to work and clean up a lot of mistakes. I’ll open it up for questions.

Mark, how do you know you were going to get this kind of performance?

MARK STOOPS:  I just felt — you know, after the game, I told you, I challenged them. I took probably a different approach in the locker room last week.

But they deserved it. You know, the truth is the truth. And we all have to share in that responsibility when things go wrong. And I felt like they would respond. I felt good about it all week.

But, again, they’re beat up and hurting in certain ways. But, you know, probably more than anything, their pride was hurt. And so, they responded in the right way. So I felt pretty good that we played again with the energy and passion and toughness that we play with.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Probably so. You know, I felt like our conditioning and depth probably helped. I think our guys were really strong when they needed to be, and that helped.

Mark, talk about Will’s toughness and the tone he sets for the rest of your team.

MARK STOOPS: You know, it’s hard to give it the recognition that it deserves. Because he is a tough player. And he’s a great leader. And, you know, he has that belief about him, you know that — because he’s earned it. He’s worked for it.

And as I mentioned, you know, before with the victory, you know, you see it now. But it’s really what you see, not all the work that goes into it. And that’s a guy that prepares and works and leads the team.

When he went to the locker room, did you know he was coming back?

MARK STOOPS: I did not. I did send somebody in to get me a quick word back, though. I had to send somebody. I wasn’t waiting on Gabe to give me the result. So I sent a little birdie in and the little birdie said that the x-ray was negative and that I knew with that guy, being that it was a non-throwing shoulder, that if it wasn’t broke, he’d be back out there. And sure enough, he was.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: It was very important. And I thought the coaches had a nice game plan. We had to get into some bigger sets because they do a lot of things, a lot of pressures, as you have seen.

And they had a great one tonight. They created a lot of points off turnovers. So I thought our big sets in the running game really helped us.

You talk every week — every coach talks about being balanced. And you guys had the perfect balance tonight. I think 239 and 239.

MARK STOOPS: Wow. Didn’t know that. That’s a good balance. (Laughing.)

Coach, I spoke to you on Thursday and I asked about, you know, how you guys plan to slow down Will Rogers at quarterback. And you said it was a million-dollar question. He had his lowest total in yards in the season tonight and only threw one touchdown after having games of three and six. So, again, I’m going to ask you: How did you slow down Will Rogers tonight?

MARK STOOPS: Team effort. Team effort. The offense possessed the ball. Not that that’s our total game plan when we play people like that. But getting first downs, moving the chains, you know, scoring points. It’s all important.

And defensively, had some big stops. I thought that they had a great game plan. Brad did a great job. Defensive coaches did a great job. And, you know, mixed it up well. Our players executed. And, you know, it was really a team effort.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Well, I just wanted to make sure we set the tone immediately in that locker room. Because I tried to a week ago and I didn’t do a very good job. And I tried. First thing I did when I walked in. You know what I mean? And I could just tell.

I talked to every coach on the headset on the offensive side and the defensive side and I said, first thing, before you go make your adjustments, get your guys, talk to them first quickly. Get them right, get their minds right. Because I didn’t like the way we responded a week ago. And we did a much better job responding in the second half.

So we all talked to the team, got them right, got their mind right, got them in their groups, and then went and made our adjustments and came back and talked to the players.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: I’m not — you’re saying that. I’m not. You know, I’m just — I don’t want to overcoach. I don’t want to overthink that. You know what I mean? It’s just — I don’t know if it’s ever the right words or not. I think the work is done throughout the week. You try.

But if you’re trying and you’re not feeling it, it’s probably too late. Our team was in a good spot. We responded. Our coaches made good adjustments and our players executed.

I know you haven’t seen the video. But was this the offensive line’s best game?

MARK STOOPS: I think it’s pretty fair to say at this point, yeah. Because that’s a really good defense. You know, they’re really disruptive and they do a really good job in creating pressure. And I thought they really did some good things.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, Rahsaan and Chauncey both had some opportunities. And we have faith in both of them. And, you know, he did — he responded well after the fumble. It was a tough break because he really had some good yards after the catch. He was getting some stuffed runs and sometimes that happens when you get stood up like that and they rip the ball out.

You know, and then the drop on the screen was a little bit troublesome for me too. But overall, he really did a good job. It was nice to see him get that score.

I was really close to calling a time-out and I’m glad I didn’t. I just went with my instincts and trusted Will. Wasn’t the look we thought with that play, but I trusted Will to get it in there.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was really good for Dekel. It was real — you know, when you’re in tough games like this, sometimes we — you know, the receivers, they all want the ball. And running backs and all that.

