Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Eastern Kentucky Postgame Quotes

September 9, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Coach Mark Stoops Press Conference
Kentucky 28, Eastern Kentucky University 17

MARK STOOPS: OK, feels good to be 2-0. Obviously, still a lot of work to be done. This week we played a little better complimentary football. When the offense was struggling early in the first half, the defense got two turnovers and some stops, and kind of we were consciously not wanting to give up long drives and try to get the offense in rhythm and, you know, a little more aggressive and got stops and turnovers that I thought were big. The offense struggled a little bit in the first half to get the punt return at the end of the first half and another big play for the special teams and get the seven points I thought was really big. You know, give Walt and Coach Wells in Eastern the credit. I am not going to be over-critical. I know we have a lot of work to do. But that’s how you expect them to play, you know, to come in and play us and very familiar with us and, you know, they have a lot of pride in their program and are very good. And it doesn’t surprise me they came in and played extremely well. I give them the credit. We know we will get better. I thought, once again, they were just — we left some plays on the field. But they did a lot of good things as well. So, I was proud of our team. And, again, we find a way in difficult circumstances to kind of complement each other, whether special teams or defense. And then later in the second half when we gave up a drive, defensively, they hit us with some pressures and free release the back and created an explosive play. Later we made that adjustment and doubled that back, and that is where we got the sack at the end. So, you know, we talked about some things and got some adjustments. But it was nice to see after, my point was, after the defense gave up that drive it was nice to see the offense get it and drive right down and score and protect that lead again. So, anyway. A lot to work off of. It is a lot better to go to work 2-0. So we will get some more things fixed.

Q What is the team leadership?
MARK STOOPS: I like our leadership. We have got some very good leaders.

Q You said the team makes a big jump in the second week. What is the big jump this week?
MARK STOOPS: Again, I think the good thing is we protected each other. When the offense was struggling, the defense played really well. And then the defense gave up points and the offense goes down and scores. When we are both struggling, the special teams got the seven points. The bottom line is winning. An area where we didn’t get clean, and we have to improve is the penalties. Penalties are really hurting us.

Q What is the offensive line kind of having a main difference in the lead at hand?
MARK STOOPS: We just got down to playing. We just have to play better. Early, I have to look at the film, some things that were disappointing were runs that we were in. And we did not establish the line of scrimmage in this game. We were running for one yard. Second and ten is a lot harder to call and set up all of our stuff. Our play action game is not nearly as effective when it is second and ten. So, we have to continue to improve in that area.

Q Coach, a couple of weeks you begin conference play. What do you take away from the first two weeks as we get closer to the SEC play?
MARK STOOPS: I think we have a good football team. We need to improve, but I like their attitude and the way they are playing. We are 2-0. And there are plenty of teams around the country that have a lot to do. It is early in the season, and we have to worry about ourselves and improve. If our team continues to have the same attitude they had last week in practice and willing to commit and work and play together, then we will get better.

Q What is the message you had? What did you tell him at half time?
MARK STOOPS: To quit looking at the scoreboard and play the game, play one play at a time. And, you know, once again, it is not like we played terrible all the time on defense. They were moving the line. They are a good football team, they really are. And they have great pride within their program. They didn’t like the way they played last week, either. And they were coming here and very familiar with us and that’s the way I expected them to play.

Q What was Devin’s half time adjustment? Like last week, he missed some throws in the first half.
MARK STOOPS: I think he felt a little disappointed in himself. He made a comment to me late in the game, you know, just the first half he was a bit off. I think he will get better and better. And that makes it tough, you know when you miss some throws, some explosives that are out there and you miss them. It doesn’t help the situation. But you calm down, and he made much better throws in the second half.

