Stoops thinks there’s room to improve for No. 17 Kentucky


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops talks on his headset during the game against Mississippi State on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

A third of the college football regular season has passed, and Kentucky is off to one of its best starts in recent memory.

The Wildcats are one of 21 college football teams nationally to still be undefeated. Kentucky already has two big wins on its resume, including the most recent victory over No. 14 Mississippi State.

That win catapulted Kentucky into the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since 2007. The Wildcats took the 17th spot in the poll, ahead of some nationally prominent programs such as Texas, Michigan St. and Mississippi State.

The successful start has been attributed to the seemingly flawless play the Wildcats have produced on the field through four games. Kentucky put its best performance together against Mississippi State, limiting one of the nation’s top offense to seven points and 201 yards.

However, after reviewing game footage, head coach Mark Stoops believes his team could be better.

“Defensively, we had two mistakes – on the touchdown drive, there were two plays that were our mistakes,” Stoops said. “We pride ourselves on making the teams earn their yards, and taking nothing away from them, we all know they’re a good football team, but there’s two plays where we absolutely, we did the wrong thing.”

The two plays Stoops referenced as being unacceptable were gains of eight and twelve yards on first down from Mississippi State. The 12-yard gain was pass completion from Nick Fitzgerald to Stephen Guirdy, where Guirdy caught the ball next to the sidelines three yards short of the first down marker.

Guirdy would then dodge a tackle from Lonnie Johnson and avoid Jordan Jones before being tackled out of bounds by Darius West, five yards after initial contact from Johnson. That play brought Mississippi State into Kentucky’s side of the field for the first time that night, late in the first quarter.

“We need to be on point 100 percent of the time, and if we do that, I don’t know what we would’ve done, maybe we possible could’ve shut them out,” Stoops said. “I don’t like giving them two first downs in the scoring drive.” 

As for the offense, they made their mistakes too, but it was more than just a couple of plays that popped out on film.

“Offensively, there is a lot of things we could do better,” Stoops said. “There’s missed assignments, there’s not being crisp in our routes, Terry [Wilson] going – where he needs to go with the ball quicker, o-line being more physical. There’s a lot of things we could do better.”

The Wildcats will need to learn from their mistakes quickly as they only have a handful of days before facing another challenge in the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Even though Kentucky has a better record and is ranked in the top 25, South Carolina opened as two-point favorites over the Cats for this weekend’s game.

“South Carolina is a very good football team across the board, they’re very balanced as far as being good on special teams, offense, defense,” Stoops said. “It does present a challenge, especially with their quarterback and their wide receivers. They’re very good players.”