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Let’s See How Far We’ve Come

stoops era begins

 

It has barely been a year since I began ‘covering’ the Wildcat Football; during that time the football program has seen its fair share of ups and downs. For those of you that have seen it through your television screens, it was pretty rough; you probably just tried to ignore the team last fall. If you thought it was bad, take the time to read this post and put on my shoes for a couple minutes; coming from a season-ticket holding family, getting to cover the football team as a media member was the most exciting thing to happen to me since I got to college. That excitement was met with disappointment, then it got even worse, now it’s even better than before. Follow me through the craziest parts of the last 8 months of Kentucky Football. 

 

September 15, 2012; UK 31- WKU 32: Anytime you lose to Louisville to start the season it sucks, but after beating down Kent State the Cats had a chance to build some momentum before beginning a gruesome SEC schedule. I never thought my friends’ trash-talk would come true, but WKU never stopped fighting, winning on a trick play in OT. Adding insult to injury, the person that threw the game-winning pass on a trick play (NCAA’s all-purpose leader Antonio Andrews) in Overtime, was the same guy that led his Ft. Campbell team to a come-from-behind win against me in the 2009 State Championship.  The words bitter or salty do not give my hate the proper justice. The team’s play was so disgusting, I left the media box with 10 minutes remaining because I feared I may get in trouble for cursing at the team. This loss was the first early-turning point in the demise of Joker Phillips. No matter how well Joker’s team performed the rest of the season, fans could always say, “Well they lost to Western.” There were simply no excuses. Joker’s battle became even more dangerous after Max Smith was injured, leaving QB duties between two True Freshman and Morgan Newton for the rest of the season.

 

November 3, 2012; Vandy 40- UK 0– A memory we’d all like to forget, this rainy afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium is about as low as you can go. With less than 15,000 people in attendance, the Cats got shutout by the team that used to be UK’s one automatic SEC win. Joker was fired the next day, giving him one last hurrah against Samford on Senior Day the following week. I will never forget the words Rob Bromley said to me as the final minutes ticked off the clock, “I’ve been doing this 35 years -hopefully you have even more of those ahead of you- in all of that time I’ve never seen anything like this, and you’ll probably never see anything like this ever again.”

No crowd has ever looked more pathetic than it did during the 4th quarter of Kentucky's loss to Vanderbilt. (h/t WDRB.com)

No crowd has ever looked more pathetic than it did during the 4th quarter of Kentucky’s loss to Vanderbilt. (h/t WDRB.com)

 

December 2, 2012; Mark Stoops’ Press Conference- I don’t think any person that attended the conference knew what they were in for when they arrived. You couldn’t find more buzz in the air if walked into a beehive. The band and cheerleaders were expected, but the inflatables, giant televisions, and hundreds of alumni made the situation unlike any other. I couldn’t have been more excited that we had a coach with the last name Stoops, but I didn’t know too much about the guy and wasn’t preparing to ask our new coach a question. Enter Matt Jones’ slick-ass; Matt had already asked a couple questions before turning to me, “Go ahead and ask him one, nobody’s said anything about Cal yet.” After saying sure, seconds hadn’t even passed before a microphone was in my shaking hand and Coach Stoops’ eyes were on me. The lump in my throat barely let words escape my mouth. It wasn’t great (I used the words ‘We’, a no-no, and I became the guy that asked about basketball on football’s biggest day), but I did it. Everyone has to start somewhere, and since then I have grown to form a good relationship with the coaches and an even better one with the players.

 

December 10, 2012; Neal Brown hired as Offensive Coordinator- Mark Stoops was a great find, but he couldn’t do it by himself. If I could pinpoint Joker’s demise, it would be his incompetent assistant coaches. Brown was the important first piece to the puzzle to fall in place. Stoops needed an offensive mastermind to counter his successful defensive philosophy. The ‘Kentucky guy’ not only brought in some recruits, but he brought in other great recruiters. This coaching staff will single-handedly be the reason for UK’s success in the future. This group of young guys is very motivated, creating a different energy during practice. They know how to recruit, building great relationships with the prospects before they become players.

 

January 5, 2013; Jaleel Hytchye Commits to Play for UK- While Hytchye may not be as talented as important basketball recruits like John Wall or Jamal Mashburn, in the future we will consider his commitment to be just as influential. The 4-Star Cornerback will not make as great as an impact in the fall as Za’Darius Smith, but the recruiting impact is already being felt. Since Stoops’ picked up his first high school commitment from an Ohio player, 4 other players from Ohio have pledged their services to UK with more on the horizon (Mikel Horton is expected to commit today). These players may not be game-changers for another couple years, but Stoops’ pledge to open a recruiting pipeline in Ohio took him only 2 months to fulfill.