Q You talked about the receiver Tayvion in bringing everyone together to make a big play. How nice was it to see him respond?
MARK STOOPS: It was very good. You know, he is explosive. He is good in the return game, he had the sweep, he had the explosive play, and I believe set up a touchdown. And he is showing better leadership and just playing really hard. And within this offense, you know, and most guys just have to continue to grind and some days they pop up with statistics, and other days they are not. In today’s world, in the media, and appreciate the coverage, but then it is, you know, X or Twitter or social media and everything, as I told them, they cannot let people take our joy. We know there are areas we did good things, areas we need to improve. We need to stay close, united, and go to work. And it will look different for different guys as the years go on.

Q You had 51 plays last week, 61 today. Can you comment on the tempo of the offense and the flow.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah. I think we are still taking some time and the overall procedure will continue to improve. You know, there were opportunities left out there as well. And when we missed some throws and killed some drives, you are leaving some things out there that we will improve on.

Q You talked this week about Eastern Kentucky but to see on the sideline with the tough time for the programs. How nice was it to have that moment there after the game?
MARK STOOPS: That is always, you know, good. Like I told them, it does not surprise me that they bounced back and played one heck of a game. And that’s the — that’s the team that I expect to play right there. And you have to earn it, you have to work and you have to beat them. They did a really nice job.

Q How was it for Devin to take over the game when you were struggling?
MARK STOOPS: I thought it was big. You saw Deone in some one-on-ones getting immediate pressure. You saw Trevin, you know, having an impact with rushes. And, again, I think when they hit us on a couple of things, Brad, we talked on the headset, made a nice adjustment late, and got the big sack on third and four and five on the end there. And took away things they were going to. They are good at draining, quick game, free releasing the back. And I thought we did a nice job early with bringing pressures and doing things to not get nickel and dimed, so to speak, you know, all the way down the field. So, we were aggressive. But that aggressiveness sometimes gave up a big play, too, setting up one of their touchdowns late.

Q The penalties that were issued, 10 for 70 this week and last week the same issue. What do you attribute to the penalties at these early stages? Early game jitters?
MARK STOOPS: There is no excuse. I can’t make an excuse for them. You know, I can’t do it. Do I think our guys are, you know, a little amped up and all of that? Yeah. But bottom line, it is still not okay, and I have got to find a way to get it corrected and, you know, like on the last drive there we had a third and one and we flinch again. And, you know, early in the game when we had the third and one, there are things that go on in the line of scrimmage that are tough. You know, so, I am not being critical of officials but there is a simulated, you know, our guys felt they were simulated. So got us to flinch but it happens, and we have to do better.

Q The point on the punt that was blocked, is that something you are not really having? MARK STOOPS: It was odd for us. On the field, we knew they were not selling out and were trying to block it. They were forcing, I believe with three, I could be wrong, but I know three guys were forcing and the snap was not perfect and pulled us out of the pocket a bit. So, the details, little things. So… The rest of the night we were pretty clean, pretty solid, and impactful. When they don’t kick all day, it varies. The respect that he has in our return game and explosive return on the punt return, once again, was pretty big.

Q Offense obviously has not been as smooth at times. But you got four straight touchdown drives and you could have five and you wanted to at the end. What was going right and what are the things you could try to build some momentum with that?
MARK STOOPS: Early, again, critical penalties. I think we had a hold that we didn’t overcome, a false start I don’t think we overcame on that drive, you know, I believe. There were two penalties that obviously didn’t help us continue drives. That’s part of it. I think we have got to be a little more accurate. And I am not worried about Devin. He is one heck of a player, and he will get it ironed out. And he missed some things. I thought there were balls we could have caught as well. And there are things we can all do better. You know, there’s — be more physical at the point of attack, get it at second and five rather than second and nine or 10. We will all share in it, but later I thought we had some critical drives that were successful. So …

Q Is Barion lobbying to get back there on punt returns?
MARK STOOPS: He always returns some as well, you know, so the two of them get back there and get some. So… I’m trying to get his legs up underneath him and get him feeling good. He had a soft tissue injury a little bit during camp that hindered a little bit of his conditioning. Do you know what I mean? Playing and that. You can see his speed elevating and getting his legs up underneath him, as other players are.