And so, I think we learned from a week ago against a tough, hard-fought SEC-ranked opponent, you got to do what you have to do. And you don’t know that one play. And I said it last week, too, but it didn’t matter.

I said, ‘Hey, stay with it’. That one catch can make the difference in the game. And I’m glad he came up with it today.

(Question concerning penalties.)

MARK STOOPS: You know, it’s hard to say. I mean, we were — I believe we were the — I got to — I didn’t check this week. I think we’re still the least penalized team.

And it was uncharacteristic a little bit early. And, you know, some penalties are going to happen. Aggressive penalties. The pre-snap penalties are hard to tolerate. And we got to buckle down and do a better job with that.

Because some of the best teams in the country are leading them. So penalties aren’t always the indicator. When you’re an aggressive team, sometimes you’re going to get it. The pre-snap, can’t happen.

(No microphone.) How important was the way that Trevin and D’Eryk played in Jacquez’s absence tonight?

MARK STOOPS: It’s always important playing these guys. And the linebackers are in stressful positions. They do such a good job in the pass game. They’re running it more efficiently this year — not more efficiently. They’re always efficient. They’re more committed to running it, so they’re keeping you off-balance.

So, you know, you got to make a lot of plays in space. And, you know, we made great improvement this year over last year when we went down there. And there was a lot of yards after catch. And, you know, we improved a great deal on that.

(No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Well, I think, you know, there was some plays in there he was aggravated, I was aggravated, you know, that you’d like over, you’d like to execute better. There was a lot of things.

But, again, I thought the coaches had a great plan. And there’s certainly some plays and some timing that you would like to do some things over, you know?

You know, and I think we learned. And he will learn, you know, as you continue to grow and continue to compete in this league.

Yeah, Mark at the end of the half, it looked like you and Rich went back and forth after the QB draw with Will. Was it more of you just didn’t want him running the ball? Was it a clock management thing?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t recall which play. I think we were talking — I believe you’re talking about I had to use my last time-out, if I’m not mistaken.

And we were discussing plays, obviously, because with the way they pressure, if we get tackled and bounced, it’s over. You know what I mean? You’re not going to get any points.

So, I don’t know. There was no — that’s just coaching. I don’t remember anything, honestly. But, you know, I’m sure I got — I think people will say, Why didn’t you run another play? We had nine seconds. You know, they played — the play prior to that, they played it really well.

I didn’t want to force something, get a pick. I felt, again, going in tied this time compared to last week, we get the ball to start the second half. And we did drive down and get three and got ahead. I thought that was really important. It outweighed the risk of taking a sack or getting, you know, an interception or turning it over and deflating our team.

(Question concerning Matt Ruffolo.)

MARK STOOPS: Sure it was. You know, sure it was. And, again, you — again, I have confidence in him. He does it all the time and he needs to get out there and do it and it’s good for him to hit some.




OCT. 15, 2022

UK Student-Athletes

Kentucky Student-Athletes


#14, Carrington Valentine, DB

On the secret to beating Mississippi State …

“Just strength. Things are going to happen. Just get the ball to the ground. When our backs are to the wall, you have to climb out of the hole. That was the main thing. Just trusting one another.”


On not having as many missed tackles and how that played into effect …

“It made a big difference. When you get the ball on the ground, it gives you more opportunities, less explosive plays happen. That was a big emphasis to get the ball on the ground. Another big emphasis was to tackle the backs. All week that was the big point.”


On the mindset going into the game…

More like, get it done. We weren’t ourselves last week and we didn’t want that feeling again. It was a big thing people were saying, we didn’t want to lose three straight and that was another thing that was in that back of our minds. We just went in and did our jobs, did our responsibilities and came out with the outcome with the win.


#19, Rahsaan Lewis, Sr., WR

On getting in the end zone for the first time …

“Definitely was a good feeling. Been awhile since that happened, so it was unreal. That’s why I don’t even have much to do to celebrate it. I kind of just let all the emotion get out of me.”


On redemption from first half …

“I guess you could say so, but honestly I forgot about it. It’s football, it happens to the best of us. So, they all just said keep going and I was ready. We knew we were making our own mistakes. We needed to stay calm, and just play football, play the game we know that we have practiced and prepared for. We needed to stop making dumb mistakes. Fix the penalties and the small things we knew we would be alright.”


On Will leaving the game to the locker room and leading the team …

“At first, he was on the ground and I was like oh what happened? I wasn’t in and I didn’t see what happened. But the way I saw him run off something just told me he would be alright and come back out. He came back out and I was like yeah that’s Will, he’s a superhero. That says a lot about him. You can tell how much he loves the game, loves us, and loves UK and doing something like that is a lot, so we all love him and fight for him. We kept telling him we’re gonna fight for you.”


