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Mark Stoops Agrees He Made Mistake on Critical Play Call

Here’s what you don’t hear said anymore. As a matter of fact, you NEVER hear it directly from the head coach. Because in this high-stakes world of college football, there’s simply too much on the line to ever admit that you made a critical mistake. More often than not when a play backfires, you get the famous Shannon Dawson blurb about, “Well if it had worked, you would have loved it.”

Not so with Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops. On his weekly Monday morning presser with the media, Stoops was asked about the crucial 3rd and goal call with 26 seconds left in the first half. Remember that Kentucky was only trailing Auburn 8 – 7 at the time, and a touchdown before the half could have been a game-changer. With all the hype Kentucky’s O-Line had garnered during the preseason, the obvious call would have been to run it right down Auburn’s throat. Right?

Why even call that play?

“That was my call and again in hindsight, I would do that differently,” he readily admitted. “I felt like with the option with [UK quarterback] Terry [Wilson] on that play, [he] could have the ability to run it and could have the option to throw it to the back in the flat.”

Unfortunately, we all know what happened next. Terry Wilson makes a questionable decision, and Auburn comes up with the momentum-shifting interception. According to Stoops, there was more to the play than just a horrific play by Wilson.

What went wrong?

“There was a mess up by one of our wide receivers on that play that put that other DB in that area,” Stoops explained. “The design of the play was there. The back was open. Terry was throwing it to an open receiver and there was a body there that shouldn’t have been based on a missed assignment by a wide receiver. So I felt like, worst case scenario, we get three [points]. And we felt like we were doing some very good things in that half. I wanted to go up with a lead, and I thought three points was the worst.”

Reasons rather than excuses

One of the things I respect about Mark Stoops is that he gives thorough explanations when asked. He also gives direct reasons rather than inventive excuses. Bottom line is that when confronted by an awkward question about his role in how the game played out, he didn’t duck it one iota.

“If we run it there and get stuffed, you have to get off the field and get your field goal unit in there with no timeouts and kick the field goal—which is doable with 26 seconds. In hindsight, that’s what I would have probably done to be honest with you. I talked to staff about that yesterday. We need to have that opportunity and—I don’t disagree with you.”

Stoops and crew should get plenty of opportunities for redemption this coming week as Lane Kiffin brings his Ole Miss Rebels into Kroger Field (4 pm Saturday, SEC Network). Ole Miss put up a whopping 35 points and 613 total yards last week against Florida, so the Kentucky secondary will once again be put on red alert.

But the Rebels also surrendered an eye-popping 51 points in their season-opening loss. That means the Kentucky offense should have plenty of scoring opportunities of their own from the red zone. I’d be willing to bet that if it’s 3rd and goal from the one again, the call will be straight down the middle behind the Big Blue Wall.

If not, Stoops will have some more explaining to do next Monday.

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at

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