Head coach Mark Stoops has his University of Kentucky Football team off to a 5-0 start, including 3-0 in the SEC. The Wildcats have won every game by at least two scores. Kentucky will take their number 13 ranking with them when they head to College Station to take on Texas A&M this Saturday. Next week is a bye week and, at worst, the Cats will be 5-1. Best case scenario will see the Cats at 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the SEC with a lot of very winnable games in the second half of the season. Stoops and company are off to the school’s best start since 2007 and its best SEC start since 1977. And yet, some of the Big Blue Nation is restless.
Love like you’ve never been hurt…
I can understand some cautious, highly cautious, optimism. Any longtime UK Football fan can quote chapter and verse on gridiron disappointment. We’ve all had our share of losses: blowouts, close losses, last second hail marys, multiple overtimes, and games when the Cats were up big only to come up short in the end. Those losses are there on the Wildcats’ record books for all to see, or live on in infamy on the SEC network. Everyone in the BBN has had their heartbroken by UK Football. Do you know what that has to do with the 2018 edition of the Kentucky Wildcats? Nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada. This team isn’t those team. These players aren’t those players. These coaches aren’t those coaches. And, yes, Mark Stoops has had some fast starts only to flounder in latter part of the season, but there’s reason to believe this team is different.
If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best…
This team is the team that Mark Stoops painstakingly constructed. This team has depth on both sides of the ball. This team can run and this team can stop the run. This might be the most overall talented UK team in 40 years. Benny Snell, Jr. will most likely have just about every school rushing record by Halloween. Josh Allen is creeping up the school’s all-time sack list every game (two time SEC defensive player of the week… so far). Kentucky is among the leaders, nationally, in yards rushing (12th at 254 yards per game) and defensively the Cats give up 11.4 yards per game which is good for 26th. Kentucky is only giving up 288 yards per game which ranks them 12th in overall defense. When it comes to football, there are two things that travel well and are weather repellent: running the ball and playing stout defense. Luckily, those are two things the 2018 Wildcats are doing well.
After the Mississippi State game, Benny Snell answered a reporter’s question about how last year’s performance against the Bulldogs impacted this year’s performance. Snell was quite candid and emphatic when he responded that the only thing this team can control is this season. Of course, Stoops, the coaches and the players aren’t above reproach or criticism, but it’s not exactly fair to make this team answerable for all the losses and the years of heartbreak that the BBN is carrying around. These players and coaches have worked tremendously hard to turn the program around and arguably become the second best team in the SEC East behind Georgia. Kentucky football, right now, is in a position it hasn’t been in for a long, long time.
At most, there will be 8 more games, 8 more times to see this team play. There are 8 more opportunities to watch Benny run and Josh Allen create havoc in the opposing team’s backfield. If Kentucky gets to 9 wins, does that mean Stoops is leaving? I don’t know, you don’t know and, most likely, Stoops himself doesn’t know. The key to happiness, not just in sports, but in life, is to focus on the precious present. We shouldn’t dwell in the past and we shouldn’t worry about what’s coming in the future. All I know is that right now Kentucky Football is 5-0 and ranked 13th in the country. Right now, the Wildcats have the best running back in the SEC and a potential Heisman Trophy Hopeful. Right now, there are several Wildcats that will leave Lexington to play on Sundays. Right now, the Wildcats are the toast of college football. This is the gift that long-suffering UK Football fans have been given and it’s a precious present that we’re living in.