Any Kentucky football player who shows up for a video session Monday expecting plaudits will be bitterly disappointed – particularly on the defensive side of the aisle.
Of course, you’d have to think the defensive players have been bracing themselves since the end of Saturday’s game.
The Cats seemed to be sailing toward an Opening Day shutout before the defensive backups weakened and gave up a pair of touchdowns against Tennessee-Martin, the only apparent blemishes in UK’s win over the Skyhawks.
So any notion that the young Wildcats – and there is quite a batch of ‘em – will spend the week thinking about how easy it was to win a football game will disappear as soon as the head coach begins to speak. “It won’t be a present film session today, I can promise you that,” Stoops said with a chuckle at his weekly news conference.
He also admitted to being more aggravated after a 45-point loss than one might expect.
“I am, but not to just get on the players because you can after a win,” he said. “Sometimes it’s more difficult after a loss. There’s just things that we have to get fixed and we will and they’re not major. There’s things we’ll get corrected today.”
In fact, he believes it might be difficult for him this Saturday to get his players to match the enthusiasm and fire they had last Saturday. UT-Martin plays in the Ohio Valley Conference of the FCS (formerly 1-AA). Ohio University is a team that’s been to five straight FBS bowl games.
“If there’s anything,” Stoops said, “I have to get ‘em to let it loose and play with that great energy we played with last week.”
It was energy that resulted in explosive plays on both sides of the football. The Wildcats scored five touchdowns on plays of 20 yards or more for the first time in 13 years. One of those scores came on defense.
Some of that energetic enthusiasm no doubt came from the opportunity to finally start the season. And it helped that 25 UK players were making their debuts as Wildcats.
And even though they made it look easy at times (especially on offense), the video showed otherwise.
“There were some very good things and there were some things we will get corrected,” Stoops said. “Even run plays, things people don’t see with the naked eye until you put on the film - being disciplined, staying with reads and progressions. Young guys are so eager sometimes to make a play that they forget all the fundamental issues.”
So “film” sessions, drills, practice – Stoops promised it would be business as usual for the Wildcats this week, perhaps with a tone surprisingly stern, given the result of Saturday’s opener. But it’s easier, Stoops said, to teach after a victory than a loss. Building confidence will not be an issue this week at the Tim Couch Practice Fields.
In fact, the UK coaches likely will spend a few extra minutes making sure their charges understand that even though this is not THE Ohio State University, it’s an Ohio U team fully capable of coming into Commonwealth Stadium in 2014 and doing what the Bobcats did in 2004 – pull off an upset.
“You’ve heard me say it before,” Stoops said. “Our team can’t take anybody for granted. We’re at that stage where we need to play well no matter who we’re playing. (Ohio) is a good football team.”
It’s too soon to say if Kentucky is a good football team, although it certainly looked the part last week. But was, as Stoops pointed out, that was to the naked eye. There were mistakes, he said, and a lot of them. An Ohio team, which pulled out a last-second 17-14 win over Kent State last week, will be far more capable of taking advantage of Kentucky miscues than UTM, which is why the Wildcats need to constantly improve.
“That doesn’t change over night,” Stoops said. “And it’s not gonna change from week one to week two. We’re gonna get better but it’s still gonna be a work in progress.”