Stoops unhappy with players’ focus heading into UofL matchup


Head Coach Mark stoops gets angry at the ref during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at Commonwealth on Saturday, November 5, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Georgia Bulldogs defeated Kentucky 27-24. Photo by Lydia Emeric | Staff 

Anthony Crawford

Head coach Mark Stoops was not happy following practice Wednesday.

Stoops down played whether it was because of the team riding a high after reaching bowl-eligibility this past Saturday against Austin Peay. Instead he pointed his displeasure at the team’s overall lack of focus, especially from the defensive player’s on the team. 

“The energy was there, but not the discipline and not the focus that we need,” Stoops said. “I’m sure there were some good things, I’m just a little bit pissed off right now at the end. The two-minute drill at the end. So, you know, I’ve not had a minute to calm down. Still a little bit perturbed.” 

Defensive coordinator D.J. joked that they were going to take Thanksgiving festivities because of the poor practice, but the fact is that the team missed a big opportunity to get better and sharpen their focus, especially with task they have ahead of them — trying to slow down the Heisman front-runner in Lamar Jackson.

“It’s going to be tough. He’s very electric, dynamic with the ball in his hands. He has a strong arm. He’ll have two, three guys around him and he still gets out of it,” Eliot said. “We just have to be sure tacklers. We have to get him on the ground. We have to have guys in position to make the play. It’s going to be a tough challenge but our guys are up to it.”

Jackson comes into the matchup with little else to prove, in ways of his Heisman candidacy. He comes in with just under 4,500 total yards on the season and has the ability to get up to 50 total touchdowns on the season against UK, sitting just three away at 47 so far.

Jackson will likely be confident with UK coming into Louisville to face the Cardinals knowing full well that he can exploit the Cats having done it last year. Jackson led a second half comeback in which UofL scored 31 unanswered point. He totaled 130 passing yards for one touchdown and 186 rushing yards for two touchdowns in the win that kept UK from going to a bowl game for the second straight year.

Now with things a little different UK can go into the matchup having dropped the do-or-die mentality from years past with the win this past Saturday.

Either way, UK’s players have not lost sight of the real goal this week, even if the focus hasn’t been there. The team see a big opportunity to prove themselves going up against Jackson and the Cardinals.

Reaching a bowl game, was something that UK’s seniors had not yet accomplished while at UK. They can check another item off the list, with a win this weekend against their rivals.

“This game means a lot more to me than a bowl game or anything else cause that’s just how bad I want to win,” Ware said. “That’s how bad I want to beat these boys. This is a rival and I have respect for the guys on their team and Lamar Jackson, but at the end of the day, my goal and my team’s goal is to win and come out there victorious.”