Kentucky-Tennessee Postgame Quotes

Kentucky-Tennessee Postgame Quotes


October 28, 2023
Lexington, Kentucky, USA
Coach Mark Stoops Press Conference
Tennessee 33, Kentucky 27  


MARK STOOPS: It is very disappointing to come up on the wrong side of that game. What a great night, great atmosphere, great football game. Very disappointed that our coaches and I couldn’t find a few more plays to pull off the victory. I am very proud of our team for their commitment to getting better. The past couple of weeks, you know, during my sessions with you guys I’ve talked about the team preparing and having a focus about them and work ethic about them and growing and getting better. I thought that showed up tonight. You know, that doesn’t mean that we’re happy with that. I’m happy with the growth, but very disappointed with the outcome. But I’m proud of our football team for their approach and the way they are working and the commitment that we gave for the past couple of weeks. As a staff, we have got to look at everything and find a way to make those plays. It is a game of inches. This is a game that was separated by several plays, not always the obvious ones that jump out at you, but there are plays in there that we had and could have made that could have changed the outcome. So, you know, we accept that. I am not playing the would have, could have, should have game. It is the truth. It is two very good football teams going at it out there and playing very hard. You know, we have to go back to work and find a way to make critical plays in critical moments. 

Q Walk us through your thought process on the two fourth downs.  

MARK STOOPS: The going for it early, very — yeah, that — I don’t — yeah, I mean, you know, if I pressed early, do you know what I mean, the first one, you know, we had two fourth and one’s, you know fourth and a yard or a half yard right at the start of the game there and punted it away. They scored quickly. You know, probably got impatient and went for it with the second one. That’s on me. So that was it. And then the other one, John, you saw the other. I mean, we kicked the same distance. It is right on his limit. I wouldn’t guarantee. You know, if I knew he was going to make it, I would kick it. But we had the same distance, and it wasn’t close. Those are not give-me’s, you know, when they are over 50. With them, you need to score points, you know. So, I don’t — I don’t regret the ones down in the high red. I regret the early one, pressing a little bit.  

Q To see the passing game finally take off, how encouraging is that?  

MARK STOOPS: It is very encouraging because they worked hard and you are starting to see some growth, and that I’m happy with. And, you know, we have just got to continue to work hard. I mean, this is a difficult league, in case you didn’t know. And our guys understand that, and they need to continue to have the same approach. And we will get better.  

Q We talked Thursday about how tough it is to stop the running game. It didn’t seem that you could get a handle on that all night.  

MARK STOOPS: No. It was — yeah, it was frustrating. The tempo at which they go gets some of the guys, their eyes a little dirty, you know. And credit them, you know, they have a very good scheme. The tempo adds to the vision of your players with the fits. And if you are not very precise, they will make you pay. And it is just like early, with the one that split us, we were in a pressure and our guy thought he came as tight as he needed to, but things move fast and differently. And we didn’t have a good handle on it, John, all night. And I think — you know…  

Q Mark, in the past you have equated tackling to being out of position. It seemed like you over-ran guys and missed tackling today. How would you account for that?  

MARK STOOPS: Well, I think that is probably fair to say. And you’ve heard us talk about it all week why? This team puts you in a space that not everybody does. So, therefore, you are going to see some of that; you know, and we talked all week about having to win some one-on-one’s and we won some and lost some. And you are in much more space with a team like this, and their backs are elite. And, you know, so I think that is some of it. No excuse. It is just to credit them. And they are good players and they put you in some precarious positions to make plays; they stress you.  

Q Mark, offensively it felt like every big play was followed quickly on the line of scrimmage. Did that let Devon get a little bit into a rhythm?  

MARK STOOPS: We are trying, trying to get faster and get to the line and, you know, create some tempo ourselves and get him comfortable. Yeah, hopefully, it helped him.  

Q Mark, the last few weeks it seemed like after a penalty or two in follow-up you keep fumbling there. You got two false starts on the second drive. How do you feel like they responded to that?  