 

February 6, 2013; National Signing Day- Who would’ve thought that in 66 short days as Head Coach Mark Stoops would’ve signed UK’s best recruiting class EVER? Would anyone have thought that he could keep his promise to recruit in Ohio and “keep the best players home” in that short amount of time? Even the biggest football optimist like myself wouldn’t have guessed that. Not only did he snag two 4-star Ohio prospects, but he persuaded a Louisville Trinity superstar (Jason Hatcher) from going to USC or Louisville. I wouldn’t call it an impossible task (because he did it), but it’s hard to grasp the fact that a player turned down the Sugar Bowl Champs and USC’s fantastic program for a team that went 2-10 the previous year.

Stoops began his NSD press conference by hanging the banner of new commit Jason Hatcher.

Stoops began his NSD press conference by hanging the banner of new commit Jason Hatcher.

 

April 13, 2013; The Blue/White game shatters attendance records– The previous 5 months of hype and excitement around the program came to climax last Saturday night. Coach Stoops’ recruiting efforts were matched by UK’s marketing department, with commercials promoting the game seen daily in the Lexington area. Fans did not want to miss their first chance to see the new-look Wildcats, with thousands showing up early to tailgate and invite their team home during the Cat Walk. The crowd of 50,831 gave the team a new life after experiencing the worst of the worst 5 months prior. The largest crowd for an SEC Spring game and second-highest in the nation, showed the 50+ highly-rated recruits in attendance that the fan base loves their football team. Even though the on-field performance wasn’t anything too memorable, this game will be seen as a turning-point in the program for many years to come.

 

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Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

16 Comments for Let’s See How Far We’ve Come



  1. blackhawk509
    1:07 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Nick good post this what we are looking 4…hope Mike Horton joins this list and let Rob predictions be so right.



  2. bilbo
    1:07 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Good read nick….crazy that I’m actually excited for football…I’m prepared for a losing season maybe two but we all should starry supportive football takes years of recruiting to see dividends and I fully expect to be competitive in the near future



  3. SoCal Will
    1:18 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Thanks for your coverage. Don’t take the Wizard Marrow for granted. Florida kids aren’t rushing through the door like Ohio kids. Without him the future is not as bright….



  4. Rip
    1:38 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Let’s see how far we’ve come. What is Stoops record at Kentucky?



  5. Billy Clyde
    1:42 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Stoops has the exact same record at Kentucky as Billy Gillespie had right after he was hired too. How’d that work out? Show me some damn results before we start talking about how far we’ve come.



  6. @3 and 4
    1:47 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Why so negative?



  7. Agreed
    1:57 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    #5 I agree. This is laughable. The real story will be whether the excitement and the improvement in recruiting can continue after another losing season. We’ll see if the luster is still on and Stoops honeymoon continues after a few beatdowns by Bama,FL, UGA, etc. next season. I understand that UK FB fans are long suffering, but these posts would have you believe Stoops has already completed a turnaround. Not so fast my friends, not so fast.



  8. BigBluSoTru
    2:06 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    How far have we come? I’m all for optimism but these over the top post like this. First we have never been a serious contender to win the SEC, let alone the east. When have we ever had a winning in conference record? Stoops has never been a head coach. Look at Muschamp he inherited elite talent, and they struggled to win the east . So lets be smart and sinsible about what and were we are as a football program.



  9. Kadizkat
    2:14 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    For all you negative people, [email protected] yourself. If you can’t see or feel the change you are idiots. I guess you all were saying the samething thing when Cal replaced BCG? No, because you knew there was N improvement even though he hadn’t won a game at UK. Again, you are idiots.



  10. UK Homer
    2:15 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    Last year was such a low-point that we only have one way to go: up. 5-7 will be a tremendous improvement. I hope KSR reminds us of this improvement each week so we will still have Stoops’ back in November. This isn’t a one year turnaround. I’m hoping to be more competitive in each game than in 2012, and if that means being content with losing to Vandy by 10, then so be it. We dug ourselves a DEEP hole. Let’s COMPETE in every game like we expect to win!



  11. Bubba Earl
    2:16 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    The “joker” era needs to be erased from the record books, please never mention his name again!



  12. blackhawk509
    2:23 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    4. 5. & 8. Come back in a couple years…now is the the time to embrace the positives…if after a couple of years we might agree…until then as great grandfather used to says…if u don’t have anything good to say…STFU.



  13. Mike
    2:33 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    You guys its uk football sorry but were always going to suck! The best we will ever see was a few years back with andre woodson as qb.



  14. btowncatfan
    4:48 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    The Western and Vandy losses were certain low points for last season. To me we hit bottom at Arkansas when we literally quit instead of continuing after a delay. Also against an Arkansas team that was reeling. Hopefully those days are now behind us.



  15. Merciful quitting
    4:54 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    #14 and thank God that the plug was pulled on that game. I was happy to see that massacre end early.



  16. JBCat
    9:24 pm April 20, 2013 Permalink

    #13
    Always is a long time, and UK will win more games in a season under Stoops than they did with Woodson as QB, guaranteed.
    Grow a set and open your eyes. Things are different now.