For the last three years at Kentucky, Mark Stoops went from promising seasons to the hot seat and in 2016 he finally got over the hump. He had starts of at least five wins in 2014 and 2015, only to collapse later on down the road. But the third time was the charm and even though they lost the TaxSlayer Bowl to Georgia Tech, a 7-6 record along with a couple of key wins, including an upset win over archrival Louisville was enough to restore confidence in his ability to lead the football team. It was mostly thanks to some key changes on the roster due to injuries.
An SEC East struggle with South Carolina and Vanderbilt set the wheels going for Kentucky even with short losses to Georgia and Tennessee. The Wildcats were already bowl eligible for the first time in five years and needed more cushion to push for a higher bowl bid. Even a last second field goal against Mississippi State helped keep hopes alive early. Linebacker Jordan Jones led the Wildcats defense and was third in the SEC in tackles with 109, and Stephen Johnson filling in at QB improved the offense.
Stoops however is not the only Kentucky coach to get extended. Basketball coach John Calipari also inked a two year extension, and are now in the Sweet Sixteen in a matchup against UCLA in the NCAA Men’s Tournment. They have won the SEC title for the 30th time and have fought hard at the start of the field of 68. Matchups against Northern Kentucky and Wichita State were no cakewalks. I may not hardly watch college basketball, but I have glanced at it enough to say that their championship ways have returned.
For 2017, Kentucky athletics have something to look forward to besides basketball. Johnson will most likely get the nod under center to start his senior year, Benjamin Snell Jr (1,091 yards, 13 TDs) will be the lead back with Stanley Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp moving on. Jones will most likely anchor the defense once again with safety Mike Edwards following behind (100 total tackles, three INTs). Stoops finally has the players he wants, at least for one more year.