I remember back in the beginning of the Joker Phillips era, I put a post on KSR talking about the ways that Kentucky football can be successful both on the field and with the fanbase. I came up with 8 rules and was looking at them again. And amazingly, I feel like these 8 are still a good barometer of what can make a successful program. So below I list my 8 rules for a good UK football program, and how it can work under Mark Stoops now:
1. Pass the Football
-Call this the Hal Mumme effect, but even before Mumme and his Air Raid offense, Cats fans grumbled loudly about the poorly run option attack of Bill Curry. And since Mumme left, Cats fans have at least been presented with offenses that are semi-pass happy. Now Mark Stoops and Neal Brown appear to want to install an offense that is more geared for the pass. In the WKU game, there were 31 pass plays compared to 28. Of course, this team might not necessarily have the skill people for tons of passing. Nonetheless, it seems a good passing attack can often be the equalizer for the less powerful BCS schools. Plus, the higher profile recruits want to see the pass.
2. Make a Bowl Game
-At the end of the day, as long as Kentucky makes it to a bowl game, Cats fans will be satisfied. Sure, many would like to go to better bowls than the Music City or BBVA-NAFTA Bowl, but I also think they are realistic enough to recognize the limitations of the program in the SEC, and be happy in going to a bowl every year. This has been a change from the early 2000â€²s, when a bowl every 2 or 3 years was acceptable. Rich Brooks changed that attitude to where a bowl is a must to keep fans happy. Certainly a bowl game seems unlikely this year. BUT, I would say UK fans would like to sniff one next year, and by Year 3 be in a bowl every year.
3. Beat Vanderbilt (or Missouri)
-You might be able to substitute Missouri in for Vanderbilt in the near future. Often times, beating the Mississippi schools determine just how good a season UK will have. On a national scale though, college football fans think of Kentucky and Vanderbilt as the bottom feeders of the SEC. At an SEC level, we think of ourselves as better than Vanderbilt. We haven’t played that way over the last few years, but I still think most fans think Vandy is beatable.
4. No Blowout Losses
-Kentucky football fans don’t care about winning as much as they care about not losing big. Just don’t embarrass us on the field. We don’t want to be the butt of jokes, from UL fans or others in the south. Kentucky usually has enough talent on the field, especially in the last 5 years, to where even the elite programs like Florida and LSU should not beat the Cats by more than 14 points. But when you lose to LSU 49-0 or Florida 63-5, fans begin to lose interest and grumble.
5. Make Season Progress
-Kentucky fans, like all fanbases, want to see improvement on a game by game basis. Not only in the play of the athletes, but also in the gameplan of the coaches. Plus, if fans see progress as the year moves along, it gives them some optimism for the next season. Hence why there was such a malaise under Joker Phillips. He never seemed to have the team moving in the right direction at the end of the season. Mark Stoops needs to have the team playing better in Game 10 as it was in Game 2.
6. Beat UL in In-State Recruiting
-Thanks to Steve Kragthorpe and his ineptness, Kentucky had dominated the top talent in the state of Kentucky for a few years. But Charlie Strong has tried to turn the tide on that. Because there is limited top talent in the state on a yearly basis, generally every top player in the state has UK and UL on their list, leading to many battles. And as we all know, we have to beat Louisville in everything and everybody.
7. Avoid “Stupid” Plays
-On defense, it is missed tackles and blown assignments. On offense, its dropped passes and false starts. For whatever reason, and maybe this is just a myth, but it feels like Kentucky does this more often than most teams, especially on defense. And it drives fans nuts. There is no way there is an SEC team that has missed more tackles in the past 15 years than Kentucky. So, when Rich Brooks attempted, and succeeded to an extent, in removing many of the stupid plays from his teams, I think fans really respected that.
8. Use the Players Correctly
-Using Tim Couch in the option. Letting Randall Cobb only touch the ball 10 times a game. These are examples of when players were either poorly used or never given an opportunity. And let’s be honest, fans don’t always know what is best. But it was quite obvious Cobb needed to touch it more. And Couch shouldn’t run the option. And Defender X shouldn’t be playing corner. And so on and so on. If the players are misused, especially at Kentucky where we don’t always have a roster full of 5-stars, fans will turn quick.