MARK STOOPS: We overcame that one, if I am not mistaken, we scored a touchdown or at least three. I think we overcame that and scored. But you don’t want to do that all day, and I don’t think we did. Our stat sheet, we have a problem with it. It is a lot better. It is an improvement. So, you know, we talked about that, you know, one of our points of emphasis was playing much smarter, you know, and foolish penalties, and, you know, we didn’t have any of those, I don’t think, no.  

Q Did you get an explanation on what they saw on the review right before the half?  


Q Did you feel like your team, the kind of point assists you put over the last few weeks, they picked up on a lot of that?  

MARK STOOPS: I do. I definitely do. I think, you know, for us we talked a lot about, you know, being very dedicated to focusing, do you know what I mean, and being very focused and execute and work on the details. And I know we talk about those things all the time and coach speak, but it is true. We just need to block out all the noise and, you know, really focus on your job. And I felt like the players did that. And I always — I also wanted them to be much more selfless, do you know what I mean, you know, and just play more united. And I felt like we were that way, you know, we were pulling for each other. And a tough game. And I think the team responded offensively. When we fell behind, they picked it up and scored. And the defense had a couple of big stops. We didn’t get some at critical moments, I know. But it felt like we grew in that area. And then we talked about playing smarter as well as the third point of emphasis and we are better in that area.  

Q Did Kenneth re-acclimate an injury? I think he was a starter.  

MARK STOOPS: Yeah. No, it was not the same injury. It is something else.  

Q Mark, I pretty much know what you are going to say to this, but I will ask it anyway. You lost three in a row. Where do you go from here?  

MARK STOOPS: Go back to work. You know, you think — are you going to feel bad for me? “Ha! Ha!” I appreciate that. I don’t need it. I don’t need any motivation to get back to work tomorrow and neither does our team and our staff. It hurts because we invest a lot, our players invest a lot, and our fans invest a lot. And so, it hurts. And very disappointed. But not discouraged one bit.  

Q Mark, follow-up to that, I think you talked about finding leaders on this team. Do you see some guys do that?  

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, definitely. You know, just, you know, I think the whole group was resilient and showed some resolve. And we talked a little bit about that as well. And, you know, that’s what I want us to look like, with that. I mean, I would like us to make enough plays and be more detailed, and us as coaches find those few plays that can make a difference in a game like that. But I’m proud of the team.  

Q Mark, Dane Key, and Devon, what exactly, specifically with their relationship?  

MARK STOOPS: Well, you can ask Dane that and Devon. I’m sure they will give you honest answers. For me it is a perfect example of a young man we talked about earlier, maybe he was in a tough — he was in a tough spot, you know, he was kind of frustrated and he just went to work, bottom-line. He will tell you, and I’ve told him, and we talked about it the past couple of weeks. He went to work. Instead of putting his head down and pouting and feeling like somebody would feel sorry for him, he went to work, and I appreciate that. I think I said that after the Georgia game, in which there were not many positives, but somebody asked me if there were any positives and I noticed that his work from the practice field carried over to the game field.  

Q Coach, does even the loss get (inaudible) and the game going and how do you deal with that?  

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think, you know, those guys, they are true sophomores and have high expectations coming into it and we are in a rough league, you know, and growth. You see growth and maturity, you see them fighting, making plays in games like that, and that is what we need out of both of them.  

Q Mark, what do you say to Alex Rainier? Going into this game he had not missed a nonblocked field goal. It was a tough one, 50 yards out. Do you have to say much to him?  

MARK STOOPS: I don’t have to say much to him. We have a lot of confidence. It was tough. I believe it may have been one yard further. But he can hit those. But he probably tried to over hit it. And it was not a great snap, if I recall, it was a little high, so the timing may be a little off. But we will be okay. He will be solid.

