Kentucky-Vanderbilt Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Vanderbilt Postgame Quotes

University of Kentucky Football Media Conference

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Coach Mark Stoops

Press Conference

Kentucky 21, Vanderbilt 24


Opening Statement…


MARK STOOPS: Tough loss there. You know, bottom line is we didn’t do the things that we talked about all week. Really just the intensity that we played with a week ago, just thought it was average at best.


The execution in playing clean, once again, just didn’t happen. We’re leaving points on the field. You know, missed-kicks, two-point conversions and driving the ball and not converting in the red zone. Defensively inconsistent.


Had some really good moments at times, and then had an opportunity to ice the game or have a great opportunity to put it away, and once again, the word “clean” didn’t come up with the penalty.


Take that away and then you have a chance again on fourth down, and gave up one that was just thrown up in the air and gave up the fourth down conversion to have an opportunity to ice the game right there again and didn’t make the play.


So, give them credit. I said that early in the week and I meant it. Told Coach Lea before the game that his team was playing really well in a very difficult schedule. You could tell by the way they were playing that he was really building a really good program and team, how hard they were playing even with losses.


No matter what the score was, they continue to play hard all the time. You know, so credit them. Our team has to — we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and address the situation and address the things that are going on and respond one way or the other.

I anticipate our team will. It’s been a hard year and challenging times. There are things that everybody can do better. I’m sure the team is very hurt and embarrassed with the way they played. We all are.


There is only one way out. There is no way to point fingers or anything like that. We know there are issues, things to be addressed. That will happen at the appropriate time. And then there is work. That’s it. You just got to go back and work and try to get better in every area.

So, I’ll open up for questions.


On cleaning up the things he talked about…

MARK STOOPS: Frustrated, yeah, I think is a fair word. You know, very frustrated and disappointed that I’m not getting it done. I’m not communicating well enough to push on the things that we need to get better at.

You know, that’s frustrating and also disappointing, and something that I’ve got to figure out.


Mark, we have seen other schools make coordinator changes in season. Are you to that point where you have to consider staff changes now?



Is there consideration for an offensive line coach?

MARK STOOPS: I just answered that question.


Mark, obviously they hurt you in run game. Was there any one particular thing that was breaking down for you in the run game?

MARK STOOPS: You know, just inconsistency, and I was just thinking about it prior to coming in here, I think we got to take a good hard look at it and just see why we’re so inconsistent.

Too much, you know, complicated, I don’t know. We got to take a good deep dive into it and see why. You know, at times later in that game we started getting some good movement and getting some good — the run game going.


But too late. We had our opportunities. With Chris breaking off that run, if we get a stop we have an opportunity to win the game. Had plenty of opportunities there. Couldn’t get it done.


On the Vanderbilt offense and Kentucky’s play against it…

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, again, I think there are some issues there. A lot of that has to do with the quarterback. That was a unique play, the zone ops, the quarterback keeping it, split us with a call we had, wasn’t great on the 70-yarder, but that’s different than just mushing you all day on that. Does that make sense, with the quarterback?

And then there were times where there are passes where he pulled it down and scrambled and hurt us as well. Any time you’re playing a dual-threat guy it puts pressure on you, complicates your calls.


We did have a guy wrapping and looking for him there I think he just got blocked late. We couldn’t quite tell on one of the third down and longs that he pulled down and scrambled for 20 some.


So, he made some really nice plays. He pulled it down, scrambled, and made some plays when he had to. Also threw it. When we were trying to play zone and rush one less, he threw it into a spot or two that hurt us.


Third down was a problem for us today. Didn’t look at the numbers, but I know from watching the game there were some big time third downs that they converted. One way or another, throwing it or running it.


Is there anything in particular in the red zone struggles the last two weeks? You all have been getting it to their side of field a lot.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, and it’s just killing us because it’s stopping momentum, stopping plays. We’re not converting the field goal all the time. You know, even the three there, you know, and Ruff kicked it good three of the four, but it’s got to be four of four. It’s just got to be clean.

You know, but only 54 plays offensively, again, that’s not good. That’s both sides. Defense we had the opportunity to get stops, and offensively we stopped — they stopped us in some critical moments.


How bad is this loss?

MARK STOOPS: I mean, yeah, I mean, it’s not good. You know, any time you lose to anybody. I’m not going to disrespect Vanderbilt because I think he’s doing a really good job, and I’ve been where he is at, so I know very clearly what it’s like to be on that side, and I know good coaching.


So maybe everybody doesn’t pay attention because they look at records all the time, but coaches know. I’ve seen the way they have been building and what he’s doing, and it was a good win, so compliment them by the way they played.


For us, again, I touched on a lot of things.


What happened exactly on the last fourth down conversion?

MARK STOOPS: The one where they threw it up and he ran by? We were in deep third — he was a deep third player, and I didn’t see how he got behind us, but he did. Just threw it up.


On Kentucky’s defensive scheme…

MARK STOOPS: I think at times we were a little — got mushed a little bit at times, yes. I think we were not as firm as we need to be all the time, but some of that is, yeah, it’s quarterback run game some of it.


