By LARRY VAUGHT
No, it’s not Mark Stoops’ fault that Kentucky has not won in Knoxville since 1984. That’s THIRTY-SIX YEARS of misery and heartache for UK fans.
Remember two years ago when the UK team that won 10 games went to Knoxville and laid an egg. Tennessee beat the Cats 24-7 in a game that really was not even that close.
Trust me, Stoops made it clear Monday that he remembered that loss way too well. That’s why he admitted he’s going to make some changes to Kentucky’s routine this week for the game in Knoxville.
“I didn’t like the way we played a couple of years ago driving down there in the bus, long bus ride. It is in that tweener range on whether you fly or get on a charter or drive a bus down there,” the Kentucky coach said. “It is a long bus ride.
“We are doing some things different on Friday with our schedule and throughout the week. I will leave it at that and I have been thinking about it for some time and we are going to have a different change-up in our routine on Friday.”
Whatever Stoops has in mind, it can’t hurt. It may not help, but nothing else has either. Tennessee leads the series 81-25-9 and has owned the Cats in Knoxville.
In Lexington, UK has often outplayed the Vols, including last year when it still lost 17-13 when Tennessee stopped UK twice inside the five-yard line in the final minutes.
“You can look at three, four competitive plays that they made that we didn’t,” Stoops said. “And that separated the win and the loss.”
Seems like that almost always happens in this game that is a huge rivalry for UK fans despite Tennessee’s domination.
“It’s a team that you feel like, it’s on your side of the league. It’s a rival game, it’s your neighbor. It’s an important football game,” Stoops admitted.
But want some bad news? Stoops says the Vols, 2-1 after a 44-21 loss to Georgia last week, are a better team this year than 2019.
“A team that seems to be more physical each year (coach) Jeremy (Pruitt) is there. They’re getting better at each level. They are an improved football team,” Stoops said.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter if Tennessee is improved or not because when it comes to UK-UT, it’s normally a matter of UK self-destructing than it is Tennessee having to do anything extraordinary to win.