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November 9, 2013

Stoops frustrated as Cats fall to No. 9 Mizzou

Mark Stoops might have thrown around an f-word or two at halftime of his Kentucky football team's 48-17 loss to No. 9 Missouri on Saturday.

He certainly was using them afterward.

In a postgame news conference that lasted a little more than nine minutes, Stoops said "frustrating" or "frustrated" four times. It was the word of the day on an afternoon when Kentucky (2-7, 0-5 Southeastern Conference) dropped mathematically where it long had been realistically -- out of contention for postseason play.

"It is, it's frustrating," Stoops said. "I've got to do a better job. That's it. It is what it is. It's a tough situation. I'm trying to fight and claw and help lead this team as best I can. It is frustrating at times, but we all need to do a better job, and we need to overcome adversity."

Missouri (9-1, 5-1) provided plenty of it on Saturday.

The Tigers got historic performances from quarterback Maty Mauk (a school-record-tying five touchdown passes) and wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham (the first player in school history with four touchdown catches in a game) in matching Alabama for the highest point total posted against UK this season.

Mizzou controls its own destiny to win the SEC East and advance to the league's championship game in Atlanta.

Kentucky, meanwhile, saw its postseason hopes officially dashed. So the Cats will seek a new motivation.

"Wins," said quarterback Jalen Whitlow, who passed on Saturday for a career-high-tying 225 yards. "We want to win. Everybody wants to win. We can't hang it up now."

Senior Raymond Sanders suggested another motivator as it faces teams with its postseason goals still alive.

"Try to ruin someone's season," Sanders said. "I mean, that's all you can play for. You aren't able to do those things, so you definitely don't want to be the team that allows the other team to do those things."

Whatever the button, Kentucky's coaches will try to push it.

Stoops and coordinators Neal Brown and D.J. Eliot all admitted their frustrations after the game. But all maintained an optimism that there's time for the Cats to make strides this season, to lay a foundation to build on in the future.

But it won't be easy.

"You got to motivate your guys in the good and the bad," Eliot said. "You got to find a way to motivate them. Sometimes things go real good and it's hard to motivate them. Sometimes things go bad, it's hard to motivate them. That's part of being a coach."

Being a coach this season is taking its toll on Stoops.

Like Brown and Eliot, he saw some positives in the loss. A fiery halftime inspired UK to play its best in the second quarter, outscoring Mizzou 14-7. But by then the damage had been done. A 21-0 second quarter had staked the Tigers to a 28-3 halftime lead.

"We'll get it done, believe me," Stoops said. "It's hard, it's frustrating, but we're going to keep on going to work and getting better every day. This team is showing signs. We're not nearly as consistent as we need to be. You're playing a top-10 team that's grown up an awful lot themselves."

And Kentucky's coaches remain confident there's time for a late growth spurt this season.

"I want us to play to our potential," Brown said. "Whatever our potential is, I want us to play to our potential. I think our potential showed in the second half against South Carolina. I think our potential showed in the third quarter today. I want us to consistently play at that level. That's what I'm looking forward to, because I think we're capable of doing that."

Stoops thinks so, too.

All season, his message has been improving. Frustrated or not, he doesn't intend to change it.

"I'm going to go back to work and stick to the things that I feel are necessary to help build this program," Stoops said. "I may get frustrated, but I'm not discouraged."


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