Some of us have been strong supporters of Coach Mark Stoops since he arrived at the University of Kentucky to take over a program that was all but in shambles. We knew that rebuilding a football program wouldn’t happen overnight, nor would it happen in 2-3 years. We were willing to be patient and trust the process.
There were, however, some vocal members of the Big Blue Nation that didn’t want to be patient. They wanted the football program to be turned around immediately. Every misstep was cause for a loud cry of “Fire Stoops!” Playing Patrick Towles over Drew Barker? Fire Stoops! Lose a season-opener to Southern Mississippi after squandering a 24-point lead? Fire Stoops! Lose a heartbreaker to Florida at home last season? Fire Stoops! Wear uniforms with checkerboards on them? Fire Stoops! (Oh yeah, and Fire Barnhart!)
Meanwhile, Coach Stoops kept plugging along. Piece by piece, he brought in his type of players. He hired a quality coaching staff and, as he has often said, “put his head down and got to work.” He made progress, slow and steady, but progress nonetheless. But even while that progress was being made, some fans were not convinced Mark Stoops was the man to continue to build and lead Kentucky’s football program. Mitch Barnhart was continually vilified for having given Stoops several contract extensions “without results.”
This season, our patience has finally been rewarded. Yes, it is still very early in the season, but the Cats are in a very rare position, sitting at 2-0 in the SEC (for the first time since 1977). They are 4-0 for the first time in a decade (and only the 7th time since the 50’s). And Coach Stoops did what a string of former UK coaches was unable to do: he beat Florida. At Florida. Perhaps some will try to diminish that win by claiming Florida is having a down year. But the fact remains, that 31-year streak of losses to the Gators finally came to an end.
The 2018 Wildcats are positioned to have a very special season, especially given the absolute thumping they handed to Mississippi State on Saturday night. For once, it was Kentucky that played with poise while MSU was getting multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. It was UK’s offensive line opening up gaps for Benny Snell, Jr. that paved the way for him to score 4 touchdowns. It was UK’s defensive line that bullied MSU. It was the Wildcats that dominated the Bulldogs in every facet of the game and kept the crowd roaring for the full 60 minutes of the contest.
Yes, more challenges await these Cats, but one has only to look at the fire in their eyes to know they are focused and ready to meet those challenges. This team is playing for one another, for the fans, and for their coach, Mark Stoops.
And maybe the tide is finally turning for some fans as was evidenced Saturday night when instead of the chorus of “Fire Stoops!” we saw many fans posting on social media “How can we keep Stoops?”
So BBN, how do you like him now? Enjoy the ride!
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