Stoops unhappy with defense heading into matchup with South Carolina


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops pacing as the time runs down on the clock at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday,September 3, 2016. Photo by Josh Mott | Staff.

Chris Angolia

Judging by head coach Mark Stoops’ comments Wednesday after practice, UK is not in great shape for Saturday’s matchup against 2-1 (1-1) South Carolina, a team it has beaten the last two years.

It’s fair to say this is a must-win for the Cats who sit at 1-2 and have a matchup with No.1 Alabama right around the corner in Tuscaloosa next weekend. A loss this week makes the road to bowl eligibility that much more difficult and with the way things have looked in practice, the Cats’ defense is not where it should be according to Stoops.

“We are not very good on defense – I am not very pleased with the way we are practicing defensively. We better get a whole lot better in a couple days,” Stoops said during his press conference Wednesday. “I thought we absolutely regressed today and that is our problem. Until we get it changed, we are going to have the same darn results that we have in that stadium, which is bullcrap.”

That same defense that Stoops was ripping on will have to deal with a new-look Gamecock offense on Saturday as freshman Brandon McIlwain is slated to get the start after his performance against Eastern Carolina University last week basically won him the job. McIlwain is known to be more of a mobile quarterback and in recent years, these players have given UK’s defenses fits.

If McIlwain does give the Cats problems early, it will be imperative that guys like linebacker Jordan Jones step up to help contain the mobile Gamecocks quarterback. 

However, after Wednesday’s practice it seems as if Stoops does not have much faith in his group defensively. 

“Until we grow up and get a mentality about us and have some guys step up and get tougher, then we are going to look like the same bunch of crap. So some guys need to grow up in a hurry,” Stoops said. “We have no idea what it takes to have concentration from the begining of the week through the end and through a whole game and so on.”

With his lack of confidence in the defense, Stoops will look to his offense to solve the Gamecocks defense led by former Florida head coach and Auburn defensive coordinator Will Muschamp who is in his first year as head coach for the Gamecocks.

To counter that defense, Stephen Johnson will be making his first career start at UK replacing Drew Barker who is out for a significant amount of time with a back injury. 

Johnson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns to lead Eddie Gran’s offense in the win last week, but Gran knows that one game means nothing and how important this week’s matchup truly is. With the defense struggling it will be imperative that the offense show up Saturday.

“If you think you’ve arrived you’re in big trouble, you will get humbled in a heartbeat and it will be ugly,” Gran said Tuesday. “We got to go win this one, we have got to go get it.”