They have a very good running back as well that I think is a really good player. And Davis, he’s a good player.


Is it confusing at times for you? I know it’s not simple math. You add more offensive pieces this season and you’re still not able to get the ball down the field like you guys wanted to. Is it confusing to you to see you guys not be able to execute that?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we really tried to push it. I think you saw some of the throws even today went down the field, but also some the calls that you didn’t see the ball going down we were trying, we were trying push it down the field today.


Give them credit. They took some things away, we missed some protection, you name it. Yeah, I think Will will want to see the ball pushed down the field a little bit. Some of the strikes, some of the play-action, again, were good. Then we got down there and kind of fizzled out.


Will was two for ten in the second half. How do you assess his play at this point?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, again, it’s not just Will. It’s hard for me to say that right now until I look at the film and see what we’re doing around him, what position we’re putting him in to be successful, how players are playing around him.


I’m sure he’s frustrated. He’s a great player. We’re not playing very well and not supporting him at times, and there are times when he’s not perfect as well. None of us are immune. He’s a big boy. He’ll respond. He’ll bounce back.


On the first drive…

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think he made a couple tough catches early, too. It was nice to see him get some touches and get some good plays. You know, again, comes down to when you get 54 plays nobody is getting enough touches.

Just got to piece it together better.


Mark, you mentioned Vanderbilt very hungry to break that conference losing streak. Your coaches say sometimes the other team just wanted it more. Was that a factor today, do you think?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. I think, again, you give them credit. Again, I’ve been there, where he is at. I know how hard they work to get to that point, so that’s a good moment for them. It’s hard for me to put my finger on exactly what it is. I don’t want to say just any one thing.


Go back to Will for a minute, he’s taking so much punishment, been hit so much. Do you think that started to impact him in the pocket?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. You know, I don’t know. I think there are times when you used to see him pull it down and run when he had to and the confidence in that run, in that running ability.


He’s not been as effective out of timing, and that could be for a variety of reasons.


You mentioned it’s been a tough year. At the start of the year you had a team that deserved the high expectations, a lot of talent on this team. Are you surprised the season has turned out the way it has?

MARK STOOPS: Disappointed. You know, disappointed with the way things have gone. I think everybody is. Each year, each team, you have to go earn it, prove it. I know that. We talk about that all the time.


There is a fine line there. For whatever reason, I’m not getting it done with this team, getting them in a position to be successful.


When you look at it, (indiscernible) the two first half turnovers and only get three points?

MARK STOOPS: I think it was very tough to get it three times inside the red zone, if I’m not mistaken, or the high red or inside the red, and I think we had six. That’s very frustrating.


On if the team will respond after the loss…

MARK STOOPS: I have no reason to believe that it won’t. You know, I think the locker room in there was — a lot of guys hurting in there. Emotions run deep. Disappointing for everybody. It’s different. You know, let’s just be honest, it’s just different now with the way — with the portal and just different things. It’s different.


So you have to continue to grind and build your culture, your team, your mentality, and I’m not doing a good enough job with it right now. I told the team that. I can’t ask them to — before they blame or talk amongst groups and things like that to take a good look themselves and make sure they’re doing things, I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t do that myself, and the staff.

So we all have to do that, and it starts with you individually and collectively we got to find some answers.


(Regarding Rich being pretty open) He didn’t want to use a lot of the design quarterback runs this year. Why did you all take that out of the offense, because it was so effective at times?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I’m not — I don’t think we would have just said we’re not using it at all. I don’t think anybody ever said that, you know what I mean? Maybe not as much or wasn’t in his system, but, no, I think he would tell you that there were some times when we would sure like to have that if he was at full strength and all that.





NOV. 12, 2022

UK Student-Athletes

#1, Keidron Smith, DB

On The last drive …

“We beat ourselves. Vanderbilt outplayed us throughout the whole game. Kudos to them.”

On avoiding the team falling a part at the end…

“We just have to finish. We can’t stop. We can’t let up. It’s the SEC, anyone can be beaten any Saturday. We can’t stop. We can’t give any lenience to the other team. We have to be dominant every phase of the game. We were up ahead and we laid down a little bit and that’s all it takes.”

On what the team learned today for next week…

“Like I said, we just have to finish. I feel as though we played good in some areas. But there are certain plays that we hurt ourselves in. We have to finish and when the clock hits zero, that’s when we can lay back.”

#7, Will Levis, QB 


On if guys just were not into it… 

Yeah. Not enough hype. Not enough juice. We talked about it among us all week and we did not buy into it. We did not play hard as they did. We knew they were going to play hard as they play hard every single game you see them play, whether they lose by 50 or win you never know. We knew that about them, and we did not match them today.” 

On how to rally the troops… 

I have been thinking about what I want to say to the guys, but I think I need to look in the mirror first and say to myself what can I do to improve? If there is one point of emphasis that is the mentality. When you are engaged in football in any way the most attention-to-detail thing is focus and energy. You cannot be lackadaisical, and you cannot be lazy.”  

