LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Mark Stoops is still looking for answers.
Going into the final three weeks of the regular season, the Kentucky coach admitted it’s been difficult to get a grip on the team’s inconsistencies on both sides of the ball this year.
The Wildcats led by 17 points in the second half before giving up 14 unanswered late in a 38-35 win over the Commodores last Saturday, ending a two-game losing streak. Inconsistencies are an issue that has plagued Stoops and his staff all season.
“If I had the answer to (the inconsistencies), you know, I would have a lot less stress on me, that's for sure,” he said. “It's been hard to put my finger on it. I think it's a different year (and) you can't give them any excuse at all. I mean, there's no excuse.”
The Wildcats (3-4) will take on Alabama Saturday in back-to-back encounters against Top 10 foes during the next two weeks and Stoops wants the offense and the defense to “put it together” and “play as a team.”
“We need to play the very best we can on all sides,” Stoops said. “It doesn't seem like we're doing that. And that's very frustrating to me that that's not been that's not the way it's been for us for years. But it is this year. We're terribly inconsistent on one side or the other. And, you know, we've not put it all together. And for a coach, that's frustrating.”
A concern, Stoops said, is the team’s lack of urgency when it comes to making a big play, especially on defense. He said the team’s effort is on target, but added, “the attention to detail throughout the entire game needs to be greater.”
“I sit there and watch us. And at times I see a group of young men that just want somebody else to make the play.
“They want some miraculous call to stop the play coach,” he said. “You call something good so we can stop this play because I don't want to stop it. I'm not going to make a play. I want my neighbor to make a play, but I don't want to make the play, you know, or I want to do my own thing. I don't want to execute the defense. I just want to do my own thing so I could get a stat that that's what I see.”
While juggling his coaching responsibilities, Stoops is also coping with the death of offensive line coach John Schlarman, who passed away last week following a two-year battle with cancer at the age of 45.
“It's very difficult,” he said. “You know, it's tough because the personal relationships are strong, you know. You know, within this building, you know, we don't just say that and (it’s) not lip service to say that we're all a family. We are. We spend an enormous amount of time together … and it's difficult.
“It's a tough time for everybody. And we just want to be supportive and be there and, you know, during this time, but also for years to come. John's legacy will live on for a long time because that's the type of man he was.”
The main priority, Stoops said, is to keep the Wildcats on task during the next three weeks.
“I'm really just focused on what we can do to improve our team today and to get through and find the right words of motivation through a difficult time within our family,” he said. “That's where my concentration is."
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or Twitter @keithtaylor21.