Stoops changed the narrative of British football
Posted at 4:19 p.m. on Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Kentucky football hasn’t always been the talk of the Bluegrass. Success has a way of changing the narrative.
Once an unlikely feat — for 31 years to be exact — the Wildcats were no match for the Florida Gators. It wasn’t even close until Mark Stoops came along and changed the mindset, culture and image of Kentucky football.
Past teams would not have been able to overcome mistakes that occurred in a 26-16 triumph over the Gators in enemy territory. Errors on special teams and playing without outstanding running back Chris Rodriguez were tough hurdles to overcome.
The Wildcats didn’t complain and kept playing. Kentucky blanked the Gators in the second half and contained and frustrated quarterback Anthony Richardson, the Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week after opening weekend.
Florida brought the hype, but Kentucky brought their lunch bucket and defeated the Gators in typical Stoops style, with an old-school, hard-nosed approach on both sides of the ball, especially on defense.
The turnaround orchestrated by Stoops began with a focus on defense. A longtime defensive coordinator as an assistant coach in collegiate circles, Stoops has focused on defense, while ensuring the Wildcats made the right gains on offense in an ever-changing collegiate landscape.
In 48 of the last 54 games, Kentucky has held opponents to 30 points or less, proof that the defensive unit is serious when it comes onto the field.
Success on the recruiting track, particularly keeping state talent at home with players such as Dane Key, while diving into the transfer portal and nabbing quarterback Will Levis, also played into a significant role in Kentucky’s unprecedented success on the football field.
It didn’t happen overnight.
It took Stoops three seasons to create a winning environment. The Wildcats went 12-24 those first 36 months, but the Kentucky coach never wavered and kept his eyes on the future. Since then, Kentucky has compiled a 49-29 record, and the Wildcats have begun to earn respect locally, statewide, and nationally.
It’s hard to ignore the work Stoops, now the winningest coach in the program with 61 wins after passing Paul “Bear” Bryant on Saturday night, has done in a decade at Kentucky.
He beat Florida not once, but twice in Gainesville and beat the Gators back-to-back seasons for the first time since Fran Curci did it 45 years ago. The Wildcats have posted 16 non-conference winning streaks, the longest streak in the nation.
Kentucky was never considered a “school of football” or a major sports player in the Southeastern Conference. Winning seven games was once considered a successful season, but under Stoops the Wildcats have won 10 in two of the last four years, while setting a school record of six straight bowl appearances and winning four straight playoff games. playoffs.
Thanks to Stoops and his vision for the program, past perception is no longer reality.