Less than an hour before kickoff, the University of Kentucky announced that offensive line coach John Schlarman had missed the team’s trip to Missouri, adding that offensive coordinator Eddie Gran would handle the coaching responsibilities for his unit.
While the official reasoning for the absence was not given before or after the game, Schlarman was diagnosed with stage four cholangiocarcinoma in July 2018, a battle he continues to face.
“Obviously he was not able to make it and I want to respect Lee Anne and John and their privacy,” Stoops said after the game. “I don’t think it’s right for me to comment any more about that.”
Schlarman earned the game ball from Stoops following Kentucky’s victory over Tennessee in Knoxville last week, with the UK head coach noting after the game that things are “getting more difficult” for the leader of his offensive line.
“It is getting more difficult for him, and he did talk to the team this morning,” Stoops explained after the win at Tennessee. “I haven’t asked him to do that too much, but I really wanted to and it was genuine and it was from the heart and everybody in that room was attentive to John. He obviously motivates them better than me, and how can he not?”
With Schlarman away from the program, Kentucky managed its worst offensive performance in nearly a decade against Missouri, finishing with just 145 total yards and 47 combined passing yards in the loss.
When asked about the possibility of the team’s spirit being down without Schlarman, Stoops said it was possible, but didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“I’m sure it did but it is, you know the situation,” Stoops said. “We have to be able to respond and that’s a tough question because I don’t want to put anything on John. John’s given us, Lord, he’s given us so much more than any normal human being can. Yes, we missed him but that’s not an excuse.”
Kentucky senior center Drake Jackson said that while Schlarman’s absence hurts, the veteran coach has taught them enough over the years to fight through.
“Found out a little later in the week that Coach Schlarman wasn’t going to make the trip with us,” Jackson said. “We have faith that he’s coached us up well enough to handle it, with the resources we have with Coach Finck, Coach Gran, other coaches. … I believe we were able to make some adjustments at halftime that gave us a little bit of a spark there in the second half. We would’ve liked to get there earlier, but we continue to pray for Coach Schlarman, and we know he’s still fighting.”
The loss hurts and there’s plenty to be frustrated about, but some things are bigger than football. This is an example of that.
Keep fighting, Coach.