By Michele Brown
It was unfortunate timing that Senior Day for this very special class was after the brutal loss to Tennessee last week. It was equally unfortunate that Ol’ Man Winter decided to show up about a month early, bringing to the area this week ice, snow, sleet, and colder than usual temperatures. It was also unfortunate that Thanksgiving falls next week meaning some (though certainly not most) students already headed home. To complete the perfect storm, Saturday’s game versus Middle Tennessee State kicked off at noon.
All of those factors resulted in a fairly dismal showing of the Big Blue Nation (announced attendance 47,535 but that seems generous) for the Wildcats final home game of this very successful 2018 season. Yes, there are disgruntled fans that are angry about last week’s loss to the Vols. I get that. But it seems rather petty to use that as an excuse to not show up and honor this Senior class.
This group of seniors was truly the ones who “changed the culture” of the Kentucky Football program. They were the players that committed to be Wildcats when the Football Training Center was still a vision. They chose to wear UK blue when the renovations to then-Commonwealth Stadium were still a vision. They agreed to play for Kentucky when this team was far from being competitive in the SEC.
This senior class had the leaders that turned all these visions into reality. It hasn’t always been pretty, it certainly hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been without a few backward steps from time to time. Given this team’s struggles, it seemed only fitting that Saturday’s game wouldn’t be decided until the final minutes. But when the dust settled Saturday afternoon, the Cats were 8-3, giving them their best 11-game start since 1984.
It seemed at first as if the Cats were going to steamroll the Blue Raiders as Mike Edwards got a pick-6 during MTSU’s opening drive. Edwards then followed this up by forcing a fumble on the Blue Raiders’ next possession, setting up another Kentucky touchdown. Stoops and his troops went to the locker room at halftime with a 24-10 lead and seemingly were in complete control.
As the 2nd half began, the Cats continued their dominance and marched down the field for yet another touchdown, extending their lead to 31-10. But Kentucky wouldn’t score again until 4:04 remained in the game when senior Miles Butler made his 2nd FG of the day. That made the score 34-23, which would end up being the final.
There will be plenty of fans to tell you how “horrible” this game was, how dreadful one aspect or another of the team is. They’ll say this all while ignoring some pretty good things that happened during the course of this game.
Sure, there are plenty of things about which you can criticize this UK Football team. But for every negative you identify, this team has earned to hear a positive in return. To Allen, Edwards, Conrad, George Asafo-Adjei, Derrick Baity, Dorian Baker, David Bouvier, Miles Butler, Tymere Dubose, Lonnie Johnson, Jordan Jones, Adrian Middleton, Bunchy Stallings, Darius West, Chris Westry, and Tristan Yeomans, perhaps all that is necessary is a great big “Thank you.”
So Seniors, to you I say thank you for your commitment and dedication to this Kentucky Football program. Thank you for choosing a program that was nothing more than hopes and visions when you first arrived and thank you most for your hard work and sacrifice to turn those visions into reality. Thank you for leading the charge to make UK Football relevant. Thank you for leading by example and showing the underclassmen what it’s like to be team leaders, both on the field and in the locker room.
Thank you for an exciting season. Yes, there is more to come, but you’ve brought us more joy than a lot of UK Football fans have ever experienced. When you signed on the dotted line, you pledged to “Change the Game”, and that, young men, you have done and done well.
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