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Matt Panton Suspended By Stoops For Vandy Game: And The State Of UK Football

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AP Photo/David Stephenson AP Photo/David Stephenson

Opening statement….
“As I mentioned after the game, very difficult loss. It was a tough one on all of us. We were disappointed with the outcome. I was pleased with our team’s effort and execution for a large portion of the game and obviously there are quite a few things we need to do better. We’re excited to get back to work and to go down and compete against Vandy on the road and try to get that seventh victory. So, we’ll get back to work today. As far as with (punter) Matt Panton, I know you’re all interested in that, he will be suspended for this game and he will not participate for failure to meet the standards and expectations of our football team.”

On backup punter Grant McKinniss…
“He’s been hitting it good in practice. He’s worked hard and I am excited for Grant to get that opportunity. That’s one of the unfortunate situations with this is that with Matt’s actions, Grant is the one that has to sacrifice because we could’ve saved his year and gave him the redshirt year, but with the situation being the way that it is, he’s our best option. Every game is important. I’ve talked to Grant about that and he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to help the football team win. We appreciate Grant for his unselfishness in this situation.”

On having a backup to Grant in case something happens…
“We have a few kickers that would work in that situation. Miles (Butler) has been the guy on the road a lot of the time. He has been prepared to do that.”

On what stood out about the secondary’s play on Saturday….
“There are a variety of things. We talk about it often – the disappointing thing for us as a football team, the fans, everybody is that there are always a few plays that determine a game. You never know which ones they are. Every play is important. But there are some that stick out and hurt and it’s the same way with the secondary. There were some plays that we need to play better. You can’t give up big plays and expect to win. I think with Ole Miss, the pressure they put on you, the RPOs (run-pass options), they were efficient. They were getting some aggravating yards. We were still okay. We were getting good stops. We had an opportunity to win in all phases, and then there were a few big plays that hit you for touchdowns, which are hard to overcome so those stick out. We need to play those better.“

On four straight 3-and-outs by the offense…
“Of the four possessions, one was a complete drop (dropped pass) that was a first down, one was an errant throw and on the other two I think we would do some things differently. So that’s what’s difficult. You take those out, and the offense was extremely effective and aggressive and really kept Ole Miss off-balance. We threw the ball 37-38 times to 33 runs. So we were pretty close to 50/50 effective in throwing the football. We’re efficient on some RPOs. One drop, one errant throw on two of those four.”

On offense…
“We all would like to have that kind of balance. Certainly being able to throw the football and being efficient in our passing game helps. That’s also a by-product of being able to run the football as well. So I think that we’re now running the ball effectively, it’s opening some things up. You have to be able to run, we’ve talked about that, but we are starting to be efficient in our run game and keeping people off balance. That’s what makes it difficult.”

On what stands out about Vanderbilt…
“Like always, they are just a good football team across the board. They play hard in all phases. They’re sound in what they do. They keep you off-balance offensively. They’re good at what they do, a lot like us grinding out drives, grinding out yards and first downs and taking their shots when they get opportunities. They definitely like to be efficient with the football. And defensively, they always play extremely hard and they’re capable of making a lot of big plays.”

On Vandy and Kentucky similarities…
“Offensively, they’re like us in that they are efficient in what they do. They like to keep you off-balance. They run the ball so effectively, they’re so multiple in their formations and then they boot in play action and give them time to take their shots.”

On CB Jordan Griffin…
“He was close to getting an interception at one point. Jordan is like he always is: he’s solid, he works hard. We need to get him involved. He’s had some opportunities. We continue to move him around to different positions because we trust him. We need to continue to work with him and get him on the field.”

On how he decompresses after a tough loss…
“It’s the same way. I’ve always talked about that. Sundays are hard. There’s no doubt about that. I felt better when I went into the office early yesterday and got back to work and looked at the film. I’m not saying this to give a silver lining or anything like that, but when I watched the film and saw some of the good things we’re doing and position were in. That wasn’t always the case around here when I’ve been here. I don’t know what it was like prior to me getting here, but since I’ve been here. You can’t always say you are a play or two away. I know that’s not good enough, I know we want more. Please don’t misquote me. That’s not what we’re hunting, we’re hunting victories. But, I like the way this team plays and I’m excited to get back to work. So once I get in there yesterday and get in there early and watch the film and see the issues and know there’s things we can get fixed, that’s the good and the bad. I know that’s the frustration and I accept that, it’s not okay. I also know we’re a couple plays away from having eight wins.”