Q Not letting anybody taking your joy from being 2-0. Last week you were not happy with the score.
MARK STOOPS: I took my own joy last week, didn’t I? It is pretty hard, it is pretty rough, isn’t it? I’m pissed off if we win or lose. It hurts. It is rough. Yeah. Ha! Ha! I don’t know. I don’t know what the balance is. You know, I know that we are going to be back in, and I know that the team is eager to get back to work. You know, the staff and the team know that we have work to do. But they are willing to do it. And they have a good attitude about it. They know it is still not quite our standard. And we want to play better.

Q Mark, as good as you knew McKinney, what was he doing that still threw you off balance?
MARK STOOPS: Well, I mean, have you watched him? I mean, he’s an All-American. The guy is a good player. As I said last week, he does a great job when you are in his face. Do you know what I mean? He is like a magician, you are in his face, and he buys time and, you know, can get rid of the football. And, so, they have good schemes. When they are at what’s time there are concepts and things that are challenging for us that we work. But there are different calls, different ways. There are things that they do that are good, you know, and one of the reasons why they have had such good seasons.



UK Student-Athletes

#0, Deone Walker, DL

On the snap counts today …
“It was a timing thing you know. Coach (Anwar Stewart) and Coach (Brad) White we pressed the ‘clapped’ after you hear that clap, one-one thousand, two-one thousand, then the ball comes out and it was just a getting too far into the game and not really hearing, just going.”

On how it felt to get to the QB …
“It felt great. It’s always fun having a good a play with them, they’re always going to bring me up and I’m going to bring them up.”

On the defensive group tightening up…
“We just need to have more of a camaraderie, and we’ve been working on that. When the adversity hits, it’s like everyone really shifts off, we. Our offense really brought us together today.”

On playing through adversity this season even though it’s young …
“Like you said, season’s young, there’s going to be mess up. People are going to get mad, there’s going to be a lot of emotions and that’s just the game of football, that’s just the game of life.”

On having a guy like Trevin Wallace behind him to go hit the quarterback …
“Yeah it’s great. Even when I can take risks on some plays, I know that he got that catch up speed to make me right no matter what.”

#7, Barion Brown, WR

On lobbying to be on punt returns more …
“Honestly just whatever to do to help this team win. My main goal is to you know make this team be the best we can be and if that’s me playing punt return, I’ll be there.”

On Devin getting rid of the ball under pressure …
“A great leader from Devin. Devin is a great leader. Calm when we are going through something. He’s calm when we’re winning, he’s calm. That’s just something you know I like to see in the quarterback is calmness you know not panicking that’s how you win.”

On wide receivers playing a part in the rush game …
“That’s me playing a part in trying to help this team win. Tayvion had a big explosive run. I’m just ready to keep rolling.”

On how big was it for Tayvion to step up today …
“Very big coming from one of the leaders in the receiver room. He make a play that make us feel all good so you know just making the play hype the team boosting us up a little bit.”

#32, Trevin Wallace, LB 


On what EKU was doing out there…

“EKU, I’ll give credit, they were doing everything. And I know they got to see (CJ) Conrad so it’s kind of like a cheat code and they have another coach that was here at Kentucky. I like that though because it helps us try to figure out how to maneuver around that. So they were executing a lot of stuff, so I like that about EKU- they’re a pretty good team.” 


On what the message was at halftime…

“The message at halftime was overcoming adversity because the last two years when it came to adversity everybody would just go down. So I can say this year we had emphasized overcoming adversity and I think it was better coming out the second half.” 


On if the game was coming naturally to him…

“I can say I’m a leader and everybody looks at me as a captain so you need that captain or leader to go out there and look at players so everybody can go out there and wrap around and keep going. So you know I had said to myself ‘If nobody is going to make the play then go make it so everybody else can feed off that’.”

#9, Tayvion Robinson, WR 


On if the rhythm increased the more they play… 

 “Yeah, I feel like each week we get better in chemistry. We feel more comfortable as a unit — I think going into this week we’ll practice hard and go out there better on next Saturday.” 


