Since Stoops came to UK, one thing he has always been was honest with the media. He tells us when he is frustrated with guys and lets us know when there are problems and if it doesn’t affect game planning he usually tells us what these problems are. Its safe to say that Stoops has had more good days, as far as practice goes, in Kentucky than bad ones; at least from what he’s told us. He usually tells us if practice was subpar or lacked effort, but I have never seen Stoops as angry with his players as he was today. I recall one day he was especially frustrated during camp, but not like this. His opening statement to the media was: “Very unacceptable practice today, very frustrating. Preparation wasn’t good enough, attitude wasn’t good enough…it was not good. I’m very frustrated. Some of these guys are looking for a rock to hide under. It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game and I don’t know if we’re ready for it.” Not exactly what you want to hear going on the road for the first time this season in the SEC playing #13 South Carolina. His favorite words for the day? “Not acceptable” and “I’m not okay with it/this”.
This bad day of practice comes as a surprise as the last two days Stoops has said the team has a good attitude, work ethic and overall good days of practice. Today he said they have a “losing attitude”. Stoops told us that this is the most frustrated he has been since arriving in the bluegrass.
“This is the most frustrated I’ve been probably because we’re in the middle of a tough stretch, getting ready to play a tough game on the road in a hostile environment and with that attitude we’re going to get rolled. And I believe that happened last time we went down there right?”
Right you are, coach. Last time the Cats played down in Columbia we lost 54-3. Kentucky is 16-7-1 all time versus the Gamecocks and according to Stoops today if the game “is the way it was today, a 21 point spread ain’t enough.”
Ouch, I know. But fear not: there is SOME good news. Connor Shaw injured his shoulder in the game against Central Florida this weekend and was expected to be out up to three weeks. He did practice Monday and Tuesday (and I’m assuming today), and it was just announced he will start against Kentucky, although he could have decreased playing time. Shaw is 20-4 as a starter. Speaking of the UCF game, I don’t know if many of you watched since it was also game day in Kentucky, but Carolina played subpar against UCF to say the least. UCF shut the Gamecocks out 10-0 at halftime, their first shutout since 2010. Suprrier’s team rallied back to win 28-25, but to say that they have played better games is an understatement. Stoops said, “We got to coach better, we got t0 play better, it’s not okay. This is not going to work. We have got to get better every day and reach the most potential we have and if we do that, I’m okay with it. If we don’t, I’m not and the way it looks right now we’re headed in the wrong direction.”
Stoops was asked if this Kentucky team knew what it took to win and be successful being that many of them were a part of the 2-10 team last season.
“They don’t know what it takes you know. South Carolina has been doing things right for what now? About a 14-year minimum, two hall of fame coaches for 14 years- those are some grown men. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played because they’ve been doing things right for 14 years at least. And we’ve been TRYING to do things right. I can’t speak for other times, I know I’ve been trying to do things right, our coaches have been trying to do things right and I told you like I tell them; I’m going to tell them how it is, I tell you how it is and there’s no games with me,” Stoops said.
Since Wednesday is offense day, we also talked to Neal Brown. Brown didn’t seem nearly as frustrated as Stoops and said that offense had a better day than defense (although we can probably assume it wasn’t spectacular on either side). Stoops told us Tuesday that one quarterback took more snaps than the other. Brown told us the same QB took more snaps today as well (I have a hunch it is Whitlow). Brown clarified that when he says “more snaps” it isn’t a 90/10 or 80/20 kind of arrangement but more of a 60/40 or 65/35 setup because one hasn’t separated himself enough yet. Stoops was asked if they had looked into playing one of the other guys since the unnamed starter had a rough Tuesday and both had a rough game Saturday. Stoops told us he had looked into it (Towles and Phillips) and said “If we thought that was a viable option, we’d do it.” Regardless, it seems like we’re progressing towards a decision at the quarterback spot.
Stoops told us he was hoping to turn it around and come back ready to play tomorrow. “The bottom line is, we’re going to get it out of them. When, I don’t know.” The players we spoke to (Sanders and Timmons) seemed to be in pretty good spirits, but regardless, I think I speak for the entire BBN when I say that we hope they pull it together in time for Saturday. You can watch the rest of what Stoops had to say here.
Last year in Commonwealth USC beat Kentucky 38-17. Kentucky actually lead that game at halftime 17-7 if you recall, but failed to score in the second half. Whitlow had one rushing touchdown in that game and Raymond Sanders had the other for what it’s worth. Shaw also threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns. There is hope for Saturday, but the Cats are going to have to clean it up.