On what were some of the good things he saw in film…
“There are a lot of good things. Offensively, we were completely very effective and keeping them off-balance. Unfortunately we had to settle for two field goals early. I’m not going to sit here and criticize, but we had a great play again with the tight end that’s a touchdown. I’m not going to make any excuses, but we had a touchdown and he got tackled. Unfortunately we only got three out of that drive. We really had them off-balance and did some good things. Defensively, there was better than you think. I know what the numbers look like. There are things we have to get ironed out and get fixed, and some coverages that we will. Again, we are a play away from sitting here and feeling a little better about yourself then you do. That’s the good part. You look around the league and I know it’s easy for people to act like, just (be)cause of records, teams aren’t good, or this or that, but that’s not the case. Don’t go tell that to the rest of the teams. Everybody fights for every game, every victory, every win, every loss and it’s a grind. I know sometimes people just look at the bottom line and just dismiss people because of their record, but that’s not the case. You look around this league and we’re right in the middle of the pack as far as wins and losses. With people above and below us we want to keep on working our way up and were a couple plays away from being in a lot better position.”

On if he asked the league office about the play with C.J. Conrad…
“I did. I haven’t heard back yet, and you know I can’t tell you anyway and I don’t want to make it, or criticize it. You saw us hit C.J. (Conrad) on some of those plays and we had another one there. It was seven.”

On if the three-and-outs are just breakdowns or are there other things that come into play…
“No. I think you have to give teams credit. They stopped us. Again, one of them was a dropped pass. One of them was an errant throw. Honestly the one early, one of them I’m not going to get into specifics, but the one where we were in good field position we had a good run play that was set to get an explosive run. We missed it by six inches. It was a gash. They made a nice play. They essentially made a play when they were blocked.”

On if he is disappointed with how the secondary is playing because he was a DB coach…
“It is to me, sure. If you’re asking me I will give you an honest answer. Sure it’s disappointing to me.”

On if he is satisfied with the level of play he is getting from the interior defensive line…
“Yeah, at times. We can be better. I think there are things we can do better. There’s still some missed opportunity on negative yardage plays that we missed a few that we can still make. There’s a big difference, as we all know, between second and ten and second and five or second and three. So there are still some plays out there that we’re leaving.”

On how CB Lonnie Johnson reacted after the game…
“He was very upset, as you would expect. He’s a competitor and the last one, the one for the touchdown that sticks out; I can live with because I felt the fight. I saw him in position. He’s got to finish it all the way to the ground and we will talk about that. But, he was in great position and was fighting for the ball. Sometimes you get put in tough positions at the cornerback spot and that was a great throw and a great catch against a super-talented wide receiver that is big and strong.  I like the position Lonnie was in and I would like to see the result and the finish better.”

On if he should take the pass interference call instead…
“Well, of course. You want to be as physical as you can depending on the time. If you get the PI there probably still get two more opportunities, but I like how physical he was and I like the fact that the officials let them both paly. There wasn’t some ticky-tack call there either way.”

On the margin for error now with the team …
“I don’t know. I let you all decide and write about that. I think we’ve won some games where we haven’t played perfect football. We’ve lost some games where we haven’t played perfect football. We’re constantly striving for that, and hopefully we’ll get closer and closer.” 

On the challenges with Vanderbilt …
“The tempo isn’t quite the same (as Ole Miss). I think that their style of offense really isn’t the same, so there’s some differences there. They’re not as much Q-run (quarterback run) game. Even the last drive of that game, the one quarterback draw that they ran, it hurt us. That play, that’s the one where the ball came loose, but the draw itself hurt us in a critical moment. Because as you know, as we’re sitting there trying to cover those guys and they’re spreading you out then they hit you with the Q-draw, it’s effective. That was a very critical play. They’re just dinking and dunking and making their way down the field. We had a couple incompletes, couple stops, and we’re still in decent shape right there. That draw hurt.” 

On if this team has a killer instinct in games …
“With us I think we’re not much different than most college football teams. You’re dealing with kids that have a long season, that deal with a lot, that are 18-23. (Matt) Panton’s probably the oldest guy on our team. And they have a lot on their plate. Again, you’re not going to always play consistent football and the best football, you’d like to. You strive to. Take a look around college football and see some of the scores out there. If you’re anything like me, some of the scores surprise you. We’re not much different. There’s probably one or two teams in the country right now in the country that I’ve seen that have been as consistent as you want them to be, and if you ask their coaches they probably haven’t been as consistent as they want them to be as well. They’re just super strong. So we have to be able to overcome that. There’s not anything play play-calling or either side. I feel good about our coaches having prepared. I though offensively we were aggressive and kept them off-balance. Again, we don’t want to hit that lull or those parts of the game. We’ve got to complement each other also. When you’re playing a team like that, and we all know, certainly the offensive coaches and offensive players know, that first downs are important in getting drives and field positions are important. It’s not like we weren’t trying.” 

