LEXINGTON – September 7, 2021 – KEITH TAYLOR
Coach Mark Stoops envisioned his team’s passing game taking a step forward but the huge numbers put up in the season opener against Louisiana Monroe were still surprising.
In the midst of the passing game, the Wildcats sprinkled in some timely runs, which added up to a balanced attack in Liam Coen’s debut as offensive coordinator. In a staff meeting following the contest, Cohen told Stoops the Wildcats had achieved the balance he was looking for in his first game at the controls.
“It felt like 90 percent (pass) to me,” Stoops said Monday. “I was like, ‘Wow!’ …. That’s just the way he calls plays and that’s what we talked about, that’s what you want to be.”
A heavy favorite in the opener against the Warhawks, things will get tougher for the Wildcats Saturday in the Southeastern Conference opener against Missouri at Kroger Field. Even though balance is an ultimate goal on offense, Stoops knows it can’t be completely achieved in each outing this season.
“I want to give the fans victories or you’ll be talking to a new guy up here (on the podium),” he said. “That’s the big thing, to still get victories. I do understand the importance of it. I like it, too. It’s a matter of what you can do, what you can do well. I want to win. I want to do what we can do good. You would be talking to somebody else if I had just sat there and said, ‘Drop back, pass, throw the ball,’ and we didn’t get good at anything. We did things necessary to win games.
“Do I wish we had won a few more or had a little more balance? Of course, I’m always striving to be the best we can be. That’s still the case, by any means necessary. However, again, any team that is one-dimensional, one way or the other, does not present as many problems as the teams that can do both. That’s just a fact.”
Stoops added the Warhawks played a role in his team’s ability to execute in the opener despite an interception on the first possession that resulted in an eventual touchdown. But Kentucky recovered in impressive fashion.
“I had a pretty good idea of going into it was that coach (Terry Bowden) was going to have them fundamentally just trying to play the game the right way,” he said. “(It was) not much different than the situation I came into in Year 1 (2013). I went through phases where you’re trying to win, so sometimes you’re throwing things at the wall. But ultimately you have to just become a better football team fundamentally. That’s what I saw.”
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis threw for 367 yards and four touchdowns in his first game with the Wildcats. Stoops said Levis’ “ball placement on certain throws” will be a point of emphasis this week and beyond.
“That’s always the case,” Stoops said. “No one is going to play perfect. You’re going to strive for perfection but that’s pretty hard to do. Will missed a couple throws. It was just a couple slightly in front, maybe a couple slightly behind. The operation was good, a few things he can do better reading it. There’s always things to improve on but he did many good things. But accuracy, and maybe a little bit of a touch on things that he’s going to continue to work on and he’ll get better.”
The Kentucky coach added there were “pieces of excellence” but still wants his team to remain steady as the season progresses.
“There were some very good pieces, but consistency is what we’re looking for,” he said.
Gametracker: Missouri at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., EST, Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.