October 28, 2023


UK Student-Athletes

#13, Devin Leary, QB

On he and Dane Key firing on all cylinders…
“It goes back to when I first got here in the spring, we put in a lot of work of making sure we get those extra reps after practice, making sure we are watching film together and today it was good to see that we were able to connect a little bit and a guy like Dane and really all our receivers, you get the ball in our hands and those guys go and make plays.”

On the difference in the pass game tonight…
“For me making sure that I’m reading my correct reads and going through my right pre-snap process and post-snap process and overall, just executing. It’s tough that we are coming off a loss because of how much work we put in coming off the bye and getting extra preparation on Tennessee. We felt really good going into this one but for us in the pass game it was only a matter of time for us, we were just a couple plays and clicks away from an execution standpoint from doing what we wanted but there’s always room for improvement.”

On how frustrating it is not to win the game…
“Yeah, I mean it’s frustrating regardless who plays well, the overall goal is to win the game. I’ve always looked at football that way, whatever coach needs me to do, whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do it. Walking away with a loss today puts a sour taste in your mouth a little bit but now its back to the drawing board, you can’t praise yourself too much for coming off a something that ended in a loss, there’s still room for improvement and we got to get back to work tomorrow and build off this.”

#54, D’Eryk Jackson, MLB


On how frustrating the missed tackles were… 

That was frustrating, I was just talking to Trevin (Wallace) about it saying we had them. I was just shaking my head about it and there is nothing else I can really say about it.”


On the confidence of the defense after three straight losses allowing thirty points…


As we said in the locker room, we have to keep building. In this league, people are losing and winning, and you never know who is going to win. The league is crazy, and we just have to keep building and be grown men who keep going.”


On dealing with Tennessee’s tempo…
I think we were ready for it, but they just made a couple of more plays than we did. It is tough because they just keep going. I think we were built for it but like I said it was tough to deal with.”

#6, Dane Key, WR

On how it feels to lose after a positive offensive performance … 

“It’s frustrating. It’s sickening, actually. We have to take it on the chin. We have to come in tomorrow, flush it, watch the film, and come back ready to prepare like we did last week and do the same thing this week.”

On what clicked for the offense… 

“We felt good as an offense. It could have been better, but I feel like we are starting to click. We saw it at practice. [There was] a lot of excitement at practice and a lot of energy. I feel like that’s really what helped us play so [well] tonight. That’s the main goal for next week: to keep that energy, transfer it over to next week, and keep building.”

On if there were any adjustments to the offense during the bye … 

“I wouldn’t say it was anything in particular. I just feel like the way we came out for practice is what helped us translate it to the game.”

#32, Trevin Wallace, LB


On post-game locker room mood…

“You know, obviously a part of life is going through adversity. Playing basketball, football everybody goes through that. Everybody had their head down but there are leaders in there telling us to keep our heads up it is a part of football. We’re in the SEC, it could go either way, teams are good no matter what. They recruit as well. Everybody was in there saying that we could keep going and could keep striving.”


On the pace of Tennessee players…

“Tennessee’s tempo is insane. You just have to get ready and get going, as soon as you tackle them, they get five or six yards, and they get right back up and you guys have to play. So mentally you just have to get ready to play. The tempo was as expected.”


On Tennessee having over 25 yards on the ground…

“People not being in the right spots, you got to think about it they have got three great running backs, so it was bound to happen. We didn’t anticipate for it to happen; we didn’t like that it happened, but they do have three great running backs, so you have to respect that.”



OCTOBER 28, 2023

Tennessee Head Coach Josh Heupel

Opening Statement …

“They played for four quarters and didn’t play perfectly. A lot of things that we can do better in every phase. But they played hard. We were physical, and we talked about having to win the fourth quarter. Felt like we won the fourth quarter tonight. That was a good job finishing the football game, all three phases. And a really nice drive at the end of it by the offense to go during the clock. So proud of our football team for answering back. And so, I told them we’ve got to continue to get better, too. There’s a lot left on the back third of the season. And there’s a lot of things we can control that we got to be better at.”


