Full transcript from Joker Phillips’ press conference after UK’s 29-24 loss to visiting Georgia.
COACH JOKER PHILLIPS
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, injuries. Zach West reaggravated his shoulder, which is a sprain. Jalen Whitlow had migraines, had distorted vision. He came back late in the game. Cartier Rice has hip flexor that he reaggravated that he had last week.
I thought our team played with great effort. Did a better job getting ourselves off the field on third down. I think at half they were 4 of 6. Second half 5 of 12. Second half I thought third downs were a lot better at getting ourselves off the field, getting them into some third and longs.
We held them to 41 at half what was the total 77 yards, total rushing, which is what we have to do, not allow people to run the football on us. Held them to their second lowest points of the season. We rushed the ball, which gave us a chance.
Again, we got to do a better job of throwing and catching. But, again, no one can say this team’s quitting. We have a young team that comes to practice, excited to play, excited to practice, and that’s the type of effort you saw tonight with these guys.
We got to continue to get better. Got another hard fight next week at Missouri who has a week off to prepare. So we got to get our troops healed up and get them ready to go back out there on Tuesday.
Q. Were you worried they had quit?
COACH PHILLIPS: No, I was never worried. I wanted to make sure everybody understands this team does not quit.
Q. You mentioned the run defense. Almost 800 yards passing against you guys, nine touchdowns in the last two games …
COACH PHILLIPS: Again, as long as you don’t allow them to throw over your head. That’s the thing, we’ve given up the X plays, which has cost us.
But, again, you don’t want them to run on you. It demoralizes you as a defense. Again, we have to help the young guys out by getting some pressure on the quarterback and then we can’t allow them to throw the ball over our heads.
Q. Question regarding the onside kick …
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, we didn’t get the right speed on the ball, first thing. He was just waiting for the ball to cross 10 yards. Heads up play by him. Waiting, waiting, waiting. He thought the ball was across the 10 yard line.
Again, we didn’t get enough speed on the ball, the proper speed that we needed to get it executed. Their guy got to the ball before we could react to it.
Q. Math works out that you’re not going to be going to a bowl game this year. What is the motivation now?
COACH PHILLIPS: We got some seniors in there. We’re motivated to play for those guys. Those guys have done a good job of leading this young team. I can tell you this, those young guys are going to fight their tails off for those seniors who have been with us for a long time.
Q. Question regarding Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders …
COACH PHILLIPS: When you run the ball the way we did, 200 yards, against a really good defense, you have to give credit to the guys up front. I thought those guys did a good job of opening up some holes. When Zach West went out, Teven Eatmon-Nared came in and did a good job also. Those guys did a good job. The running backs did a good job of getting behind their pads and continued to drive their feet and legs. But the credit goes to the guys up front.
Q. The running into the punter, what did you see on that play?
COACH PHILLIPS: It’s hard to tell live. I was watching the returner. All I could see is the replay from up top. We couldn’t tell on the video. I’ll have to see it tomorrow.
Q. What did you see particular improvement in this week?
COACH PHILLIPS: I thought we did a good job of stopping the run, which that’s where most things start, especially against Georgia. They will run the ball, run the ball, then they have a play action off of every run. So I thought the best thing we did was stop the run, take that away.
Again, we just gave up too many X plays, especially early in the first half. Offensively, again, we controlled the ball, kept our defense off the field by running the ball. Put together some pretty good drives.
When they went up 29 17 about five and a half, six minutes left, it would have been easy for our offense to go out there and give up. But those guys drove down and made a game out of it, okay.
Right before the half, a field goal hits right, bounces in… In that last drive, driving down the field, to kick a field goal to win the game… That’s what we got to look at. That doesn’t happen.
We got an opportunity in that last drive to go down and kick a field goal to win the game, so… At that point, that’s when you probably kickoff, kick the ball deep instead of on side kick it.
Q. With Morgan (Newton), what was the thinking about how you were going to use him and how it played out?
COACH PHILLIPS: I just think it’s good for a young guy like Jalen to be able to step back after a couple series. Today it was during the first series, step back, see the game from the sideline, let the game slow down a little bit. We got Morgan in there on the first series in the red zone. I think the red zone is usually when you like to do your wildcat stuff. That’s what Morgan is for us, a wildcat quarterback at times. In the red zone you’ll see him more.
Q. Do you see Jalen (Whitlow) looking more comfortable?
COACH PHILLIPS: Jalen has never looked uncomfortable. Maybe to you, but he’s never looked uncomfortable because he always has a good demeanor. He doesn’t get rattled. I’ve never seen him look uncomfortable.
I think things are slowing down for him, okay. Let’s put it that way. I’ve never seen him uncomfortable. He’s never come out there with that deer in the headlights look. He’s always been the same guy.
But I think things are definitely slowing down for him. Today I think he has a little bit better command of the football. Great throw that he made on the second to the last drive. I think it was a good throw on the last play of the game also. He had a little better command of the ball today.
Q. Do you think this is the best game you might have played this year that you lost?
COACH PHILLIPS: We played good at times. We got to be more consistent. There’s been times throughout the whole season that we’ve probably played longer than this game. There’s been times we played pretty good, but we haven’t put together as long of a time as we did tonight.
Q. You said you weren’t worried that at any point your team would lay down or quit. Is this a week you wanted to find out what you had with the young guys?
COACH PHILLIPS: Every week you want to know what you have with those guys. We know we’ve got guys that are good players, guys with a good attitude, guys that have good character, guys that are willing to come out here and compete every day. We know what we have. But every day you challenge them. We challenged them this week to come out and play with the same type of fire that we see in practice.
Q. What do you think of Jonathan George?
COACH PHILLIPS: Jonathan has done a good job all season. He was a guy who at the beginning of the season was our third back. Because of some injuries, because of some other circumstances, became the starter. That’s why I’m so proud of him. A guy that waits his turn, gets an opportunity, and now he’s been starting really since the Kent State game. He’s been starting since then.
That’s why I’m proud of him. He’s done a good job of taking care of the football in the pass protection area. When we’ve called on him to catch the ball, he’s done a good job in that area also. He’s a guy that plays behind his pads when he runs the ball.
Q. On the last play, does it almost become frustrating…
COACH PHILLIPS: Well, I don’t live in ‘almost’. I mean, at the end of the year you don’t say, We almost win. The records will say wins and losses. We come out here to try to win. We don’t come out here to try to almost win. We come out here to win.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports