Good afternoon. Very disappointed in the loss, in the way we performed. We need to get to work. We need to coach better. We need to play better. We've got to put them in a better position schematically to win games, and psychologically we've got to get them to play better and just get over the hump and learn how to win and play the right kind of football. Looking forward to getting going this week, getting back on the practice field today and preparing for Miami. There's enough blame to go around with everybody, and there's a lot of work to do. So just anxious to get back on the field and get going.
Q. Coach, it's all about how you started. You alluded to the fact you were a little disappointed in the fact that there wasn't as much excitement as you would liked to have seen.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah. Just trying to find a balance there. Just trying to ‑‑ you know, see who we are, what we can do, what we can do schematically on both sides of the ball. Again, just seeing where we're at psychologically, seeing what we're made of and playing the game the right way.
Q. Mark, looking on the depth chart, Max (Maxwell Smith) was listed first. Is he going to start this week?
COACH STOOPS: Yes.
Q. What did you see that you liked from him that kind of put him ahead?
COACH STOOPS: There's a lot of things. Just because we're naming Max, we're not putting that loss on Jalen (Whitlow) whatsoever. There's a lot of people that could do things better starting with me. Max, he came in there and did some good things, and Jalen did some good things as well, just like we thought he would. There were some critical errors from both quarterbacks. So we need to improve at that position. We just feel like Max gives us the best opportunity this week.
Q. Mark, any kind of injury update you can provide?
COACH STOOPS: No. There's really nothing , we got some bumps and some bruises. I was just getting some updates Kyle Budde is the only one that's out. He'll be out for the year. He's our backup snapper. He got injured. He'll be out. He's going to require surgery.
Q. Coach, when you did look at the film, what did you like the best? What are the few things you did the best?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I think we ran the ball well, just like we figured we would at times. We had some opportunity to run the ball, and I thought Jalen ran the ball well when we had some designed quarterback runs. I thought Ray (Sanders) did some good things and the line did some good things at times. I think Ray will see, once we watch the film, that we even left some yards out there. I thought that was good. We didn't play very good defense the whole game really. We had a few stops here and there. We had a chance to get three fumbles, and the penalty brought one back. As poorly as we were playing, it gave us an opportunity at one point to take the lead, which would have been nice.
Our guys hung in there. Our attitude's right. We've just got to find some answers and get better.
Q. Coach, what did you learn as a head coach after being in your first game?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don't know if there's any one thing. Just handling the whole situation, first time going through that, everything, from the coin toss to captains to just the whole organization and managing the game was a little bit different for me I'm used to, obviously, just coaching the defense and going over and making those adjustments in between series. So just managing the whole game.
Q. You guys have obviously wanted to get some improvement at linebacker. It looks like TraVaughn (Paschal) has moved to No. 1 on the weak side. What's the thinking there? What can you do there?
COACH STOOPS: We just have to play him. We have to get him on the field. I just feel like we have not been playing winning football at linebacker. We need to improve.
Q. Za'Darius (Smith) and Avery (Williamson) both spoke about how you need to improve gap responsibility. What are you doing at practice to ensure that?
COACH STOOPS: Just keep on working. Just get back to fundamentals. I believe I said this the other day after the game, but this is one of the things I'm most disappointed in is the things we should have played better and didn't, things that we were in a position to play better and just didn't do it. So got to go back to work, and it starts with fundamentals.
Q. Mark, where in relation to what you thought you had with this team is what you saw on Saturday night?
COACH STOOPS: It's hard to answer. You know me. I'm not one to sit here and throw anybody under the bus. I said it from the very beginning. It's our job to put them in a position to be successful. That's still our job. Players have responsibilities, sure. The big thing for me is just finding the right chemistry and psychologically getting them ready to play, getting them over the hump. I saw some wide eyes out there on Saturday, and we got to get over that. We've got to cut it loose and play.
Q. Mark, you talked about the other night after the game about first and second down, the way they got yards against you. When you looked at the video, especially the defensive line, what did you see there?
