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It’s time to say goodbye to “That’s So Kentucky Football”

© Denny Medley

© Denny Medley

© Denny Medley

You’ve said it, I’ve said it, any Kentucky football fan that’s watched a game over the last 50 years has said it.

“That’s so Kentucky football.” 

The self-deprecating mantra has become a motto of sorts for Kentucky football fans over the years, a quip we exchange to soothe the sting of particularly painful moments. “That’s so Kentucky Football” usually means the team has found a way to shoot itself in the foot, and by uttering those four words, we can detach ourselves a little bit from the bitter, heartbreaking reality of irrelevance.

Until now.

I’ve been sitting on this column for a week. After watching Kentucky find a way to beat Mississippi State — a game during which I turned to Nick Roush and said, “That’s so Kentucky football” more times than I can count — I really wanted to retire the phrase; however, what would be more Kentucky football than me writing a whole post about how we need to stop saying it and then them losing to Missouri? Thankfully (and appropriately), this team proved me right and not only took care of business in Columbia, but did so in convincing fashion, beating the Tigers 35-21 to move one win closer to bowl eligibility. This isn’t September’s Kentucky football. Somehow, some way, the Cats turned an abysmal 0-2 start into a 5-3 season. I can’t believe it either.

While “That’s so Kentucky football” has been a cruel comfort to fans over the years, I’m not sure I realized what an insult it was to the players until I discussed it with Freddie Maggard on my podcast last week. I mean, I get it; your fanbase joking that heartbreak is a routine can’t be fun, but as I’ve watched this Kentucky football team band together, I’ve realized just how wrong I was. Right now, this Kentucky football couldn’t be further from the Kentucky football we’ve mocked season after season.

What’s so Kentucky football right now? Fighting for your coach and your teammates, even when 90% of the fanbase (including this blogger right here) wrote you off. I never thought I’d say it, but “so Kentucky football” is the opposite of the punchline itself; it’s resiliency and determination when the going gets tough. 

I’m woman enough to admit that I was wrong. When Kentucky lost to Southern Miss and Florida in demoralizing fashion AND lost Drew Barker to injury, I thought this team was done. I thought Kentucky football would assume the traditional stance of fetal position under the desk and let the pain wash over. I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. Instead of ducking and embracing its fate, this team rallied around its coach and fought for its life. He may not be perfect, but Stephen Johnson is 5-1 as Kentucky’s quarterback, and his cool, calm demeanor has rubbed off on this squad. For once in our lives, Kentucky is winning games on the ground, with two of the program’s best running backs in Boom Williams and Benny Snell rolling over folks with the help of a powerful offensive line. Yes, the SEC East is down, but for a Kentucky football program that’s currently in second place for the first time since who knows when, does that even matter?

A lot of fans are lamenting about what could have been if Kentucky hadn’t lost to Southern Miss; however, I would argue that this team wouldn’t be what it is without that loss. In fact — this may sound insane — I don’t think this group would be what it is without hitting rock bottom after 45-7 Florida blowout. We all remember the rumors that swirled around the team before the South Carolina game; it was an ugly, ugly moment to be a Kentucky fan, one that prompted Mark Stoops to grab his guys by the collar and look into the whites of their eyes, challenging them to prove the world — including their own fanbase — wrong. That team took the challenge to heart, and since, has gone 5-1, the only loss being a pretty respectable one to the number one team in the country. Right now, Kentucky’s sitting in second in the SEC East, and although it would take Florida losing twice and the Cats beating Georgia and Tennessee to go to Atlanta, the fact that we’re even discussing the probability is insane.

The best part about all this is the part that used to terrify us: the season’s not over yet. The snowball effect that used to bury the Cats is now buoying them; Kentucky’s confidence is blooming behind a rolling offense and a surprisingly stout defense. After back-to-back seasons with five wins and no bowl, we’ve been here before, but if Kentucky can’t beat an 0-8 Austin Peay team to clinch bowl eligibility for the first time since 2010, well, that would be so Kentucky foot–

Nope, not gonna do it. Not when fans gather at the airport to meet the team after a huge road win, a tradition normally reserved for the basketball team’s tournament wins. Not when Boom Williams goes for 180 yards despite getting his bell rung. Not when Benny Snell breaks Randall Cobb’s record for the most touchdowns by a freshman in UK Football history. Not when I’ve grown to love this team so, so much.

In that spirit, you know what would be so Kentucky football? Packing the house vs. Georgia and pulling off the upset. Then going to Tennessee and — well, I’ll slow down.

