Stoops hopes to see improvement from defense before Tennessee game


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops looks up at the scoreboard during the game against Georgia on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Kentucky’s defense had been a major factor in the 7-1 record for the Wildcats before Saturday’s game against Georgia, but against the Bulldogs, they looked nothing like the unit fans saw in the first eight games.

Kentucky gave up 444 yards of offense to the Bulldogs, which is the most they’ve surrendered all season. Georgia did a lot of its damage with the running game, putting up 331 rushing yards on Kentucky’s defense.

Before Saturday’s game, Kentucky’s defense had only allowed one opponent to rush for over 150 yards, with Texas A&M putting up a season-high 164 rushing yards against Kentucky before Georgia’s 331 rushing yard performance.

“Defensively, it was the worst game we’ve played all year, I think that’s pretty obvious, giving up the amount of rush yards that we did,” head coach Mark Stoops said in his weekly Monday press conference. “Again, you have to credit Georgia for that, a bunch of it.”

Georgia had two running backs go over 100 yards of rushing, including the SEC co-Offensive Player of the Week D’Andre Swift, who finished with a career-high 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Before Saturday’s game, Kentucky’s defense only allowed one running back to go over 100 rushing yards: Texas A&M’s Treyveon Williams.

Kentucky’s usual stars, Josh Allen, Kash Daniel and Darius West, made little impact in the game, combining for nine tackles. Allen recovered two fumbles in the first half, but finished the game without a sack for the third time this season.

“They weren’t going to let him change the game, and they didn’t,” Stoops said. “I think they do a very good job that way with the sets, the way they play, the way they protect. We didn’t do our job.”

While the stars had a hard time making plays against Georgia, Davonte Robinson played his best game of the year and earned UK’s defensive player of the week honor from the team.

“He played a good football game, he had to step in and play free, which he’s been working that medium package, the nickel guy,” Stoops said. “He’s had to split reps and didn’t get as many reps at free last week in practice but stepped in the game and did some very good things.”

Robinson will see additional playing time against Tennessee since West has to sit out the first half of the Tennessee game because of the targeting call he received in the second half against Georgia.

“Certainly we want Darius in there all the time, he’s a leader and plays extremely tough, but when opportunities like that arrive, it is interesting to see how those guys are going to step in,” Stoops said. “I anticipate he’ll play very well.”

The defense will have a chance to rebound against Tennessee, as the Vols’ offense generates the fewest yards and points per game out of all SEC teams. They also rank last in the league in rushing offense.

“Excited to get back out there today and getting the team motivated and excited about another great opportunity to go on the road here against Tennessee and try to get the victory and close out the SEC play,” Stoops said.