By LARRY VAUGHT
Probably Kentucky coach Mark Stoops had to know that he would get questioned about the play calling toward the end of Saturday’s 29-21 loss to Florida during his weekly pregame press conference.
John Huang of Nolan Media and https://justthecats.com/ — a new website — asked Stoops about his general philosophy and strategy of playing with a lead like UK had going into the fourth quarter Saturday night when it had Florida down 21-10. In the Stoops’ era, a fourth-quarter lead has been money in the bank most of the time. But not Saturday when the Gators outscored UK 19-0 in the fourth quarter.
“People are in entitled to their opinions. If they didn’t have any opinions, I’d be worried,” Stoops sort of joked.
Then he gave what I thought was a fair answer.
“Just in general, talking about the game and the management, you’re about a half yard from saying it worked to perfection. We were also about six inches short on that third down play, the third-and-two, to still run plays,” Stoops said.
“At that moment we run for four yards on first down at the end of the game there. Time was an issue because if you noticed, we were a little thin in the secondary. Killing a little bit of clock was important because of the way Florida had been moving the ball in the second half, how thin we were in the secondary.
“Then you run it for four yards again on second down. Pretty efficient, I’d say, in that moment. Plus every yard was important. Florida had about 16 sacks at that point on the season, so they could disrupt you. They had some interceptions.
“We run for four, we run for four. Burning timeouts and burning clock. We run it for two trying to get that two. We converted. Obviously we’re going to go back into scoring mode because the clock is below a minute at that point. We have time. We have plenty of time. We have all of our timeouts. Time wasn’t an issue for us. It was going to be for them, should we be held to a field goal.
“You’re a half yard short and still running plays. People will be talking about it being a thing of beauty, but it wasn’t, so it’s not. If the kick goes in, we still have an unbelievable good chance to win. They have less clock. I believe they would have had one timeout at that point.”
Kentucky got stopped on fourth down earlier when it had a chance to put the game away when A.J. Rose could not get a yard running out of the Wildcat formation, another decision that irked many UK fans.
“I seem to get that conversation a lot. It seems like the minute it doesn’t work, you’ll hear about it. Every time it’s effective, you don’t hear about it, and you don’t write about it. It’s been very effective for us,” Stoops said.
“Again, a lot of it’s overblown, you know what I mean? Sometimes you’re trying to maybe pull one person out of it. It’s the exact same run game whether he’s under there or not. Sometimes you can get an extra gap. You never know when we’re going to flip it to him, so you got to cover him, pull somebody out of there.”