First things first, but man, I forgot how fun it is to dream. Right now, that’s so Kentucky football.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

30 Comments for It’s time to say goodbye to “That’s So Kentucky Football”

  1. The Frizz
    12:12 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    I am as hopeful as any that UK football will turn the corner and become a competitive team on a yearly basis, not just for a 2-3 year period. That said, I am not yet ready to rid myself of the fear of UK football snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. I still curse Chris Doering every time I see him on the SEC Network for prolonging the agony of playing Florida. This does not mean that I am negative on UK football. I have just seen too much bad UK football. I am enjoying what I hope will be a 6, 7, or 8 win season, a bowl game, and watching two of the best running backs I have seen at UK in a long time. One game does not rid me of that fear of UK football back sliding. One season will not do that either. But it is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully, it is followed by more steps in the right direction in seasons that follow. Go Cats!!!

  2. Lip Man 1
    12:22 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    I appreciate Mrs. Tyler’s thoughs but its going to take a lot more than one partial season with wins over bad football teams to erase that mantra.

    After all there’s about 40 years of evidence pointing in the other direction isn’t there?

    When UK in football can consistently start beating SEC teams and some of the better ones, say more than once every 8-10 years, then I’ll certainly agree with her.

    • bigbadcat
      1:00 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

      Lip Man 1, Like so many young fans Ms. Thompson’s highs are too high and the lows are too low. We’ve beaten South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Mississippi St, and Missouri. It’s not like we ended a 30 game losing streak or something. I’m high on this coaching staff. I think we’ll get where we want to be if we’re patient. Kentucky Football was a train wreck when Mark Stoops moved in. Rebuilding this program after all the years of rot and infestation is going to take more than a few 30th rated recruiting classes. Remember, we compete in the SEC.Stoops will get it done. The fans have to remember there will be ups and downs. Getting suicidal over a bad loss or declaring ourselves world champions after a nice win is counterproductive. Be patient.

  3. Patches
    12:25 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    I have been down on this coaching staff since that Southern Miss game and am still not all that happy. These players are winning games despite the poor coaching. Yes the defense is much better since Stoops put in his mark on it and why was Elliot there anyway? Johnson not a world beater at QB but obviously a winner and has a chance to be the winningest QB at UK in a long long time. Totally surprised by this team and hope we can get 7 wins and insure a winning season. GBB

    • Kat 308
      10:38 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

      Shut up

    • KYcats11
      12:47 am October 31, 2016 Permalink

      You are honestly a big idiot. You just said this coaching staff stinks, and and then said stoops did a good job of turning around he defense. Why do you care about the coaching staff if we are winning games.

  4. Catlogic15
    12:26 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    What a difference one week makes.
    Unfortunately, Georgia looked decent at Florida yesterday.

    • The Frizz
      1:00 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

      Georgia looked decent with their 164 total yards against Florida? Okay. I guess you have a different idea of ‘decent’ than most football fans.

    • UK Fan In Nashville
      2:04 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

      In my opinion, Georgia is about the 13th best team in the SEC right now. Only Missouri has looked worse, and it took a last-second touchdown for Georgia to beat them.

  5. sincitycat
    1:00 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    I think Coach Stoops and his staff have done one hell of a coaching job. Everything could have gone down the tubes after the Southern Miss game but the staff/team showed its grit and we might just go bowling. Go Big Blue!

  6. mkc3929
    1:11 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    We can’t say this yet. Once we get to six wins then sure, we can start talking about it. But the only reason we are winning this year is because we are finally making just enough plays to cancel out all of our “That’s so Kentucky Football” moments. Still having a lot of those facepalm moments though…

  7. kampus korner
    2:35 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    Mrs. Thompson, I appreciate your youthful optimism that it’s time to “say goodbye” to that well worn cliche, “That’s so Kentucky football.” However, us old Kentucky football fans have painfully learned from repeated frustrating experiences to temper our propensity to overreact to UK winning what, many fans think at the time is the turning point game where UK forever sheds its inept football legacy. As for me, I am certainly pleased to see Coach Stoops and company pull a Lazarus like resurrection from its early season self burial. I hope the recent success continues but I have witnessed too many similar “turning point” games since 1959, to have any confidence that its time to retire the phrase that has become part of every UK fan’s lexicon, “That’s so Kentucky football.”

