On Saturday afternoon, thirteen Wildcat seniors will run onto the Commonwealth Stadium turf for the final time. And while the season has evolved into a bit of a disappointment to this point, these seniors have nonetheless produced a body of work that merits a warm reception from the home crowd. Their four years in Lexington have been arguably the most successful such tenure since Bear Bryant left Kentucky in the 1950s.
Achievement cannot be judged in a vacuum, and what accounts for success in one situation may be considered failure in another. In sports, we judge success or failure based on history, and the four years that these seniors have been on campus have generated a tenure of unprecedented historical success in modern Kentucky football history.
These thirteen seniors have given us big wins. Kentucky has defeated arch-rival Louisville four consecutive times on their watch. They have beaten traditional conference powers on the road, such as Arkansas, Georgia and Auburn. They have taken down numerous ranked opponents, including top 10 South Carolina this season and top-ranked and ultimate National Champion LSU in 2007. They have won two bowl games, including a victory over Bobby Bowden’s Florida State Seminoles.
And what of the bowl streak? Those seniors who are in their fifth year in the program have been to four consecutive bowl games. For perspective, Kentucky had not attained bowl status for eight years prior to their arrival. The detractors will say that due to the increased volume of bowl games, and Kentucky’s seeming inability to receive an invitation to one south of Memphis, that this streak is not a meaningful accomplishment. Again, this question goes back to historical perspective. In the past 50 years of Kentucky football, the Cats have achieved records above .500 just fourteen times, and had never strung together a successive streak of more than two such seasons. So for this group to accomplish it on four consecutive occasions is a historical anomaly. And if the four consecutive bowl games is such an easy task, why have seven Southeastern Conference teams failed to accomplish it during this tenure? Even traditional powers such as Tennessee, Auburn, Arkansas and Alabama have viewed the bowl season from their respective couches during Kentucky’s bowl run.
So when Moncell Allen, Marcus Davis, Jacob Dufrene, Brad Durham, DeQuinn Evans, Michael Harper, Mike Hartline, J.J. Helton. E.J. Jones, Derrick Locke, Ricky Lumpkin, Chris Matthews and Shane McCord stand at midfield on Saturday with their parents and framed jerseys, they deserve a reception fitting for a group who has attained success unseen at Kentucky since the Byant era, and I hope they get it.