We are once again in a down spot for UK football. Another frustrating loss during a time when many fans, including myself on occasion, have thought UK football was at one of its peaks. Mark Stoops’ teams have shown the ability to be highly competitive in almost all games but also able to shoot themselves in the foot as much as any coach’s teams in UK history. We smash Louisville, beat Florida, crush Mississippi State, and then lose to Ole Miss and Tennessee in baffling ways. Last night was a prototypical Mark Stoops game. Was Kentucky the better team? I think so. The stats would suggest that to an extent. But the most egregious mistakes of the game were all made by Kentucky. And I feel like we say that far too often these last few years.
So where do we go from here? Well, I think a talking point that those who want to always be positive will look to is just 1 year ago, UK football was 2-3 following embarrassing losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina. Quarterbacks were falling by the wayside left and right. The games were miserable to watch. The fanbase felt following a 10-3 year that the program was right back to sucking again. And then a minor miracle happen. The Cats reeled off 6 wins in their last 8 games, including a thrilling bowl win, and all of the sudden an 8-5 season almost looked as good as the 10-3 one. Why can’t that be done this year?
For those of us who try to look at things rationally though, there is an obvious answer why to not compare 2019 to 2020. And that is Lynn Bowden. I think we can all agree that Lynn Bowden doesn’t exist on this team. Josh Ali, or Terry Wilson, or AJ Rose are not going to be Lynn Bowden. They just are not that talented. What Bowden did last year, playing a non-traditional position and leading his team to 6 out 8 wins, is possibly the most remarkable athletic feat in UK football history. We don’t have that guy this year. I tweeted this after the game. Kentucky has a bunch of good players. We have more “good” players than anytime in my memory. The depth of good players is fantastic. This team doesn’t have any great skill players. Terry Wilson is a good quarterback, not a great one. Josh Ali is a good wide receiver, not a great one. We probably have a couple great offensive linemen but they can’t impact a game like skill players. On defense, again, a bunch of decent to good players. No game changers. No Benny Snell. No Josh Allen. No Lynn Bowden.
So Mark Stoops appears to be getting burned by something not totally in his control. He has recruited at a higher level than ever at Kentucky. But in the last few years, he’s had guys that so far exceeded their rankings and expectations they were literally carrying UK to victories over more talented teams. This year, he doesn’t have that guy or those guys. And that brings each and every game on an SEC-only schedule in play. Ole Miss might be down but they have as many good players as we do. Same goes for much of the SEC. But most of those teams have some great ones too. Seth Williams is an example of that. We don’t have that guy.
I don’t know what to do with this season except support, support, support. Reel back the expectations a bit. Expect every game to be competitive. And hope some of these good players can piece together great performances and lead the Cats to some victories. Things are fine. It is not a dumpster fire. It is just circumstance. But don’t let yourself believe that something like 2019 is going to happen again. This team will have to find other ways to win.