COACH STOOPS: I saw some people going back to some poor habits. I should have done a better job foreseeing that because, when things go bad, players just want to go back out there and just try to make plays. That's never a good thing. When things go bad, you go back to fundamentals and paying attention to the small details. We lost sight of the details on both sides of the ball. For that, I accept that responsibility because you had a good idea that some of that was going to happen and it did. Guys just kind of ‑‑ they mean well, but that doesn't mean they're playing well. You can't just get out there and start doing your own thing and running under blocks and so on and so forth.
Q. So you're talking about a team concept?
COACH STOOPS: Team concept, everybody on the same page. In the small details, we've got to do a much better job.
Q. You've been through a lot of these rebuilding things before? How do you deal with the psychology of it? How do you get them past this first game and remind them there's more?
COACH STOOPS: The first thing is we all have to accept the reality of what it is. We have to accept that and embrace that. It is what it is. I'm not discouraged. I'm anxious to get back out there today, and I know the team will. That's just it. There's no easy formula. There's no easy switch. There's no magical scheme on either side of the ball that we can do overnight. We just got to get back to work and handle it with the right attitude and embrace it and get better.
Q. What do you make of Cody Quinn not being on the depth chart at all?
COACH STOOPS: Well, we're trying to get him healthy. We put him back out there last week, and we thought he was going to be able to go. He had a minor setback. He's close again, but I don't know where he's at. Right now he's not able to practice full go.
Q. Mark, what was your assessment of your secondary play?
COACH STOOPS: Not good enough. No, we need to improve. Again, it's a team loss. We're all in this together, but we did not play good enough in a lot of positions, but we played poorly in the secondary.
Q. You talked about ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: I was very disappointed with position on the football, and that's what I talked about going into the game, and our awareness on some things is very poor.
Q. You talked so much about the psychology and sort of getting those guys mentally over the hump. How much do they need to go out this weekend and experience some success and feel like they can do some things well?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think it is important. You know, I said that going into last week. I know how important the first game was, and I understand the momentum that we had and have, and I understand that's ‑‑ it's a quick trip. People are going to jump off that bandwagon quick. That's all right. We're not worried about all that. We're worried about getting better. Win or lose. I said that to the team. Win or lose, back to work on Sunday. We know we have to improve, whether we won the game or lost the game. Sure we wanted to win. We put a lot into it to win. We just didn't do it good enough at any level. It's back to work today.
Q. Does Joe Mansour's confidence, is he the kind of personality that you're not worried about that kind of thing carrying over into the next week?
COACH STOOPS: I can't say that I'm not worried about it. I mean, I saw what you saw.
Q. What about on the offense? Talk about play makers, Timmons did have a long run, but he fumbled. Raymond had a long run. Jalen had a long run. Do you feel there's a potential there to have some big play guys on offense?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I thought we did a nice job of creating some explosive plays and some guys that we thought could do it. I think we'll get more as we go. I think Javess (Blue) is a guy that can create some big plays. Timmons, just like we thought with Jalen and Raymond, like you said, and there's some others. So we expect some more guys to step up. Alex Montgomery didn't play as much as we had planned. He was sick as a dog all of a sudden last week when we left, and he was very, very sick. Our people worked extremely hard to get him on the field, but he was not up to full strength. I would have liked to have seen him go a little bit too.
Q. Do you have a plan yet for will Jalen play, or is it sort of the reverse of last week?
COACH STOOPS: Yes. I think Jalen deserves an opportunity to play. Again, if Max is going out there and rolling and things are going good, then we'll stay with Max. Yes, we want Jalen to play, and we believe he can bring some diversity to our package and make some people prepare for some different things with his skill set. So, yes, we will always have him ready to go.
Q. Mark, after the game, one of your players thought that he was overconfident and not focused enough going into the game.
COACH STOOPS: Pardon me?
