UK won a football game by 36 points on Saturday. That win got the Cats bowl eligibility, a great accomplishment for the Mark Stoops program. As I said last week, no matter what happens in the Louisville game and the bowl game, this program has obviously progressed this season. Mark Stoops job is secure. The future appears, on paper, to be bright. Nearly all the stars are back next year, the schedule gets easier, and we now have a coach in Year 5. Every player on roster next year will be a Mark Stoops recruited player, the first time in his tenure that is true.
But the general atmosphere around the program just 3 weeks away from a rejuvenated fanbase is strange. It’s not like fans think things are going bad, they aren’t. We have some likeable players. Benny Snell has the chance to become the most loved UK played since Randall Cobb. Mark Stoops hasn’t been perfect with the fanbase but he’s a personable guy who seems to have a passion to make this thing work. So the best way I can describe how the fans I know feel is this: SOMETHING IS MISSING.
To fall behind the worst UK opponent in history 13-0 on Senior Day is baffling. The lack of improvement as the season went on in 2014 and 2015 and a sputtering last 3 weeks is concerning. And while the individual pieces all seem to be there, I don’t get the sense that anybody is ALL-IN for this program ready to take the next step. So, something is missing. But what? I honestly don’t know the answer but a couple potential options:
- COACHING: The coaching staff, not just Mark Stoops, hasn’t been the most stable group over this 4 year tenure. Stoops has had a few missteps with the media. His revolving door of offensive coordinators, especially the issues with Shannon Dawson, haven’t helped. The “demotion” of DJ Eliot this season showed issues on that side of the ball. We had a problem with the special teams coordinator. The moving pieces and lack of stability has to be tough for the players. But we also had what seemed to be an issue with halftime adjustments, although UK has had several big 2nd half performances in the last 7 weeks. Then last week, the team clearly wasn’t ready to play, and that lies almost entirely at the coaches feet.
- PLAYER LEADERSHIP: Who is the leader of this team or has been the leader over the last couple years? I’m not talking about captains, I am talking about LEADERS. I don’t think a team with strong leaders falls behind 13-0 to Austin Peay.
- WINNING ATTITUDE: Nobody likes to lose or is trying to lose. But some people can accept it better than others. And frankly the great ones can’t accept it. It absolutely eats them up. Sometimes what makes an player with average talent become a great player is their competitiveness and hatred to lose. Do we have those guys on this team? Again, not arguing they don’t want to win but just how much do they hate losing? This team has enough talent to win 8 games and be competitive in 11 games this season (sorry, but no Alabama). So are they going to be pissed if they finish with 6 games. Did they feel embarrassed about that 1st half performance?
- FANS: Are the fans actually a factor in this as Mark Stoops has suggested? Do posts like this need to be written or is the job of fans to be positive all the time? That crowd was sparse on Saturday. Should we feel ashamed about that and does it contribute to disappointing performances?
I don’t know the answer and the 4 things above are just suggestions but I find it hard that anybody thinks everything is swell. It can be and I think it’s close but I just think something is not there right now. What is that thing? You tell me.