“Wellll, we’ve figured it out. We know exactly what’s wrong. We’ll have it taken care of by Saturday night.”
“Okay, we’ve been holding back some of our best plays and players. We’ll put it all in and have it set up by Saturday night.”
Nobody ever says that. Even if they did, it would all be lies. Like it or not, coaches always say the same thing after a particularly galling loss and every time, the recurring theme has something to do with “going back to work.”
Because that’s all they can do.
Mark Stoops is no different. Part of his job involves talking with the media and he did it today, per normal, his comments being broadcast as well through the Big Blue Nation via social media and the SEC Network. It was all about, yes, “going back to work.
“We have to fundamentally get better,” he said. “We can’t keep stopping ourselves. It starts there.”
And that includes every player, every position, every group – offense, defense and special teams. The loss at Florida fit the description of what Rich Brooks used to call a “complete systems failure.” Special teams wasn’t a total nightmare, but placekicker Austin MacGinnis did miss a field goal, boinking one of the uprights, at a time when some points sure would have helped.
Defense? Could have set up a lemonade stand at the 50, it was on the field so much. Third down for the Gators was simply the play they would run before the next first and 10.
Offense? Began the day with Drew Barker, from an empty formation (meaning, nobody behind him to help with blocking), taking a face full of Florida linebacker on the first play of the game.
Things only got worse from there.
Kentucky showed a four-man front against Florida with some success, according to Stoops. You’d have to wonder: Does this mean the Cats won’t be leaning on its big nose tackle, Matt Elam, as much in an odd-man front? Perhaps. But when the Cats did have an extra defender in the box, it left the defensive secondary more vulnerable. And the DBs paid the price.
Which means the head coach, an ol’ DB himself, will be paying a special visit Monday afternoon.
“I’ll be in their meeting today,” he said. “Their football IQ will go up.”
That’s something he mentioned more than once – football IQ. He said that has to rise, across the board and quickly. But no matter how smart you might be as a player, he said, there comes a time when you just plain have to take care of the guy on the other side of the line of scrimmage.
“We have to man up and win some one on ones,” he said. “You won’t win them all but you have to win your share.”
They won precious few of those battles in Gainesville and pretty much came up snake eyes in the second half against Southern Mississippi. Saturday’s opponent, New Mexico State, should be a chance for the Cats to get better. But we saw how well USM played in Lexington, especially in the second half, when the Golden Eagles realized they had absolutely nothing to lose.
Stoops, as you might expect, was not in a wonderful mood, although he was polite and as professional as could be for a guy who must feel as though he’s carrying a sack of cement in his gut. Nothing he can’t work out in practice, when he’s back with his team.
“I can’t wait to get on the field today and get back to work,” he said. “I’m not happy. How can you be? This is not a job. This is my life.”