  8. Twick39
    2:49 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    Slow down. It’s one stretch of games.

  9. hweathers
    2:57 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    I like youthful enthusiasm. Nothing wrong with it. Balances out the not quite ready to believe crowd. I’ve seen plenty of bad football in the past but I really like this team. And the part that nobody mentioned in this article is the fact this team is still young. Only 5 seniors play significant time. So it we can win one against Ga or Tn??????

  10. CB3UK
    6:02 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    Terrible take. Pump the brakes…we’ve eeked out W’s over teams that are a combined 4-14 in the SEC. Acting like we’ve turned the corner is jumping the gun to the extreme. We have made positive progress. That doesn’t mean this team still doesn’t have a litany of things to clean up.

    • ky1988
      9:51 am October 31, 2016 Permalink

      It doesn’t matter what teams record is when beat them . A win is a win.

    • ClutchCargo
      10:49 am October 31, 2016 Permalink

      You do realize that without our 5 conference wins, that combined record would be 9-9? That’s just taking care of business.

    • UK Fan In Nashville
      2:07 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

      4* conference wins ClutchCargo, but you’re exactly right. A lot of seasons those teams would be 8-10 because they got past us.

    • ClutchCargo
      3:32 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

      Haha, yeah I was getting ahead of myself there.

  11. BluKudzu
    8:42 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    2 changes have made rhe difference; defensive coordinator change and the reliance upon the ground game. Both bring wins. Defense will carry the team, and the ground game gets points and eats clock.
    We may only win 6 games this year and we may not beat a team above an RPI of 50. So what. We have a chance to play post season. Enjoy that. They have done all I wanted them to do. We will see what happens with UGA, a step up in competition.
    Go Cats.

    • UK Fan In Nashville
      2:12 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

      You’re right, but I think you might have the reason for the wins backward. The offense running the ball and killing the clock is what’s winning games. It gives the D fresh legs. It also breaks the will of the opposing team when we run 7 minutes off the clock, score a TD and then we get them to go 3 and out. That’s what Alabama does. I’m not saying we’re Alabama, but we’re using their formula with 3 and 4-star players, while they are using 4 and 5-star players.

  12. Sunshinesbright
    10:42 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    Let’s not get carried away here. Sure, it would be hard to not get a bowl game at this point, but let’s not act like we’re in the SEC title game. Lots of season left.

  13. UKFaninNY
    11:09 pm October 30, 2016 Permalink

    THis is a joke, right?

    You should’ve sat on this column for another year…

  14. houseandrew5545
    8:03 am October 31, 2016 Permalink

    Do we have an updated Bowl Project for the Cats. I saw CBS Sportsline has us at the Independence Bowl, paying and hoping that we get a better projection.

  15. ClutchCargo
    9:33 am October 31, 2016 Permalink

    Is there possibly a need to tap the brakes on all the excitement? Maybe. It’s true we are doing this against some of the worst SEC competition in years. But guess what, we should have learned by now from basketball that we don’t control what the other schools do or don’t do to make their teams more competitive, we can only play out the schedule. If this program is ever going to make strides it has to start somewhere with baby steps, and it’s not hard for all but the most jaded fans to see that this is what’s happening. It is truly a process.

  16. twintwo68
    12:29 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

    Maybe time to start saying “WHOA!!! Kentucky football!?!!”

  17. Gi11y
    1:18 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

    I really despise articles like this. Just because we get a few wins over MEDIOCRE teams doesn’t mean we should get hyped and deem UK football has “turned the corner”. How many articles has TT written identical to this?

    I’m happy for UK Football and where they are right now, but we just need to keep calm. We haven’t really proved anything other than we are capable of squeaking out wins over teams we should have beaten anyway.

    This type of reaction from UK fans/UK Media is the reason why fan-bases with decent football teams poke fun at our fan-base.

    We need to be realistic with where we are as a program right now.

    • Mrs. Tyler Thompson
      1:26 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

      How many articles have I written identical to this about football? Zero.

    • satcheluk
      2:20 pm November 1, 2016 Permalink

      We beat a team favored by a TD on the road, moron!

  18. UK Fan In Nashville
    2:17 pm October 31, 2016 Permalink

    Guys, you can talk about how weak the SEC East is, but until today every team we beat in conference this year had a higher FPI than us(USC is now one behind us). So technically we should be 0-6 according to computers. However, in every game we’ve won, we have looked like the superior team. We should beat UGA. Home field, at night, full of confidence, and they are devoid of it. Prediction UK 35 – UGA – 14