Stoops focused on own team ahead of first meeting against N. Illinois

Published 4:00 pm Friday, September 23, 2022

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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops hasn’t changed his focus ahead of his team’s first-ever matchup against Northern Illinois set for Saturday at Kroger Field.

“No matter who we are playing, what concerns me is us,” Stoops said. “That doesn’t ever change. It is about us and being more disciplined and being more efficient and having a good practice and having a great intensity about us.

“I am not saying it was a whole team, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t know what any one player or any one play is going to affect the outcome of a game. I didn’t feel like we were as consistent as we needed to be on Saturday.”

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Stoops said Thursday the Wildcats had a productive week and is looking forward to returning to the field.

“I like the way they responded,” he said. “They’ve practiced well. So we’ll see how we carry it over.”

In their last outing, the eighth-ranked Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) defeated Youngstown State 31-0, the first shutout in 13 years and the first at home since 1996. Kentucky hasn’t allowed a score in six quarters and has allowed and average of just 9.67 points and an average of 253.7 yards per game through the firsr three contests.

Despite the early success on defense, Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said the Wildcats have “got a lot to fix.”

“We’re a long way from great,” White said earlier this week. “We’ve had a couple of solid games at this point but it’s one quarter of the season. And this season is no different than a game. You can play one good quarter, you’ve got three quarters left.”

A big part of Kentucky’s success on defense is the experience in all three phases — on the line, in the middle and in the secondary.

“There’s nothing, to me, more important than experience. And not just plays but quality and experience and understanding and knowledge,” White said. “And that’s what we’re blessed with right now.

“We’re blessed with a veteran group that has not only played a lot of snaps, but they understand football, they understand scheme, they understand adjustments. It allows us to go into halftime and get things changed up. When you have those kind of guys in the locker room, it makes a huge difference.”

The Huskies (1-2) are coming off a 38-28 home loss to Vanderbilt. Northern Illinois led in the third quarter before the Commodores reeled off 24 unanswered points to avoid an upset. Much like Florida, the Huskies have a history of rolling the dice in certain situations.

Stoops said Thursday his team is prepared for the task at hand.

“We did the same with Florida just because we knew the analytics, what the analytics say on certain positions,” he said. “The only thing we could do is practice and get ready for them; like third down, whether it’s a 3rd-and-3 in certain situations or a 4th-and-3, really we treat it the same. So just having extra third down calls ready to go on third and fourth (down).