By Vinny Hardy
The improvement that has taken place from Mark Stoops’ first season at Kentucky until now is undeniable. After a 2-10 inaugural campaign he’s gone 42-34 to bring his record to 44-44 going into this 10-game 2020 SEC gauntlet. Along the way, there have been obstacles and bumps in the road as the improvement took place.
Remember 2016. Kentucky came from ahead and lost to Southern Miss and then Drew Barker was injured at Florida and the Cats were quickly 0-2. They climbed back to 2-2 only to face Alabama and drop back below .500 before going 5-2 down the stretch to save what could have been a train wreck of a season.
Of course we remember last season which got off to a 2-0 start. Injuries to Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith contributed to three consecutive losses. Insert Lynn Bowden and a 6-2 finish down the stretch.
After a loss at Auburn and coming from ahead against Ole Miss 0-2 is again staring Kentucky in the face.
But unlike 2016 and 2019 this 0-2 is different. Injuries to key players and overhauling the offense on the fly were the contributing factors. This year Kentucky was and still is deeper and more experienced than they have been in many years. Turnovers deep in their own territory (and Chris Rodriguez’s TD that wasn’t) were their undoing at Auburn. Counting TDs before actually hitting pay dirt, poor kicking and an inability to protect a double-digit lead have put the Cats in this undesirable predicament.
That’s what makes this all the more puzzling. They are at full strength. They will have to lean on their experience going forward to dig themselves out of this hole.
Mississippi State isn’t going to feel the least bit sorry for them. Mike Leach and his offense are going to be licking their chops to try and light up the secondary. Kentucky has lots of lessons that have to be learned individually, collectively and quickly.