#7, Will Levis, QB

On loss against South Carolina last week…

“Yeah that was tough. Especially for me to watch that and not be able to really do anything about it.


On what his definition of controlled aggression is…

“You want to play fired up, you want to play intensely. You don’t want to play recklessly. So it’s playing with a fiery mentality, it’s playing just with a warrior’s mentality without getting outside of the scene.”


On his teammates message to him…

“Yeah. Guys were coming up to me and telling me they believed in me and I had all the confidence in the world that this was going to happen.”


#24, Chris Rodriguez Jr., RB

On wearing down the opposing defense during the second half…

“I mean I think so but shoutout to them, they’re a really good defense. I feel like they were wearing me down at some points, but JuTahn McClain got in there and did his thing, and Smoke.


On the difference in the offense with Chris Rodriguez Jr. back in the game…

“I don’t know if its just trusting the run game more. Coach believed in me, people in the running backs room just believed in me. It’s not just me. Yeah I might be starter, but as you saw today with Jutahn and Smoke, they can get the job done.”


On the feeling of carrying opposing teams during a touchdown run…

“I don’t know, my guys told me, ‘go get it’ that’s all the told me is, ‘go get it.’ I didn’t even know I was carrying people, I thought it was the offense line pushing me.”


#5, DeAndre Square, LB

On if the interception sealed the game…

“I feel like it did seal it. I knew something was gonna happen. We just worked so hard this week and we put a lot into this week. I mean, we do every week, but we emphasized a lot of things and we weren’t letting that game get away, you know? We really wanted this one. I just knew something special was going to happen.”


On countering the passing attack …

“I know in 2020 they were fresh into it, but we looked back at some of the things we did there and some of the things we did wrong in 2021 and we noticed we had to get set and then break on the ball. What hurt us was the 21 missed tackles we had last year, and we knew this year we just had to tackle them. They’re going to drop it off and have big plays, but as long as we tackle, we’re gonna be fine.”


On how big this game was …

“It’s pretty big.  A lot of people would say our backs were against the wall, losing two games in a row and possibly could’ve lost three. I didn’t see it that way. We have the opportunity to go out there and showcase what we are made of. Definitely a big game. SEC home game, two top 25 teams. Big game anywhere. Every game is one we have to win. I look at it the same.






OCTOBER 15, 2022


Mississippi State Head Coach Mike Leach

On what was Kentucky doing defensively to throw them off…

“They were patiently there watching us screw up. I thought we went out there – and to be honest I did not think this week’s practice was quite what it was versus (Texas) A&M and against Arkansas and in particular on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I thought on both sides of the ball we tried to be too cute as if we had arrived or as if we had done something which obviously, we have not. I mean you never arrive – you never arrive at anything. I remember Jerry Rice running up and down that hill after the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl, you never arrive like it is a destination, you keep battling and you keep competing and we did not do that and what is important in this game is that we got outcoached, we said a lot of really clever things all week long and there is one thing to say something but to get it across, to get it through to your players to where they abide by it and have a sense of urgency around it is definitely a different thing and we did not get that message through. We talk about everybody being the same and competing at the highest level etc. etc. but this game is tough enough so there is always a temptation to look for an opportunity to relax.

“I thought offensively and defensively both we tried to go out there and be too cute. That running back (Chris Rodriguez Jr.) pounded us. We talked about playing with low pads and running our feet on contact and we did not do that. We did not tackle very well and on the offensive line we took turns getting penalties and getting pressure.

“Virtually all of this is my fault because I run the offense and, in the meantime, we are trying to be perfect and run these perfect little plays, something quick and clever. I mean look how long it took us to get a snap off, that was just ridiculous, taking forever to get a snap off, that is insane and that is us. That is our fault not getting lined up and not getting a play and not running it immediately and quickly, and both of those are things that we did quite well the last two weeks prior. We did not do that today.

“Like I say it is human nature, you got to avoid it and we did not…. thinking it would be easy and obviously Kentucky does a great job and has for quite some time. They went in there and decided they would eat the clock up which they are determined to do that, and even though we held them to not too many points and had a great play for a touchdown we let them convert every third down, and offensively we took forever to snap it ourselves so we are eating more time off the clock to where we do not have very many remaining opportunities and we are not converting third downs particularly well.