Q. One of your players thought at least that he was overconfident and not focused enough going into the game. Does that surprise you at this point?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, that's for sure. That very much does. You know, that's that fine line. Buying in, believing, doing everything ‑‑ that's not fake. We know where we're at, and, again, I'm not going to sit here and say bad things about our players, you know what I mean? I'm going to take the responsibility and put them in a position to win. But we have a long way to go, and anybody that doesn't understand that has got some issues that we need to sit down and talk about.
Q. Mark, you referred to this earlier, but when you brought the video down, what was the problem in essentially stopping the run, and how surprised were you given all the experience you have?
COACH STOOPS: I was very disappointed, and I can't put it all on any one person or any one group. Any time people are getting big chunks on first, second down like they're doing, then that's poor team defense. It was at all levels. It was D‑linemen trying to do too much, and it was poor pursuit at the second level by the linebacker position on things that we worked extremely hard at, and then it was poor position and poor reaction from the secondary in certain situations. So it was everybody.
Q. Mark, after you looked at the film, did anybody or any group play better than you thought watching it live?
COACH STOOPS: No, no, I think we need to drastically improve at all positions. I really do. There was too many instances where we just kind of rat-trapped back to very poor habits. That was discouraging because we work extremely hard on the details, and we didn't do that, and that's where we need to improve. That's where I need to improve and get the team to improve is not to flinch. Bad things are going to happen. That's not the worst thing that's going to happen to us all year. There's going to be bad things happen. You have to overcome them, and you have to deal with them, and we have to get better.
Q. You walked back to the locker room with Mitch. What did he say to you after that first game?
COACH STOOPS: Just supportive. You know, he and I know the reality of the situation, and we know there's a lot to do. I appreciate the support, but nobody puts more pressure on anybody than myself and the staff. Again, we're disappointed. We know we could have done things better, and we plan on doing that and excited to get back to work. That's the nice thing about us as coaches and our team, we don't have a whole lot of time to dwell on things or to celebrate. So it's back to work.
Q. Mark, there's the old coaching thing about the team shows the most improvement from the first to the second week. Do you find that?
COACH STOOPS: I thought about that, that's for sure. I really did. I thought about that because I do anticipate that. I really do. I feel like ‑‑ I think we're all disappointed because we know we could have done better. So that's where we're looking to make that improvement this week.
Q. Miami gave up five passing touchdowns against Marshall last Saturday. The way that Max was helping you move the ball through the air late in the game, does it give you some hope that that's a favorable matchup?
COACH STOOPS: It does. You know, the big thing, though ‑‑ and we've talked about this before ‑‑ every week you know and I know we are going to do whatever it takes to win the game and prepare to win the game. With that being said, you have to build on who you are, and that's where us as a staff are still doing the best we can to put our players in a position to win, to move the ball, to stop people on defense, and I think that's the quandary that you get into as a play caller sometimes. What can you do? What can you handle? Neal has full autonomy to do what he needs to do to move the ball. I have tremendous trust and confidence in the whole offensive staff to find that balance to do what we need to do to win this game and to build on our future.
Q. How do you think D.J. (Eliot) did calling the defense, communicating, things like that, in his first game?
COACH STOOPS: He did good. He did good. I know everything that he's doing, and I accept responsibility for that defensive side of the ball as well. So we need to do a better job. But he handled it well. We just ‑‑ we need to do better.
Q. Last time you gave up 487 yards, exactly the same number, was your second game at Florida State against your brother. Do you take some solace in knowing it can be that ugly and get that much better?
COACH STOOPS: Is that right? Is that right? Wow, I didn't realize that.
Q. That thing turned around. Do you think some ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: I'm sorry. You threw me off there. Yeah.
Q. Just knowing that it can be that ugly early and then it can get better.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, uh‑huh. I'm looking at things hard again. Like I said, nobody's more critical than myself and our staff. So I'm looking at that very hard. I'm looking at everything we're doing. That doesn't mean we're going to be knee- jerk around here, and we understand, and I've said that over and over again. We accept where we're at. We will get better. We will move forward as a program, I promise you that. But with that, you have to look at what you're doing and give yourself an opportunity to win. I said it at the time ‑‑ you know, that was a long time ago, but I changed. That was very similar in that that was our second game. We went through all spring, went through camp, went into that game, got shredded, and we changed overnight and really haven't looked back since.
