By Vinny Hardy
Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats went to Knoxville with a chance, one of their better chances in recent memory, to notch their first win in Neyland Stadium since 1984. Things didn’t go according to plan and the game quickly became a movie that’s been seemingly put on a loop.
This is like the Kentucky-Tennessee games of my youth
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) November 10, 2018
My youth occurred during this era as well. My youngest son, Chandler, is six years old. I was one year older than him the last time Kentucky won in Neyland Stadium.
Needless to say, the frustration level is high among the coaching staff, players and fan base. The offensive struggles have become more and more of a thing each week since the dreaded second half of the South Carolina game. It’s understandable that Coach Stoops would come to the defense of his players and assistants who have helped them reach their 7-3 record. It’s also understandable that frustrated fans would call, criticize and vent all the while looking for some type(s) of solutions for an offense that’s mustered just 54 points in its last five games.
This back and forth will only continue to fester until Kentucky rights itself. The positive in all of this is that Kentucky is looking to right the ship and make needed improvements while sitting at 7-3 as opposed to being 3-7 with a wasted season, or 4-6 and scratching and clawing to win out and become bowl eligible.
For the second consecutive season they find themselves at the 7-3 crossroads. Last year’s final two versus Georgia and Louisville didn’t go well for the Cats. This year, Middle Tennessee State and Louisville should be more manageable. Progress has already been made this season compared to last with Kentucky notching five SEC wins for the first time since 1977. But as good as that is, no one wants that to be the only nugget of growth at season’s end when so many loftier things were attainable.
Is Stoops the guy to lead us to the SEC Championship gm? Idk but he leads us from 2-10 and had us in the position and us believing that we could go to Atlanta. We are above .500 in conf in forever. Again he could be Doug Collins but w/o Doug Collins you wouldn't get Phil.
— Van Hiles (@vstyles17) November 11, 2018
Mark Stoops has either maintained or made progress in each of his six seasons at Kentucky. In order to maintain what he’s done the last two seasons (7-5) he will have to lose out to close out the season. In his second 5-7 season many thought he should have won at least one more game and reached a bowl game. He followed that up with the two seven-win seasons in 2016 and 2017 and has an opportunity to learn from last year and finish the 2018 season strong.
Doug Collins won 56% of his games in his three seasons as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Mark Stoops has won 58% of his games the past two seasons. Things could definitely be much worse, and it wasn’t all that long ago that we were all witnessing how much worse it really was.