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Mark Stoops wants to see “tougher mentality” from running backs, who don’t mind 3-player rotation

Kavosiey Smoke credited teammates for getting him into the end zone against Toledo. (Vicky Graff Photo)


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.

A.J. Rose, left, believes using three running backs helps by keeping a fresh back in the game. (Vicky Graff Photo)

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.”


  1. Not a bad game for the first one of the year! Our backs have the skill to compete on this level. Now they need to develop the skills of finding the right holes. It took Benny some time to learn how to be able to find the holes with the most potential. Game experience is the best time for this development!

    Now that the first game jitters are over, it is time to develop a stronger attitude by the entire team. A refuse to lose mentality the top teams have in both practice and games. Stoops will continue to work his plan to turn UK into a football power. It should be a fun season to watch develop.

    1. PATIENCE, that’s what Benny had to learn the most. Remember, he would hit the whole at 100mph and the blocks weren’t even set yet. Once he did, well…we watched the results.

      I agree 100% with your comment too!

  2. Amen Ben27, and you didn’t even mention the UK receivers and their gunslinger QB named Terry Wilson. Players like Bowden, Ali, to name a couple. Let’s see, 246 yards passing and two TD’s in his first game of the season, and against a good MAC team. Also, a new UK star is born named Oliver, who has an impressive performance catching the football. The UK defense did their job too as the score indicates. When it was all said and done, both Toledo QB’s looked like a bowling pin going down under a vicious UK rush from up the middle and from off the edge. Remember sports fans, there are 4 quarters to a football game. So, just find a way to win the game. At the end of the year, and bowl eligibility, it want matter at all too most of us UK football fans that TW threw a weak pass behind the LOS to a covered LB against Toledo in the opening game of the 2019 season that could have been a disaster. He will learn from it.

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