“We are vacillating between ‘my bad’ and ‘innocent little misunderstandings’ and all the stuff like ‘I did not mean to do it’ and ‘it could happen to anybody’ or ‘I will pay closer attention next time.’ We got a lot of that. Then, all of a sudden, we would get frantic and try to make too much happen which we did that too. We would try to play slow then get frantic and try to make too much happen. As a result, a fine job on the part of the University of Kentucky, I wish that we had played better and put our best foot forward, and part of that is that Kentucky kept us frustrated and they beat us.”


On if there was a reason, they had trouble scoring in Lexington under him…

“I do not think it is anything schematic, it is just us. We just have to focus and play, and I do not know if we get distracted by the trip, which we should not, or if we are distracted by the stadium, which we should not, and we should not get distracted by anything. You know how they played their defense this year? Exactly like they did last year. Even a number of the people were the same.”


On how to overcome what he thought was a bad week at practice…

“You keep pushing the message. There is a point where key players in the locker room have to help push and all that. As coaches we have to find a way to get through as messages only count if they are received. “


On why the Kentucky running game created difficulties…

They were playing with lower pads than we were. They ran their feet on contact. They consistently whipped our defensive line with their offensive line. That running back (Rodriguez) played as good of a game as I can remember anyone playing in the conference this year. I have not played everybody, but he played better than any running back I have seen in the conference. I did not think we tackled as well as we had been tackling either.”


On how he thinks his quarterback handled the environment…

“Frantic. He tried to make too much happen. He had some help and I tried searching for how to settle him down. I think the thing between the other players not holding up their end made his job tougher as well. The thing is he did not play his best game either. I do not have a (specific) position, our problems were teamwide. I do not think we handled the last two weeks of success very well. We got fat, dumb, and happy and when you go through the schedule, we have it is tempting to do that, but the thing Is that is the last thing we can afford to do.”


On if he noticed fatigue for the defense after the pick six…

I did not. My sympathy level on it would rank somewhere below zero. First, they played 70 plays, which is not many plays. Now the fact we only allowed ourselves 47 plays on offense. I mean how the hell can you call yourself an offense and score as many points as we did and only have 47 plays, well you have to get the first downs and move the sticks. No, I did not feel sorry for them at all, we had them in third down situations and did not get them off the field. Sometimes we kept them out of the endzone, but we did not get them off the field. Defenses are supposed to be able to play 70 plays. The other thing that is laughable is that everyone who wants to play football says defenses are supposed to get off the field. Defenses are supposed to control whether they get off the field. Stop them. Why do offenses need to be on the field and defenses need to get off the field? Defenses need to get off the field and stop them.”


On how irritating it was that with an experienced team how his guys handled success…

They somehow better figure out what type of player they want to be. Everything is on film, I mean, if someone sees this on film 200 years from now and compares it to the other films they are going to like the other films a hell of a lot better than this one.”


On if the touchdown drive is what the offense should have been all night…

It was, it is how it has been in some form or fashion the last two weeks, and we had every opportunity to do that. There were a variety of things (that stopped that) from dropped balls to false starts to holds, to the whole thing. We never got in a rhythm and played together.”

Mississippi State Student-Athletes


#14, Nathaniel (Bookie) Watson, LB


On why UK was so successful running the football …

“They had a good offense, and a good run game. We didn’t prepare that well for the run apparently. So we just have to get back in the book and stop the runs next time.”


On how Mississippi State held up late in the game …

“They got the best of us. You know. At the end of the day, they won, we lost. So its just back to the drawing board. We are going to do a lot this week, though.”


On what made Chris Rodriguez so hard to defend …

“Chris is a powerful back, a big back. He can run too. He has a lot of speed so I’ll give it to him. He was running the ball a lot today. We just have to prepare better.”


#2, Will Rogers, QB


On practices this week…

“I just don’t think it was quite to our standard. I mean it’s kind of easy to just, you now, relax when you’ve won three games in a row in this league, but definitely wasn’t up to our standard. So, yeah, this should wake us up. We have to jump right into practice tomorrow and the rest of the week.”


On what Kentucky defense did to the offense…

“I mean all of the blame goes on me. You know, that comes with playing the position and you know, I kind of learned that a long time ago. You have to give a lot of credit to Coach Stoops, he does a really good job, he has a really good defense . They have some really good players that play really hard, they try to keep everything in front of them and they’re going to make you go on long drives. So yeah, I wasn’t having my best stuff tonight, but you know everything that happened tonight falls on me.”


On if the team seemed not ready for the moment…

“No, I wouldn’t say that. Definitely, I think, pregame before the locker room and at the hotel I definitely think everybody was ready to play. Sometimes you just come and you don’t have your stuff. I think tonight was one of those nights, so we’ve got to put it behind us.”



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