By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops thought his running backs did “some good things” in last week’s win over Toledo but also missed some plays that could have helped the offense.
“I thought they had some tough runs and that position takes some experience as well and some touches and a feel for it and so there’s definitely a lot to build from there,” Stoops said Monday.
Kavosiey Smoke ran seven times for 78 yards and one score with a long run of 10 yards. A.J. Rose ran 16 times for 64 and one score with a long run of 21 yards. Chris Rodriguez had five runs for 34 yards, including one run of 21 yards, but he lost two fumbles.
Stoops believes the running backs need a “tougher mentality” just like the overall team does based on the Toledo game.
“I would like to see our mentality turn up a couple notches as a team,” Stoops said after Saturday’s win. “I thought there was some good and some bad (from the running backs). There are some things we need to improve on. But, that’s everybody, including myself. ”
The big negative, though, was the fumbles by Rodriguez.
Smoke got his “time to shine” and was quick to make sure he shared the credit for his touchdown.
“Once my teammates made the block for me, I made my way to the end zone. That’s why I appreciate my teammates so much and I celebrated with them afterwards. Last year I didn’t do that, so I made sure to make that happen this time,” an obviously more mature Smoke said. “I just saw one guy pulling, one blocking, and I took off from there. I saw green grass and the end zone, and nobody was stopping me from getting to the end zone.”
He also was not about to complain about sharing two with two other backs in a different look for UK after Benny Snell was the primary ball carrier the last two years.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard, but you just have to be patient. We’re all ready to go, so once you get your turn you just have to show what you can do and do whatever it takes to make it to the end zone,” Smoke said.
Rose, UK’s most experienced back, sees the rotation as a positive for him and the team.
“You know you have everyone staying fresh. Like when I came out, Chris came in and ran for 21 yards. Smoke came in and did his thing today. I just think it’s a great rotation that (running backs coach Eddie Gran) has going on and going forward all season,” Rose said.
Rose said there were some “first-game jitters” for everyone, including him.
“We didn’t run like we wanted to, we didn’t pass like we wanted to, mistakes early. There’s just a lot we have to work on. We’ll come out next week and hopefully do better,” Rose said. “We come out for a drive and learn about our mistakes. Then we make adjustments and go out there and make plays. That’s what happened today. I made a lot of mistakes early, but you see at the end of the game we started clicking and got things rolling.”