On what was different with Devin Leary at the end of the first half vs. the beginning… 

 “He probably just got comfortable — went in the second half, probably talked to Coach Coen, and made some adjustments. Probably talked about things he was seeing and came out second half well.” 


On what he thinks Devin Leary needs to do to potentially find his groove earlier in the game… 

 “I feel like just as a unit we just got to stop starting slow. You know, come out and execute better, and stop shooting ourselves in the foot.” 


On what the jet sweeps and reverses did for the team during the game…  

 “Those are just explosive plays that got the momentum going on our side — they got the guys excited, and we executed and finished those drives.” 


#13, Devin Leary, QB 


On getting rhythm late in the first half and during the second half… 

 “Yeah, definitely. We saw a little bit in the second half, but we got to start better. We definitely have to start better, similar to last week — walking away. We will definitely take the win. It’s hard to win, but, you know, we’re much better than that. We understood that we got to start better in the first half, the defense balled out credit to those guys and in the second half, we started to pick it up a little bit. But a lot of guys in the locker room are kind of dapping each other up, understanding that we got to start better. So that was a big takeaway from today.” 


On if him being a tempo QB controlled the outcome of the second half… 

 “Yeah, we kind of got into a rhythm and Coach Cohen wanted to hit him with a little bit of tempo. In the past, a lot of the offenses that I’ve run, and different schemes have a lot of no huddle tempo. So, it’s a little bit of what I’m comfortable with, but — you know, at the end of the day, in camp, whatever he calls, however, he wants the offense to operate, it’s my job to make sure we’re running it smoothly. But it was good to see us get a little bit of rhythm, a little bit of tempo, second half, and put some points on the board.” 


On changes that were made from the first half to the second half… 

 “Yeah, just making sure we go play-by-play. I think that’s the biggest thing for our offense is. Not trying to score 40 points in one play. It’s not possible as much as we want it to happen. You can only go one play at a time, winning one play. For me, a couple of those missed throws early on mechanics were a little bit off, coming off to the sideline. It was really cool to talk to Kaiya [Sheron], Deuce [Hogan], and Destin [Wade] and they were kind of just giving me some pointers on cleaning up my footwork and making sure that I’m not rushing anything. The second half kind of just settled in and just took what the defense gave me.

EKU Head Coach Walt Wells

Opening Statement …
“Appreciate all you guys staying. Obviously disappointed in the outcome of the game but very pleased with how our team came in and competed. We always talk about compete don’t compare and don’t watch the scoreboard and I think our guys did a great job at that. Made some improvements from week one to week two, but still made too many mistakes to beat a really good football team. Make no mistake about it, friendships aside, this is a good football team that we played today. Got a lot to build on, we’re 0-2… ”

On improvement from last week to this week …
“I’m pleased with our improvement. If everybody looks at the score, obviously we improved. There’s going to be mistakes made, mistakes are made in football. NFL guys make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. They tested us, and they’ve got guys that can test you, probably better than the ones who played last week.”

On the punt just before the half …
“Yeah, that’s my fault, we got to do a better job at coaching and communicating. I wanted to waste the time, I wanted to run the time down, they had no timeouts left I was gonna run it down to one and call a timeout. It was supposed to be punted out of bounds, you know it’s funny you go to practice, and they punt them out of bounds all day and we come here, and you come out here and they kick it right down the middle. We kicked it straight to Barion and he made sure to tell me about it after the game. That’s on us, we have to do a better job at communicating because that can’t happen. If we can go in 7-0 right there, we will get a little momentum. We gave them the momentum going 7-7 so that’s where we ended up. We came out and got 3, they came out and got 7, you can’t trade like that. They’re just a really good football team.”

