Kentucky fans who were despondent over their team’s 28-13 loss at Mississippi State last Saturday would do well to remember one simple fact about Mark Stoops and his staff — they are at their best with their back to the wall.
Back in 2016, when Stoops’s job was in jeopardy and face-of-the-program Drew Barker was sidelined with a serious back injury, it was Stoops and Eddie Gran who adjusted on the fly to an RPO-based attack for backup QB Stephen Johnson and a true freshman running back who just happened to be Benny Snell.
Late in the 2017 season, when Kentucky found itself in a tough Music City Bowl matchup with Northwestern, only to lose Snell to ejection on one of the worst pieces of officiating in recent memory, Stoops and Gran went back to the board and improvised to a passing-based offense that came a fingertip away from upsetting Northwestern.
In the 2018 season, QB Terry Wilson had a significant lower body injury and some passing accuracy issues. Kentucky won anyway, sometimes looking pretty sharp (Louisville), sometimes just gritting it out (see 14-7 win over Vandy).
Yes, the Wildcats tossed out a snoozer of an effort against Mississippi State. Yes, not only is starter Wilson now gone for the season, but backup QB Sawyer Smith sustained shoulder and wrist injuries in his first two games as a starter.
But this Saturday against South Carolina, whether Kentucky goes to Walker Wood at QB, true frosh Amani Gilmore at QB, all-purpose threat Lynn Bowden as a Wildcat QB, odds are that Stoops and Gran will come up with a game plan that might lack in high-wattage excitement, but will probably find a way to deliver a crucial win… because it’s what they do with their backs to the wall.
Social Media Musings
After freshman kicker Chance Poore missed a couple of field goals against Missisisppi State (a week after a crucial miss against Florida), his father has taken to his Facebook account saying that he will shut down his social media in an effort “to protect my kids and family.” This was after the elder Poore indicated on Facebook that he had “a virus through all the hate mail on my son in Kentucky.”
Certainly, the parents of college athletes have to be discomforted by the cesspool of the darker aspects of social media. For every loyal fan who roots for the blue and white (or any other team for that matter), there are those select few who seem to exist only to talk trash and to criticize players, coaches, etc.
That said, in the modern age, too many times players or family members have stirred up trouble or controversy by airing their opinions or their side of disputes on social media. Is it realistic to suggest that players and parents would do well to either severely curtail or totally eliminate social media? Obviously, like anyone else, players and parents have friends and family members they enjoy keeping up with… but when a field goal is missed or a touchdown is dropped, the fringe fans who backbite will abuse their ability to air their opinions and thoughts.
But even in the good times, social media can create contacts that are difficult for school compliance officers to monitor, and can provide a forum for players to start controversies, be it intentional or otherwise.
Don’t misunderstand — this columnist isn’t saying that players or parents shouldn’t be allowed to tweet, post, or share their lives in social media. He is saying that the players and parents should go into it with their eyes open to the potential troubles it can bring — and that they either have to tolerate those troubles or strictly limit or eliminate social media. Whatever we think the etiquette of social media should be, the reality of what it is cannot be denied or changed.
Joe Cox is contributing editor for KySportsStyle.com Magazine. He grew up in Letcher County and Bell County and has written eight books. His most recent, "A Fine Team Man: Jackie Robinson and the Lives He Changed," was released in February 2019 and can be ordered on Amazon or at many local bookstores. Joe is an attorney and lives in Logan County with his wife and children. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org