LEXINGTON — Kentucky football fans may be celebrating the Wildcats’ 59-14 season-opening win Saturday over UT-Martin — and a few players might be as well — but coach Mark Stoops assured the media Monday afternoon that there wouldn’t be a lot of celebrating from the players when they went over the game film later in the day.
Especially on the defensive side.
Kentucky gave up 398 yards to Martin’s Skyhawks — 215 through the air and 183 on the ground. And Stoops knows that if the Skyhawks can do that, this Saturday’s home opponent — Ohio University (3:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPNU) — might roll up 500.
It could be even worse Sept. 13 when Kentucky travels to Gainesville to take on Florida to open Southeastern Conference play.
“Defensively there were some things I was really disappointed in, to be honest with you,” Stoops said of the UT-Martin game. “We had some moments. There were some individual efforts. (Junior safety) A.J. Stamps, in particular, played exceptionally well. (But) there were some things we definitely need to improve on.”
Stoops was especially “aggravated” about the Kentucky defensive showing in the second half when the Wildcats surrendered 284 yards, allowing UT-Martin to sustain some drives late.
“We were inconsistent,” Stoops said. “There were some things (flaws) in the run game, some of our fits, just not striking people, being as violent as we need to be.”
It should be noted that UK led 35-0 at half, but Stoops didn’t buy the suggestion that it might be human nature to let down sitting on the kind of easy lead that stretched to 52-0 late in the third quarter.
When asked if it’s hard to get young guys to play like it’s 0-0 when the scoreboard reads 52-zip, Stoops replied: “We need to be mature enough and good enough and skilled enough to do it, and we obviously weren’t.
“Some of this you saw a year ago,” he added, referring to last season’s late-season swoon that placed UK at 2-10 on the year. “I mean, we had guys right there (to make a play). Fourth-and-13 ... that should be an interception and instead it goes on to be a touchdown. You’re not going to win a lot of games playing like that. You’ve got to go make a play.”
Stoops said his team will have to clean up a lot of those issues if the Wildcats are to avoid a dogfight Saturday against an Ohio team that is 1-0 off a 17-14 win at Kent State. The Bobcats have been to five straight bowl games under veteran coach Frank Solich.
“It’s obviously going to be a bigger challenge for us with Ohio,” Stoops said. “Coach Solich has been around a long time and has been extremely successful. They are very well coached, and fundamentally sound on both sides of the ball. They’re a team that’s not going to beat themselves. They’re just good and sound.”
Stoops offered a wry laugh when asked if it might be tempting for many of his young players to think it will be easy after such a convincing win in the opener.
“That’s generally not a problem with me,” Stoops said. “It won’t be a pleasant film session today, I can promise you that.”
Stoops emphasized that he’s not having any crises of confidence, however.
“There’s just things we need to get fixed, and we will,” he said. “They’re not major. There’s things we’ll get corrected today.”
UK NOTES: Junior wide receiver Javess Blue and junior running back Braylon Heard are nursing minor injuries. Stoops said he’s optimistic both could play vs. Ohio Saturday ... 25 players saw their first playing time in a UK uniform vs. UT-Martin, including nine true freshmen, 10 redshirt freshmen, one sophomore and five transfers ... Stoops is an Ohio native and was asked if that gave him added incentive vs. the Bobcats. “You know how desperately we need wins,” Stoops said. “I’d take them against anybody. So they’re all important.”