Stoops calls hard-fought win over Mocs a learning experience

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Keith Taylor

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis dropped back to make a pass in the Wildcats’ narrow win over Tennessee Chattanooga last Saturday at Kroger Field.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Mark Stoops hopes his team’s narrow win over Tennessee Chattanooga was a learning experience as Kentucky heads into Saturday’s showdown at South Carolina.

The Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) failed to pull away from the Mocs and escaped with a 28-23 triumph in a game that unexpectedly went down to the final quarter. Stoops was disappointed in preparation and the Wildcats’ inability to piece together a complete game.

I didn’t feel like we complemented each other very well at all,” Stoops said Monday. “… it was just one of those games (that was) kind of aggravating. (We) let them hang around. And if you do that, that’s what can happen. You can lose a game that way.  We make the stop when we had to definitely much closer than we all wanted to. You know, there’s a lot of things to learn from that. A lot of things, as I mentioned after the game, that’s true. That we can learn from.”

The Kentucky coach also liked the way his team responded to adversity, especially after the Mocs took a brief 16-14 lead in the fourth quarter.

“There’s going to come times when you play 12 games where there’s going to be some ups and downs,” he said. “I told you all that before the season, that there’s going to be ups and downs. There’s going to be a lot of momentum swings throughout this season and game to game. There’s there’s good and bad. It’s how you handle it. We have to learn from the mistakes that we made in this game, be better in our preparation starting (Monday) with the players.”

The Wildcats overcame the mental flaws and Stoops isn’t sure if past teams could been capable of winning those type of games in years past, especially prior to his arrival nearly 10 years ago.

“If we didn’t improve in the areas we did (in the first three weeks), then we would have lost that game because because Will (Levis) made some really good throws, you know, and we made some really good plays and then we missed them,” Stoops said. 

Aside from issues that occurred during the contest, Stoops took issue with his team’s preparation prior to last week’s contest and said it “starts with the focus and discipline to take care of your job.”

“Guys (were) feeling like they need to go out there and do something that’s about them and not about the other 10 guys that they’re playing with,” Stoops said. “… I’m not just blaming any one person, any one player. We’re all in this together. I said that after the game. And I mean that it starts with will I be good. I’m prepared and I have to do a better job of getting their attention and get them on the same page after the game.”

In addition to Stoops, Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen “was a little hard on himself” after the contest as well as Levis.

“I think Will puts a lot of pressure on himself and I think Liam puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Stoops said. “You know, everything’s not always perfect, but there were some really well designed plays and Will did a very good job of stepping up and throwing some passes that, again, you’re like, ‘wow, that’s impressive.’ I haven’t seen that around here for a while. (Overall) there were some beautiful play designs that we just were a fraction off.”

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FUTURE KICKOFF: Kentucky’s game against Florida on Oct. 2 will be played at 6 or 7 p.m. it was announced by the Southeastern Conference on Monday.

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Gametracker: Kentucky at South Carolina, 7 p.m. Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN2 and UK Radio Network.