As you can imagine, it was a very somber locker room after Kentucky's 32-31 overtime defeat to Western Kentucky. But while many of the post-game quotes consisted of coach and player speak about "having to do better" and not to "give up on this team," there were also some very telling statements to be gleaned from the mix.
Below are some of the highlights from the press conference and post-game interviews (full videos of which are posted here and here the the University of Kentucky athletics website). My analysis (which may be a bit more snarky than usual due to my boiling rage) will be in italics. Bold emphasis is my own, as well.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
- Hard-fought, physical game, but Kentucky "matched" Western the whole way. You "matched" them? Since when is it a good thing for an SEC team to "match" a team from the Sun Belt conference?
- Not worried about the team staying staying together. Well that's a relief.
- On the last play, he saw a bubble screen thrown against man-to-man defense; only person not accounted for was the quarterback. Thought they had Andrews down, but he broke a tackle (no coach Phillips, he did not) and was able to get it to the quarterback, who was the only man not being covered.
- Felt that despite the defensive line giving a good effort, they did not come off their blocks quickly enough and didn't stay in the gaps, which allowed WKU's running game to find the holes it needed.
- When asked what he told his team after the loss, said that "what we say in our locker room is our business." Things got a bit awkward when he followed that up by telling a reporter "I don't know what you told your our family today before you left, but that’s your business...Our locker room is our business." Well, that certainly isn't a good sign...
- When asked if the team was hanging its head after the loss, said that they could have hung their heads after falling behind early or at the beginning of the second half. Instead they battled back.
- Never considered going for the two-point conversion in overtime. Felt the team had the momentum and kicking the extra point was the right call. Phillips is completely correct here. At home and with momentum on their side, he made the right call...but it never should have gotten to a point (against a Sun Belt Conference team) where an overtime call like that had to be made.
- Praised Jonathan George's excellent offensive effort.
- Did not elaborate on the suspension of Raymond Sanders except to say that "we hold our kids accountable."
- Said that the issues on defense weren't caused by alignment; it was players not getting off their blocks and making plays. It would seem that Phillips and defensive coordinator Rick Minter might not be on the same page about this.
- When asked what he would say to upset fans, replied: “Well, we’ve got a lot of young players...and we’ll continue to play them and see how much better they get from week to week.”
- Not concerned about the running game; much more concerned about turnovers. Brought up the fact that the offense scored 40 points against Kent State when they held onto the ball (yeah, but that's Kent State) and said that their screen passes, which have been successful, count as runs. I did not make that last part up...and I still am not sure if he was actually serious.
- When asked about WKU head coach Willie Taggart's post-game dig at UK (per Larry Vaught), Phillips responded that he would not verbally attack another football program; that was something that neither he nor anyone from the University of Kentucky football program would ever do. Well, at least the Big Blue Nation has sportsmanship to cling to instead of wins this football season.
Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter
- Stated that the last play was "Boise State-like." ...except that it wasn't Boise State. It was Western Kentucky University.
- Felt that the defense was solid, but not dominant; pointed out that there were no runs over 11 yards (good point) and no catches over 15 yards (there was; Austin Aikens had a 29 yard reception). But still, Minter makes a good point; Kentucky did a very good job limiting big plays. Instead, they just got slowly pounded into the ground by a Sun Belt Conference team.
- Must eliminate foolish mistakes; personal fouls against the defense led to points.
- Said that the players were lined up and moved to where they needed to go for the most part (huh...maybe he and Phillips are on the same page), but that WKU just ran it right at the defense and beat them.
- Felt that Taylor Wyndham had a great deal of trouble covering people from the linebacker position. Which is probably what will always happen when you make a defensive end play the linebacker/safety hybrid spot.
Offensive Coordinator Randy Sanders
- Proud of the effort his offense gave to get back in the game, especially how Max Smith came back from a rough start and multiple in game injuries.
- Impressed by the WKU defense, particularly their defensive backs I wonder how many of their players UK recruited out of high school...or maybe it's their defensive coaches...
- Said he has been here for five bowls game and wants to be here for six. I like Sanders, but I think even he knows how unlikely that is to happen this season.
How many more games will Kentucky will this season
QB Maxwell Smith
- Very disappointed in how he played.
- Said he did not see a couple of the interceptions coming; WKU did a great job disguising their coverage.
- Team has to stay together and keep practicing. "The road definitely does not get any easier."
RB Jonathan George
- Great feeling to put points on the board and contribute to the team.
- Always tells himself to be ready to play; tonight he finally got his chance.
- Team "has to move forward next week."
DE Taylor Wyndham
- Felt the defense improved as the game went on.
- Team has to remember that they "still have nine more opportunities to go.”
WR La'Rod King
- Team needs to learn from mistakes they made this weekend; watch game film and prepare for Florida.
- This is "the first time we were actually hit with adversity." I'm going to have to disagree on that point...but this is definitely the worst that the adversity has ever been.
- "At the end of the day, it’s going to be us against the world." No it's not, La'Rod. Everyone in the Big Blue Nation is rooting for you and your teammates. It's the coaching staff that will (and should) draw the lion's share of negative sentiment.
The Kentucky Wildcats' next opponent will be the Florida Gators on Saturday, September 22 in Gainesville @ 12:30 PM EST.
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