On his feeling of having an 8-3 record in games decided by seven points or less in the last two seasons …
“I’m gonna let you state that, but that was well said. I’m agreeing with you, but I can’t. I’m agreeing with you, but if I say that then it’ll be used against me because you want to be 11-0. But no, we all know, that’s where I say that’s what you have to take. The kids have to have confidence and know and look at the film and see the good things we did and understand it’s not always like that and correct the mistakes and move on to the next opponent because that’s the way it is. Media and fans and people have to sit there and do your job or as a fan just sit and wait and read what you all so beautifully write, but you have seven days to stew and talk on it, but as a player or a coach it’s right back to work. We’ve got to get right on to the next opportunity, the next game. That’s what makes it exciting for us. It’ll be a good week that way. Can’t wait to get back to work and get these guys ready to play, and I’m sure they will be.” 

On Vandy holding WKU to minus-six rushing yards and how you combat that … 
“We are just going to do what we do. We always try to game plan and get new formations and new things to look at. But we are going to do what we do.” 

On if there are any young players or backups that are pushing for more playing time this late in the season …
“I think you are constantly seeing the (freshman) wideouts playing and getting some touches. I think defensively the guys that you are seeing play.” 

On the three interior offensive lineman …
“Yeah, they are playing pretty solid football. There are things we could have done to finish a few things and a few blocks. We left a few yards on the table that we will address and look at. Overall, they are playing consistent and playing some good football. They are grading out fairly high. I just think there are some things that we could do better.” 

On if the team plays better with a sense of urgency …
“I don’t think there is any doubt. I think we have to play with a great sense of urgency.” 

On worrying about the play clock late in the game or just trying to get the ball into the endzone …
“If there is any one thing that I will get critiqued for it is by milking it too much, not the other way. Let’s not even go there. I have taken plenty of darts for trying to slow the game down. I will continue to take the darts that way. I think there is a balance there though. We didn’t think about going into the four-minute offense with eight minutes to go in the game. But we were methodical in our approach and sometimes that is when we are at our best is when we are methodical and Coach (Eddie) Gran and those coaches are taking a good look at the play sheet and seeing what we are going to go to as opposed to some teams that just go tempo and want to beat you with basically just tempo. There is not so much gameplan. And that is effective as well at times, but that was partly the issue Saturday. One of the touchdowns they scored we didn’t have a middle third guy that should have been sitting right on the ball. Should have been sitting right over the fourth element when they put quads to the field and we should’ve had a guy just standing there and it would have basically just hit him in the head. But the tempo was effective in that way and getting your eyes violated. But I think offensively our team late in the game, like you saw the week before and again this week, we take the ball 95 yards and were very methodical and we ripped off some big chunks and had we just grinded it out there would’ve been a lot less there and believe me there is nobody that is more conscientious of the clock than I am. There is also an element of when you got them gassed making sure you get it into the endzone and counting on your defense to make a stop. Believe me I will get criticized both ways and I understand it. But I am very conscious of it.” 

On if part of that is being in the Wildcat formation …
“No, we were good. We even considered getting a timeout for Benny (Snell) to catch his breath. We think about it and talk about it and have time when it is a methodical approach like that. But I didn’t want to because I felt like we had a touchdown and we did on third down. The second down play, the second and one, when we went for zero yards, I wasn’t really disappointed about that because I knew it could be another 40 seconds there and I felt pretty confident we could get it in and certainly we were going to go for it on fourth down there. We felt like we had them off-balance and felt like the Wildcat and the package we were in we were big enough and physical enough to get it in there one of those three chances. We were killing some time, sure. I think their approach would have been different if there were 10 less seconds there too. So it’s easy to say after the fact that they wouldn’t have had those 10 seconds, their 2-minute offense changes as well. Let’s put it this way, there was definitely going to be enough time for them to have plenty of time for a 2-minute offense. We were going to have to make a stop. We were going to have to stop them.” 

On Benny Snell putting it all on the field …
“It is definitely a credit to Benny. He is a strong guy and it takes an awful lot for him to get worn out that way. But also some of the testing that we have done with him in the offseason and all that he is amazing in the way he recovers. He does that anyway. He has an ability to recover very quickly with his heartrate and things.” 

On the team having confidence they can score late in games …
“I think it is a big deal. It is definitely a confidence issue. There is never any panic and I think there is great confidence and I think across the board offensively we are going to find the right plays. I think it’s a combination of certainly Stephen (Johnson) and his calmness and we have talked about that before and his ability to make plays under pressure is a big piece of that confidence. But I also think when you are keeping people off-balance and there is plenty of time and that is a big key in the 2-minute is having the option to run it or throw it. With us, that is a big part of our offense because Benny ripped off some big plays there as well and it is the same with them with their 2-minute, unfortunately, there was enough time for them to run the QB draw and certainly things like that that keep you off-balance.” 

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