Stoops hits reset button following blowout loss to Alabama


SEC photographer

Kentucky’s AJ Rose looked for running room earlier this season in a loss to Ole Miss. The Wildcats take on Florida on Saturday in Gainesville.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops has been in reboot mode since a 63-3 loss to top-ranked Alabama last week.

“We definitely need to hit the reset button,” he said. “There were things about of our control last week, again, absolutely no excuses. As far as our players’ mentalities, we have to reset and get back to playing the way we are capable of. And yes, we’re excited about us, and our play, and hopefully we can have a normal week and get back on track.” 

The Wildcats (3-5) began the week mourning the loss of offensive line coach John Schlarman, capped by the absence of 10 players because of COVID-19 tracing and injuries prior to the contest against the Crimson Tide. Stoops offered no excuses and added, “nobody is going to feel sorry about me.”

“I’m not worried about that, but it is difficult for the players,” Stoops said. “There’s no getting around that. (Last week was a) very, very difficult and trying week, trying year. It is what it is, no excuses. We need to play better than we did. The players, I do feel for them. They’ve had to deal with a lot, no question.”

He added the ongoing pandemic hasn’t made things any easier for his squad or any others in the Southeastern Conference. He added the Wildcats never considered postponing last week’s contest at Alabama, despite being shorthanded prior to kickoff.

“It is what it is … and at this point, it’s the same…you know, we want to play the game,” he said. “We’re not going to run and hide around here, we’re going to play if we can. Obviously, we are going to put our players’ safety first but we’re also not going to look for an excuse not to play.”

Although a complete wipeout at Alabama, Stoops did find some positives to build on, including his team’s performance in the first quarter.

“We did some good things early,” he said. “We were throwing the ball efficiently. We were running it. We were keeping them off balance. After that, to answer your question, Alabama did make some good adjustments that you anticipate but then there were also some things that we were doing that just fundamentally you cannot do. There were some plays there. There were some plays in the pass game there that we missed and we can’t do that.”

To help add another perspective on offense, Stoops brought in Jeff Jagodinski to work with the offensive line for the remainder of the season to help fill the void left by Schlarman. 

“He was available and willing to come in and help us through the end of the year until I have time to evaluate the entire situation and see what is going on with the entire staff,” Stoops said. “Once he is in our program, then we have the ability to move him up because of the situation with John (Schlarman, so he is coaching the offensive line.” 

The sixth-ranked Gators have won five of the past six meetings between the two teams, but the Wildcats ended a 31-game losing streak with a 27-16 triumph two years ago in Gainesville.

Despite the recent success, Stoops said the “past has no bearing on what we are going to do right now.”

“You can use bits and pieces of it, show them clips and hopefully that will spark our guys and pick up their confidence again and get them back to the level that we know we can play,” he said.

Gametracker: Kentucky at Florida, noon, Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.