A disheartening 0-2 start has Mark Stoops, Kentucky Wildcats seeking solutions

After losing the first two games of the season in vastly different yet equally disheartening fashion, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is walking a fine line between sticking with his core philosophies and going back to the drawing board.

"We had to spend some extra time analyzing ourselves, that is for sure," the UK boss said during Monday's weekly press luncheon. "Yesterday was different in that you had to go through the film several times and go through the first two games to make sure we are doing things and putting our players in a position to be successful."

And what did the film indicate? 

"You see when we execute and do things right, we have a chance," Stoops said in reference to building a 35-10 lead over Southern Miss in the season opener. "And when we don't, we don't."

To wit, blowing that lead, followed by a completely uncompetitive showing in a 45-7 loss at Florida.

Terms like "fundamentals" and "football IQ" came up often as the 0-2 Cats began preparation for this week's game against New Mexico State (1-1) at Commonwealth Stadium. 

"Today's routine is different in that way," said Stoops, who added the performance was so bad at Florida that he had considered getting the Cats back on the practice field on Sunday. 

When a game unfolds as poorly as Saturday's loss to the Gators -- UK completed only three passes, turned the ball over four times and allowed 564 yards of total offense -- and it comes on the heels of blowing a 25-point lead in the opener, the urge to scrap the existing plan can be strong. The Cats have already made some minor adjustments, such as using more of a 4-3 defensive front to slow down the opponent's ground game.

But don't look for UK to make drastic changes.

"Cannot have knee-jerk reactions," Stoops said, "but you would be a fool to not look at things and say, "Some things have to change. Some things have to get better.’ That is our job as a coach, and that is my job and I understand that.

"You have to stick to the things that you know will help you win and stay the course there and stay steady to the things that I know through the course of my career are going to help us win. But you also have to adjust and do the things that put your players in a position to execute what you are asking them to do.” 

Kentucky has scored only one touchdown since the 35-point first half against Southern Miss. The defense surrendered 79 unanswered points before a late UK score against the Florida reserves.

The Cats may be trying to do too much, too early in the season. Stoops noted that the staff needs to simplify the plan moving forward on both sides of the ball. 

"You can’t have guys that are unsure and do not play on the edge with energy," he said. "That is where it is not OK."

Stoops did not use the word "quit" in his assessment of the Florida performance, but did say the overall effort was "unacceptable."

"That is where our fans – I am sure – have some frustrations, and I do too," he said. "... But our team will play with that passion and that energy that our fan base wants to see. We will do that. I promise you that. This team has some character, and we will get back at it today."

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