LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Mark Stoops postgame press conference following the 27-24 loss to Georgia
MARK STOOPS: It was a very difficult loss. There's a lot of disappointed people in that locker room, and I feel for them because I think, again, I think our hearts and our minds are in the right place.
We had really good preparation all week, and I really didn't feel like we had an edge about us today though. I just didn't like – just a certain look in our eye. I think our players wanted it to happen, and I don't know, I just got to do a better job of getting them to play with that mentality and that edge and that urgency to play with, in particular defensively. They did to us what we have been doing to people: possessing the ball, getting some quality first downs and it’s a team loss. Starting with me, I need to do a better job and across the board we all can do better. It is disappointing because it is an opportunity that is there and we didn’t make enough plays. The game comes down to several plays. You don’t know any which play is going to make the difference, but you can look at 2-3-4 play out there that change the outcome, so give them credit. They made them and we did not. We need to do a better job and I expect our players to bounce back and practice with that urgency and play with a better mentality next week. It wasn’t for the lack of effort from them or anything like that. They were prepared. It was a great atmosphere. I thank the fans because that was an awesome atmosphere to play in and our players loved it. They wanted to win, but we just have to do a better job, starting with me. I thank you for the support of everyone that was in the stadium. We certainly wanted to deliver for the fan base. We will come back strong next week.
Q. Mark, you guys have been playing with fire on turnovers all season, do you think that finally came back to bite you a little bit?
MARK STOOPS: No doubt. No doubt about it. The turnovers were a big part of it. I think we were up 2-0 at half in turnovers. To me, we didn’t play as good as we could in the first half but we did get a couple of turnovers that helped us. Then we put it on the ground three times and lose it two times in the second half. That cannot happen because it was putting the defense in some bad spots and those possessions really hurt. I think they were one-two-play possessions and that hurts to run back on the field. That is a really physical team. Our team has been playing very physical and they grounded it out and made some plays when necessary.
Q. Talk about your thought process on the MacGinnis field goal and the penalty. He had hit a 54-yarder before.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I just felt like at that point we were going to take the penalty and try to pin them. I believe we went three and out and got the ball right back, regardless. So if you pin them, then you are in great shape. If you miss it, you give them great field position. Once we got the penalty, I was going to take the delay of game and punt and try to pin them inside the 10. I think that was the right strategy at that point.
Q. Did you consider calling a timeout at the end, once they got in field-goal range?
MARK STOOPS: I did, but there wasn't -- at one point they were going so slow, if we could have got a tackle for loss it would have been a long field goal. So, I wanted, at that point, you're gambling with wanting them -- you want to take snaps away from them, too, because we had them at that point it was, whatever, in that range of 25-, 30-yard line where it wasn't a gimmie. And so you're trying to see if the clock will run out and they have a longer field goal. Because they had two timeouts, I don't think I could have saved much.
Q. During the win streak you guys really controlled the clock, but today they got several more minutes. Was it more of what they were doing or what you were doing?
MARK STOOPS: Both. Again, I think that – both – they did some good things. We needed to play more physical. we needed to make cleaner tackles and get off on some third downs. They converted 6 of 14, but we only converted 3 of 13. So possessions hurt.
When, again, we were off balance. And then the turnovers don't help either when you're reeling a little bit and just a couple plays.
Q. Was that time of possession discrepancy and then for the defense to be on that field in the last drive trying to make a final stop, I mean, do you think it caught up with them at all?
MARK STOOPS: I don't know. I think our guys were playing hard. We need to execute better. And it started, and I've been on them -- I was on them from the beginning of the game until the end about urgency. And, again, we had a miscommunication on one of those where we should have been rolled into the boundary on the play that they, that we looked, soft cornered, and we weren't supposed to be.
And so that's the urgency that I'm talking about. That's the difference between winning and losing. It takes extreme discipline in pressure situations. And we didn't execute it tonight.
Q. You talked in the past about nights where it felt like things were teed up for you guys in this program. Was this one of those nights where, obviously, you go into the night with a chance to take over first place in the east?
MARK STOOPS: No doubt.
Q. And then all those things you have the lead --
MARK STOOPS: No doubt about it. But we're going to keep on swinging and keep on going back to work. So we're not going to let -- you win and you lose. And these guys are battling and they're in the arena, and they're competing and coaches are working hard and we'll all stay together and we all can do a better job and we will. We'll go back to work, but we're not going to stop. And we had some good times and tonight was a hard loss and it was teed up. And, again, I said that, and I appreciated that support because it was a great environment and you wanted to deliver, and again, a game comes down to a few plays.
Q. Talking about how this program has changed and these guys have changed, with all the things that went wrong, (what does it say) that your guys kept coming back and obviously you were able to ride Benny (Snell) all the way down there and get a field goal?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, you have a great opportunity, and it was a good game. Both sides did some good things and some bad things, but our players battled, and we certainly had an opportunity to win the game. And we didn't. But yeah, there was certainly things we could have done better, and I would like to execute better in the two-minute situation at the end.
Q. When you guys were trying to stall a little bit offensively now that you look back, do you wish you went to that Benny more earlier when there's that stretch where it was either a quick three and out or a turnover?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think you could always -- yes. I think that certainly that's fair. I was thinking that and talking to them about that, yeah, on a possession or two. But you can't let anyone call -- I had some calls that I wish I could do over, too. I definitely do.
Q. Talk about Benny, that he was able to play that way on that last drive. What does it say about him?
MARK STOOPS: It says a lot. He has great heart and great toughness and maturity for a freshman, that's for sure. And we talked about it with Boom (Williams) and with him and all of our guys that they were going to be tough yards today. We needed to grind them out, and we did, and we came up a little short.
Q. Does it tell you that your guys lack the edge, as you put it, and how do you manufacture that?
MARK STOOPS: I don't think you can manufacture it. I think that, I don't know if you can offset it. Our guys really had good preparation. To me, you could see things during the week sometimes, and I didn't see that (today). I saw great urgency and I saw us preparing to win the game, but I didn't feel like we played that way today defensively. I just didn't. And offensively, really, because look at the plays that we left out there. Look at the – there's a lot of things we could do better.
Q. In that third quarter on those back-to-back drives, it looked like Stephen (Johnson) was maybe having something going and then with the Garrett (Johnson) fumble and then Jeff (Badet) dropped that deep pass. How did you see Stephen respond to that or what was that like out there?
MARK STOOPS: Well, he's a resilient guy. We talk about it all the time. That's not going to affect him. No, I didn't see anything with him. We just had to put our players in the best situation to move the ball and try to get that last score. It gets hard when you get in the red zone and they got a bunch of guys in there and they're a physical group.
Q. What did you think of Jordan Jones’ play?
MARK STOOPS: He plays hard, he plays with an edge all the time. So he's playing good.
Q. You won with a last second field goal and then you lost with a last second field goal. What can you learn from this, take away from this?
MARK STOOPS: There's always things that you can do better and that we're always going to do that. We're going to look at ourselves and look at every situation and try to execute better in critical situations. And there's certainly things we can do better and start -- like I said, it starts with me and there's a few calls in particular that I wish I could have over and didn't happen. But I thought our guys made some critical stops and were battling and grinding it out, and when they were at 16, I think, that's when we needed to make a stop there.