Cats “Cinderella Story” Made For A Bowl
By: Larry Vaught
Kentucky’s stunning 41-38 win over Louisville put the Cats in a whole different bowl conversation than it looked like they would be in this week. The win boosted UK’s record to 7-5 — and 7-3 in the last 10 games — and came over a highly ranked team. Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas all lost games they were expected to win.
One bowl official I know well said the Tennessee loss to Vanderbilt changed a lot of things that could impact Kentucky.
“All the projected bowl lineups going into the weekend are out the window now,” he told me Sunday.
Kentucky should be in a group vying for spots in one of six bowls with SEC affiliations. After the Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Citrus Bowl are filled, the SEC assigns the next six teams to the Texas Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Belk Bowl, Outback Bowl and Taxslayer Bowl along with the Music City Bowl.
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart says he wants the best bowl possible for the players and “wants it to be something our fans can get to and go enjoy this team.”
Kentucky is a Cinderella story, too, made for a bowl game. The Cats lost to Southern Mississippi. Then they lost their starting quarterback to injury. Rumors swirled that Stoops might be fired before the season even ended. Then the Cats beat Mississippi State on a last second field goal. They barely lost to Georgia. They beat Louisville in the final game as a 26-point underdog and had fans waiting to welcome them back home.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after the win he was excited to see his players so happy.
“That is what is so beautiful about this team. When you go through adversity and build something, it is special. They have loved, trusted and believed in each other and gone to work and got better. We are not perfect, but their attitude is perfect,” Stoops said.
That’s one reason the coach did not panic over the 0-2 start or injury to quarterback Drew Barker. He said a seven-win season – or more – was still realistic in his mind after the 0-2 start.
“I knew we had a good football team and were going to get better,” Stoops said. “We had an opportunity to win eight or nine.”
Beating Louisville was the signature win Stoops had lacked in his four years at UK.
“It’s a significant win. Our players deserved it, our fan base did, our administration. We poured a lot into this. It’s not easy. So, it’s a giant step in the right direction,” Stoops said.
Stoops and his staff hit the road recruiting Sunday to take advantage of the hype from the Louisville win.
“We’re hitting the pavement hard. We got to keep getting some good players,” Stoops said.