Western Kentucky shredded the UK defense for 487 total yards, tying the highest figure that a Stoops-led defense has ever surrendered, en route to a 35-26 victory in Nashville that could have been even more lopsided than the final score indicated.
"I was very disappointed, and I can't put it all on any one person or any one group," Stoops said during Monday's press luncheon. "Any time people are getting big chunks on first, second down like they're doing, then that's poor team defense.
"It was at all levels. It was D-Linemen trying to do too much. And it was poor pursuit at the second level by the linebacker position on things that we worked extremely hard at. And then it was poor position and poor reaction from the secondary in certain situations. So it was everybody."
The Hilltoppers scored touchdowns on three of their first four possessions, aided by a strong pregame script by new head coach Bobby Petrino that attacked UK's weaknesses and consistently set WKU up in manageable down-and-distance plays. Western averaged a hearty 5.7 yards on first down.
Film review of the loss indicated that players often abandoned their fundamentals and individual assignments in an effort to compensate for their teammates, an urge that can lead to some ugly chunks of yardage for the opponent.
"I saw some people going back to some poor habits," Stoops said. "I should have done a better job foreseeing that because, when things go bad, players just want to go back out there and just try to make plays. That's never a good thing.
"When things go bad, you go back to fundamentals and paying attention to the small details… You can't just get out there and start doing your own thing and running under blocks and so on and so forth."
Senior middle linebacker Avery Williamson recorded a team-high 14 tackles for UK, but many of them came too far down the field to make a difference. The same could be said for fellow linebacker Khalid Henderson, who added a career-high 10 tackles from the weakside linebacker spot, but lost his starting job to converted defensive end TraVaughn Paschal for this week's game against Miami (Ohio).
"Just a lot of missed assignments, that was the biggest thing," Williamson said. "And guys not being in the right spots and where they were supposed to be, including myself."
Williamson said he anticipated a much stronger performance from his unit. "I felt like we were really prepared for the game. Everybody knew what to do and when to do it, but when we got into the atmosphere things didn't go our way, and we stopped thinking clear at times."
On a positive note, Stoops liked the effort he saw for four quarters. Kentucky kept itself in the game by forcing two fumbles and could have had a third that would have ended a WKU touchdown drive if it had not been negated by a late hit penalty.
"As poorly as we were playing, it gave us an opportunity at one point to take the lead, which would have been nice," he said. "Our guys hung in there. Our attitude's right. We've just got to find some answers and get better."