On Dylan Samson and his role in the game…

“Dynamic in the second half, in particular, down the stretch. But did an unbelievable job making people miss and reading the blocks. And running extremely hard, running through tackles. Jay (Jaylen) Wright did that early too. Got picked up a little bit on the back half a bit.

Jabari (Small) ran well too early. All in all, just a big-time effort from those guys. And obviously, ‘D Samp’ played really special tonight. Big guys up front were really pretty solid with all the things that they were showing, movement, everything they handled. Really pretty clean for most of the night. Tight ends were big in that too.”


On finishing the game…

“Whoever’s on the field at the end. You’ve got to go finish it. Win, lose, draw. It’s always three phases together. You’re always competing for each other. And the fact that one phase of the game can help lift up another, that’s what special teams do, when they got a really good culture inside of it.”

On the decision to kick a field goal at the end of the first half …
“Man, the seven seconds actually thought it was going to be nine. You guys probably saw a replay of it. But when it was at seven, we still had a time out. We’re far enough back. Just didn’t trust all of it playing out. You can take a shot for sure. But just in the situation of it, felt like we needed to get the three. And so that’s why I like to get them.”


On is checking the clock time at the end of the game …
“(We) did. And these ones do it. That’s what they came back with.”

#7, Joe Milton, Quarterback 

On how cool it was to see Charles Campbell have ‘that’ moment… 

“It was good finally have him on our team. To see him in the Big 10 when I was at Michigan, he was at Indiana and seeing him make those field goals when we played against him, I was a little bit sad. So, to see him on our side of the ball now is great and I’m proud of him and special teams.”

On how satisfying it was to win the game… 

“It was great–it was an opportunity for us to go out there and seal the deal – that’s what we did. Shoutout to those other 10 guys who were out there with me and the other guys that were out there on the sidelines that was also locked in you know just seal the deal–that’s all that matters.”

On Dylan Sampson’s broken tackle plays… 

I mean he does that every day, that’s Dylan. Just a small guy that’s hard to bring down. Dylan works on everything that you can possibly see out there on the field–he works on those moments. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing, he’s trying to work on something new– it’s Dylan. He’s smart, he works hard and also, he’s just a team player too so whatever needs to be done Dylan’s willing to do it.”

#6, Dylan Sampson, Running Back  

On what it means to him to have a chance to play and score… 

“It’s just what we all prepare for you never know whose number is going to get called especially being in a deep running back room but this what we prepared for in practice so just go out there and execute at a high level– that’s just the job and that’s just what we have to do.”

On at what point he realized the ball would be in his hands as opposed to Jaylen (Wright)… 

“In the fourth quarter–I don’t know if he’s banged up or not but coach went with me and you just have to go out there and execute and that’s what I was trying to do every time I touched the ball.”

On being able to win on the road… 

“It was good– like I said we had to finish. I feel like this is a big step in getting where we need to go. We have a lot of things that we need to accomplish but this was a big win for us a s a team.”

#21, Omari Thomas, DL  

On difficulty getting to Devin Leary …  
“You have to give it to Kentucky, they have a good offensive line, they block well, they play together, and it threw us off a little bit as far as under pressures and everything. We continue to play hard and enjoy the outcome of it, but we have to get back to it, work on new things to affect the quarterback more, and continue to get back to what we do.”

On keeping Ray Davis in check …
“Just playing along the other side of the line of scrimmage, he’s a great running back. He makes people miss; he is patient. He hits the hole fast; we have to play in our gaps with great technique and I feel like that is what we did.”

On getting ready for Kentucky after the loss to Alabama …
“We just embraced having another opportunity to come in this Saturday to play the game. We always look forward to those Saturdays because it is another opportunity for us to go out there and be the best team on the field and I feel like how we (our team) approach the game weekly, regardless of win or lose. We always come in just trying to be motivated, always uplifting each other and having fun and being free within the facility because we believe everyone needs to be happy to do what we do at a high level.”



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