So that's our job, and that's on both sides of the ball. That's why people were saying, you know, are we air raid? Are we running? Hey, man, we're trying to win. We're trying to do whatever we have to do to win games to put our players in a position to be successful on all sides of the ball. So, yeah, I'm looking deep into what we're doing defensively and seeing what we can do better and putting our players in a position to be more successful.
Q. After the loss, Max Smith said, whether or not they put me in to start, I need to step up and be a leader for this offense. Is that the kind of thing you want to hear from that guy at the moment?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, it is, and I thought he did a great job during the game when he was not playing. I've said that all along, that those guys have handled the situation very well. He did a great job, and we do need that kind of leadership, yes.
Q. Coach, do you hang your hat on that, even though things were getting ugly in the third quarter, the team still bounced back in the fourth and made it a game?
COACH STOOPS: I mean, yes, I care about the psyche of our team, and I care about how we play always. You know, start to finish, we're going to play hard. I did like the way we finished and fought, but we need to fight a little harder and play a little harder from the beginning. When bad things happen, we need to handle it better. You know, emotionally, I thought ‑‑ I talked about it before. I thought we were excited, and then a few bad things happen, and all of a sudden, everybody's worried about all kinds of things. Just settle in. It's a long game. That's where I thought we could have handled things better.
Q. Mark, you talked about everybody needs to understand the reality of where the program is. Did you sense over the past couple months the fan excitement was a little bit higher than what it should be in reality once the season starts?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I've been honest. What do you say? We want excitement. We want people believing in what we're doing. We believe in what we're doing. As a coaching staff and as players, we believe in what we're doing. Yeah, of course I want the excitement here and I want the fans here, and I want the people behind us. I just have a hard time saying bad things about our players, you know what I mean? It is what it is. Again, I accept responsibility for that. I know exactly what we're in. I knew what I was getting into, and I know what I'm into. So we're not going to flinch. We're going to do the best thing we can to move forward and win games.
Q. Do you have to juggle how much you and your staff can be a bad cop without knocking the guy's confidence down, or does that just depend on the player?
COACH STOOPS: No, it does. I'm talking about other people here now, when you quote me on this, but when you tell somebody they're going to stink, they're going to stink. That's not my style. We all need to do better.
Q. You talked about bandwagon falling off, that kind of stuff earlier. What would you say to the fans about this home opener and kind of the importance of starting that correctly?
COACH STOOPS: I'm sorry. Can you tell me that again?
Q. The bandwagon fans that you sort of talked about, are you worried about the attendance this weekend, and what would you say to the fans?
COACH STOOPS: I didn't say that anybody was on or off. I just would assume some people would probably fall off. You know, again, I so greatly appreciate the support. Our players do, and we're in this for the long haul. This is ‑‑ you know, we told our players after the game, and it's the same thing with the coaches. We're going to play 11 more one‑week seasons. We've got 11 more.
Q. What did you think of the offensive line play?
COACH STOOPS: I thought they did a nice job at times. I thought Darrian (Miller) in particular played winning football. Obviously, some penalties that we need to get cleaned up, but I really did think he did some decent things, and we probably should have gotten Max in there a little bit, Godby, but Zach (Myers) was snapping better, more consistent with his snaps. But he did some good things. I think Kevin Mitchell did a good job and (Jordan) Swindle. Obviously, we need to get rid of the pre-snap penalties.
Q. Was there a reason for that? Could you put your fingers on what it is?
COACH STOOPS: We practiced some movements and some things that they were doing. We obviously could have done it more, but in the game, it happens. So in hindsight, sure, I think we could have prepared a little bit more. They do some shifts and some movements that we knew they were coming. Just didn't handle them very well at times.