Stoops hopes to build on second half of EKU game vs. Akron

Published 11:46 am Friday, September 15, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops won’t change his message going into his team’s final tuneup before the Wildcats open the Southeastern Conference portion of the schedule.

Email newsletter signup

Stoops expects Kentucky (2-0) to build on a strong second half in last week’s 28-17 win over Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcats will host Akron in the second meeting between the two programs in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday at Kroger Field.

“I expect our team to respond,” Stoops said. “They did last week, they did in practice, there were certain things on film that did show up. The drive-stalling things cannot happen, we know that. We got to get those things cleaned up, they’re going to jump up and hurt us if we don’t get them corrected. But I’m confident that we will continue to grow and get better in certain areas.”

Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen is expected to be back on the sidelines following a medical episode that kept hospitalized for two days this week.

“It was a little bit eventful, obviously,” Coen said. “I want to thank the people, treatment staff here, athletic department, everybody for their support at the hospital. Just acting quickly.

“There’s not a ton I remember from the situation. Probably need to sleep better, need to eat better, need to be a better version of myself in terms of doing the things that we ask our players to do.”

On the field, Coen is hoping the Wildcats can get off to a better start than they have in wins over Ball State and Eastern.

“How do we get to that point earlier in the game is the key,” Coen said. “How do we get to a place of consistency, rhythm, quarterback is in a comfortable place, we’re protecting, we’re making plays so that, against some other teams, we don’t dig ourselves into too big of a hole that we can’t come back from it.”

Stoops added the Wildcats can’t be perfect, but can strive toward the mark.

“We’re striving for perfection, knowing you’re probably not going to get it, but in the meantime, you may find excellence. Exactly what I said to them and used it a week ago. It wasn’t mine. I’m not original on that.”

Akron (1-1) will be led by a familiar face when it makes its first visit to Kroger Field since the 2010 season when the Wildcats defeated the Zips 47-10. Former Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead, who went 1-1 against the Wildcats while with the Bulldogs, is the head coach.

“(His teams are) always tough, physical, and hard-nosed,” he said. “He is very creative offensively. They have been very multiple. We will go back and look at quite a few things when he was at Mississippi State and we will look at things [from] when he was at Akron and try to put together a very good plan on both sides of the ball to go compete and try to go 3-0, right before conference play the following week. We have some things we need to improve on and looking forward to getting back out there.”

The school will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Kroger Field, which opened on Sept. 15, 1973 as Commonwealth Stadium on land that previously served as the UK Experimental Station Farm Grounds. Kentucky is 184-141-4 in games played at Kroger Field, including a 48-25 mark under Stoops.

“(I) just (have) great respect for our past players and coaches and the wonderful moments that have gone on,” Stoops said. “I wasn’t here (until 2013), so I only know the last 10-plus years.”