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Don’t Flinch

By Max Godby

“Go Big Blue” echoed in Papa John Stadium. Fans cried tears of joy. Coach Stoops and Company hoisted The Governor’s Cup into the air after a five year drought against the Cardinals. The scene was priceless – a staunch difference from the Southern Miss game that ended in defeat, doubt, and finger-pointing. No one had an answer except Coach Stoops–“Don’t flinch.”

“Don’t Flinch” has been a motto since the beginning of the Stoops Era. After the loss to Southern Miss and the complete implosion at Florida, this phrase was put to the test. Could this team put words into action? In the midst of some people wanting to fire Coach Stoops, the spreading of rumors, national media making jokes about UK Football, a backup JUCO quarterback as the new starter and developing a whole new philosophy on offense and defense, this team did not flinch when adversity hit. They invited it. They attacked it.

Photo by Andrew Bishop

The resilience of this coaching staff and these players against #11 Louisville was symbolic of the entire season. A quick Lamar Jackson touchdown delivered adversity within the first two minutes of the game. I sat back in my chair and thought to myself: This is either going to be high scoring or a blowout.

However, before the first play for Kentucky was even snapped, I knew this team was going to win. Stephen Johnson scanned the field to read the coverage; he knew he had a play action pass to run. At that moment, he knew Louisville was going to take the bait – and he smiled. It seemed like a scene out of a Disney football movie. Stephen Johnson’s only fault this whole season was that he was not the true starter. Through all the heckling and some people playing quarterback from the stands, with a microscope on him judging every move and call he made, he did not flinch. At that moment, Stephen Johnson bloomed into a UK Football hero we will never forget.

Photo by Andrew Bishop

Let us all take a lesson from Coach Stoops and Johnson. It was easy for some fans after the first game to write off this team. Southern Miss hurt, but unlike us, the players still had eleven more games to play. People hate when he says it, but Coach Stoop’s simple response after disappointment is always, “We have to get back to work.” Let us learn from this team about resilience. No matter how something starts, no matter the hand that we are dealt, no matter the odds . . . if we do not flinch and keep grinding, something good will happen. I do not know for sure, but I think that moment was realized in Johnson’s first snap. He knew something good was coming.

Photo by Andrew Bishop

To the loyal fans of Big Blue Nation, your patience was rewarded. The bowl game was the goal – mission accomplished. Beating Bobby Petrino and Louisville– that is an extra helping of blessing and reward for waiting faithfully and hopefully since 2010. You stayed the course; you paid the price, and you did not flinch. To a player, that kind of support does not go unnoticed.


Photo by Andrew Bishop

The Battle for the Governor’s Cup is won, but the season is not over. There are fifteen more practices, over thirty more lifting sessions, countless meetings and film sessions, and a bowl game to be played.

Don’t Flinch.


  1. Dan says:

    Great season and I am a happy happy happy cat fan. You wildcats make me proud, the way u fought all years. Congrats

  2. BILL says:

    So proud of these kids for never quitting when many fans did. Stephen Johnson is a special kind of athlete. The best is yet to come!

  3. Bob Tonini says:

    Being a loyal UK football fan for over 50 years. I have seen many dreams imploded for reasons not many can explain. I suffered immensely the early part of this season, but I have always thought Mark Stoops was the right man for this job. I defended him when many criticized. I saw the effort of the players and their heart even though it was not a smooth ride. I held my breath at the end of the Vandy and Miss St games. I took my grand kids to their first UK game vs Georgia. Even though we lost that night, the enthusiasm in the crowd was unreal. I had not seen it like that since the year we beat LSU in 2007. I left the stadium that night (against GA) feeling really good about the rest of the year. I had a strong feeling we would beat Louisville. In fact, I dreamed during the week that Austin would kick a game winning field goal. I just want to thank you for your effort. I love this team and coaches. Not perfect, but never quitting, fighting ’till the battle is won. I live in Louisville…Today is Sunday..Did not see one UofL car flag or any fans decked out in their team colors. I want to thank Coach Stoops for his efforts in “Making Louisville Great Again” …Go Big Blue!!! #FINISH

  4. Jerry Palin says:

    Coach Stoops and his staff are who we need to praise for the changes made to get the Bowl we have waited for . Football programs take YEARS to
    build ! We UK fans are spoiled with the basketball program that every top 5 player wants to play for . We have to to get football players that want to be the change to make UK the desired destination. Please be patient Cat fans and it will happen .

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