On if the inexperience was a factor in the loss… 

Yeah, I think so. We are nine games into the season now, though, so that is not an excuse. They are young but they have played a lot of ball. They’ve got to know their stuff, everyone has got to know their stuff and sure you can say that, but I do not like excuses and do not want to say those kinds of things. We can be better, and those guys know they can be better. I know I can be better. Coaches know they can be better. We just need to be better.”


NOVEMBER 12, 2022

Vanderbilt Head Coach – Clark Lea


On how the players remained unphased after the 72-yard UK touchdown run and what this win means to them…

“There’s belief there. I don’t know if that happens two weeks ago. I think there’s evolution there. I think this group is learning that they’re a good team when they play well. They have to stick with that belief and step into it. It’s not about making the spectacular play, it’s about making the routine play and, over time, when you do that, your opportunity to win shows up. I was disappointed on the breakout run, but I’m not going to let that get me down right now. We don’t want that, but it gave our offensive a chance to respond. We can certainly grow as a program from that. I felt that our defense set the tone early and that they positioned our team to win in the second half.”


On how having Vanderbilt’s first ranked SEC win since 2007 will help evolve and build the program…

“This is about us taking the next step on the journey that we’re on. We took that step today. I told the players there are many of these ahead of us and that we need to celebrate this one. But I also told them that the expectation is that we are competing and winning in this league. This is a necessary next step and the guys were ready to take that step. It wasn’t easy, they earned it and they’re to be congratulated for that.  We just need to continue to build, the division hasn’t shifted so we’re still on the same path that we were on four hours ago. We got a taste of that reward and it’s special.”


On Mike Wright’s performance and what it means for him to play after having a tumultuous personal season…

“Mike’s a resilient player, a resilient person. You know, he’s had personal disappointment this season. He’s a great teammate, he’s a captain for us.  He doesn’t feel sorry for himself and he models what we want in respect to being a team first guy and strengthening the team. He’s mentored AJ [Swann] in AJ’s young career. When he’s had opportunities, both as a starter and in relief for AJ, he’s made plays for us. Was it perfect? There were some ups and downs in his performance, but he was ready when we needed him and made big plays when we needed him. The first run was a great tone setter for us. Mike Wright is fun to coach, he’s fun to watch. I’m very happy for him.”

Vanderbilt Student-Athletes

#5, Mike Wright, QB


On what the win means to him…

“Yeah, I think – and this is a mentality that we all have on our team. We believe in ourselves, and I believe in myself so despite external noise – we don’t pay attention, [and] we don’t listen to it. The only people that matter are the people inside of our walls, and our facility. So that’s really it. As long as you believe in yourself, and I believe in the guys – I’m going out there playing. Like I said my job is easy. I promise my job is easy. I mean, y’all can go back and look at the holes the O-line was making. Some of the catches that our receivers were making. I mean we got Ray Davis and Patrick Smith leading the charge and the run game, so my job is just to go out there and play and have fun. Who better to do it with than a great groups of guys.”


On the key to the run game being successful…

“I think it was just a mentality. It starts with the guys up front, who have been challenged these past two weeks with guys being out due to just illness and injury – so really proud of Jake Ketschek, it was his first game starting and he played lights out. I love him. He played really well – and then like I said, those guys create the holes and they just let guys like Ray Davis and Patrick Smith go do what they do best, so hats off to them. Whenever you see those long runs down the field – what I try to stress to people is it’s somebody on the outside – a receiver making a block down the field. It’s a mentality to want to do that because they don’t have to do that.”


On how this game provides a boost for the remainder of the season…

“I mean we just stay and we just keep playing. Every play matters – every game matters, so we prepare for every game the same way. Like you said we got a win and we’re going to enjoy it, but our job now is taking our mistakes – we still had turnovers on the offense. We still have things that we need to clean up, so we’ll take a look at that Sunday and find a different way to prepare and make sure those mistakes don’t happen again. It’s just about resetting and refocusing and attacking it.”


#0, Anfernee Orji, LB


On breaking their losing record in the SEC…

“I’m old so… last time we won a SEC game was my freshman year, so I remember it like it was yesterday. This feels great – like, oh my gosh, this feels great. Right after I saw CJ (Taylor)grab the ball, tears just started coming down my face. I couldn’t help it – this feels amazing.”


On what the defense did well today and how their performance has improved…

“I feel like at first, we did well at keeping them out of the end zone. Just making them earn everything – so stopping as many balls as possible. We just have to tighten up later, just like staying true and staying confident that’s really what we did. Just playing confident – we know we’re a good team, we’re a good defense, so just playing like that. That’s what drove our performance.”


On how happy he is for Coach Lea getting his first SEC win…

“How happy are we? Man, it’s a party. It’s a party in the locker room. It was a party when he walked in. I grabbed his beanie, threw it off, [and] started rubbing his bald head. It’s a party. It’s fun.”

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