Getting beat by a Hail Mary pass on the final play is something you’d rather not have as a firsthand experience.

Jon Sumrall knows what it feels like as a player, being part of the University of Kentucky program during the Bluegrass Miracle loss to LSU in 2002. Now, unfortunately, he knows what it’s like to face a similar fate as a head coach of the Troy Trojans in Saturday’s loss at Appalachian State.

“We all hurt; it stinks,” Sumrall said. “I think maybe having some experience with that helps me understand how to work through it. I might go in and tell our team today it’s Coach Hoefer’s fault. I don’t think they’ll understand what that means.”

What it means, he explained during his weekly press conference on Monday, is that Larry Hoefer was the Wildcats’ safety coach at the time in 2002. The day after the loss, UK defensive coordinator John Goodner gathered the defense in a meeting to go over what happened the day before in Commonwealth Stadium. He told the players it wasn’t their fault and asked if they wanted to know if they were ready to hear who was at fault.

“He said it’s Coach Hoefer’s fault,” said Sumrall, cracking a small smile at the memory. “Coach Goodner had a funny way about him. He and Coach Hoefer had coached together a long time. He did that to lighten the mood.”

Now, levity is probably not part of Sumrall’s plan this week as his team shoves last week behind them to prepare for a visit from Marshall, which won at Notre Dame less than two weeks ago.

“I’m going to do some things this week. There ain’t going to be no moping going on in our building, I promise you that,” Sumrall said. “I hurt for our kids, but we’re not going to mope around. I might act like a wild man at practice, but we’re not going to mope around.”

Before he took a step forward, though, Sumrall welcomed questions about Saturday’s conclusion. The questions began with his decision to take a safety, while his team led, 28-24. He had quarterback Gunnar Watson take the shotgun snap on 4th-and-1 from the 11-yard line, run to the back corner of the end zone and step out of bounds. He then had kicker Zach Long kick a squib back that was returned by the Mountaineers to their own 47-yard line. Those two plays melted 10 seconds off the clock.

Sumrall received criticism for giving up the safety, bringing the Mountaineers in position for a possible game-winning field goal, but he defended that move.

“I study these situations, that’s what I do a lot,” Sumrall said, bringing up a situation when Michigan chose to punt and a miscue allowed the winning points for Michigan State. “I don’t regret taking the safety. I do wish I would have coached our kicker better on how to hit the kick after the safety. It’s on me, not on him, I can promise you that. Anything that we didn’t do well in the game is not on our players, it’s on me. But, if they would have beaten us by kicking a field goal, then taking a safety is the wrong call. They didn’t beat us by kicking a field goal.”

Sumrall explained what should have happened on the free kick.

“When we hit the kick, I did not coach the kicker well enough on how we want the kick to be hit,” said Sumrall, who has special teams coordinator experience on his resume. “We call that a victory kick. It’s not a true squib, it’s also not a sky kick, where they can fair catch it and preserve the clock. It’s a kick that’s supposed to be very line drive oriented but pushed way down the field. They have to field it deep and it’s on the ground, they can’t fair catch it. We get the clock to run and we also push it down the field. We got saved, maybe a little bit, by the high hop on the kick. I didn’t coach the kick well enough, that’s on me, not on our kicker.”

Appalachian State had 15 seconds to work with. Sumrall said film study put them in position to nearly end the game on the first play of the Mountaineer's possession.

“They tried to work our sideline,” Sumrall said. “They did the same thing against North Carolina [in a 63-61 Tar Heel win]. We watched it on video, so we called cloud coverage, and we had a chance to pick the ball off. We catch that ball, game’s over. Once again, sometimes you make the play, sometimes you don’t.”

Troy forced two more incomplete passes before Mountaineer quarterback Chase Brice escaped pressure by sliding to his left. Brice threw toward the end zone, into a crowd of players from both teams about the 5-yard line. A player from both teams went up for the ball, and it caromed into the hands of Appalachian State’s Christian Horne, who got a couple of key blocks as he ran into the end zone.

“It was just little stuff,” said Troy linebacker KJ Robertson. “We gave them two very easy touchdowns. It’s just one gap over or the eyes weren’t right, just the little details and that’s in everything. It could have been a more dominant game. But they did a great job capitalizing off our mistakes, which is great by them. I’m extremely proud of this defense. It was never a dull moment, nobody had their heads down. We were fighting to literally the last play, which sucked, but that’s football. Anything can happen on any Saturday.”

Sumrall said the message is very clear heading into preparation for Marshall, which followed the win at Notre Dame with a loss at Bowling Green.

“They’re not going to feel sorry for us, they lost a tough game, too,” Sumrall said. “The term around here, ‘So what, now what?’ is kind of what I’ve been telling our team the last few weeks. OK, we lost the game. I can’t change last Saturday. To be quite honest, I can’t change this Saturday yet, because Saturday is a little bit of a way out for us. All I can do is help our team get better [today]. I’m going to work all day to help our team improve.”

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