On Parker McKinney …
“I think Parker showed he belongs. I think a lot of people question that, I think last week proved it and this week solidified it. I know there are a lot of people who come in and ask those questions, is he an NFL star? Well, I don’t know, I’ve never seen that coached in the NFL. I’ve coached against guys who have started in the NFL. You know, some of them he’s probably not as good as, but a lot of them he very much is. He’s so calm, cool, and collected, and played so much football and he understands our offense. As you see, some of the plays he makes out there are just like somebody playing in a backyard, and sometimes you got to do that, and you got to be able to do those things. I was proud of Parker and his playing today.”

On the importance of Roy Kidd …

“Yeah I think now they do, I think when we had them over we, and Coach had a complete day, and that’s our alumni association for our football team. Former players, trainers, managers, anybody who’s involved in the program, and during camp we had a luncheon for them to come back and Coach [Kidd] showed up and Coach Icen was there also. He was his longtime defense coordinator… And it was a great day and at the end we sang Cabin On The Hill which is our victory song… And I had a bunch of them ask me which one was Coach Kidd… And I got the opportunity to share with them who Coach [Kidd] was, and we were right there by his statue so they know he’s successful, so they figured that out.. and just how much he meant to EKU, to Madison County, to Richmond, to me, to my family and to the state of Kentucky football.”

How emotional was the post-game handshake and hug …
“Mark’s gracious.. he’s very complimentary as I was.. we’re good friends and when he was just outside I told him I’ll see him in the basement here in a couple hours.. he’s just a really good, genuine person, and what you see is what you get with Mark.. his comments I’ll always remember, and I hope he remembers the comments I made to him.”

On the moral victory …
“Well, what I tell them is there is a standard we have to play with every week. Every week we want to get into the fourth quarter, and we did. You know we didn’t last week, we weren’t in the first quarter last week but this week we got into the fourth quarter, and if you give yourself a chance in the fourth quarter that’s all you can ask for in this game and then you have to go out and continue to do the right things to make plays to win the game and you won’t be nervous you’ll be trained to win the game you have to play to that high standard.”

EKU Student-Athletes

#18, Parker McKinney, QB

On EKU’s performance pushing an SEC team to the brink…
“Obviously taking an L is never the standard for what we want. I think I’m super proud of these guys coming off of last week where it’s not necessarily the identity we want to put out there on tape. But then coming out there this week regrouping and having a good week of practice and coming out and playing the way we should play.”

On the identity of EKU’s team after today’s game…
“I think it shows a lot about us as a team. It shows a lot about our players and our coaches not to dwell on the past. I mean we got beat by 50 points or something against Cincinnati and then to come in here and play against a really good Kentucky football team, who’s going to win a lot of games, and play the way we did and have a game where it could’ve come out on the other end.”

On the UK defense early on…
“Yeah, obviously Kentucky has one of the best defenses in the country and we knew that coming in. I think the biggest thing is their front 7, front 4, front 3 whatever you want to call it. They do a good job giving some pressure. I was definitely feeling them for most of the game and I think also contrary to that the offensive line, they had some mismatches, and we knew that going in. I think the offensive line really played a great game for us. With that being said, I mean their defense was getting pressured, but our offensive line I also think played great.”

#97, Ryan Jackson, DL

On defensive improvement from week one to week two…
“It was a good week of work during practice. We didn’t simplify anything, but we got back to what we do best. We got back to our standard of play where we run fast, play fast, and get excited. But it wasn’t anything we couldn’t have done in the Cincinnati game. We just had miscommunication and bad discipline. But obviously, we came out here and fixed those mistakes.” 

On the grind this week in practice…
“All of our practices are intense. All of our practices are not hectic, but we get after it every day. This week we just had to show more. We had to give more. We had to work harder and communicate better. We just had to go back over the little things for us and obviously, that made big improvements for us this week.”

On EKU’S upcoming conference schedule…
“I feel like we are ready for whoever we play. We always come in ready to compete and expect to win and that’s nothing our team is going to stop doing. I think our team is up, I think they’re still confident in themselves, and I think they are ready to play. I think they could go out there and play another 60 minutes with UK if you really wanted us to.”


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