Let’s travel back in time to nearly a decade and a half ago.
As Rich Brooks’ team took the field under the lights at Death Valley back on October 14th, 2006 in a matchup with the #14 LSU Tigers, nobody knew what to expect. The Cats had entered that season with high expectations – a high-motor offense led by Kentucky-natives Andre Woodson, Dicky Lyons Jr, Jacob Tamme, and Kennan Burton were anticipating a breakout year in the preseason. Much like Saturday against #1 Alabama, nobody expected UK to come away victorious at LSU, but they were expecting them to put up a fight and earn the respect of the SEC. But instead, much like this past Saturday, the Cats were absolutely steamrolled 49-0. It was embarrassing. After that LSU game, many of our fans had given up hope – not just on the season – but also in Brooks’ ability to take the program to the next level. It looked as if his time in Lexington was over.
However, for that team, and that group, the beatdown in Death Valley served a very important purpose. It was their turning point. They were at their lowest – but that brought them together. UK would go on to win 11 of their next 13 games. They beat defending SEC Champion Georgia (led by Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno) for their first win over the Dawgs in nine years. They made their first bowl game since 1999, defeating Clemson in the Music City. They took down #9 Louisville to bring the Governor’s Cup back to Lexington for the first time since 2002. They crushed Darren McFadden’s Arkansas team down in Fayetteville. Reaching as high as #8 in the BCS Rankings. Then came their 2007 rematch against LSU. The team that had drubbed them by practically 50 points the year prior was looking stronger than ever – undefeated, ranked #1, and coming off a huge win over defending National Champion Florida and Tim Tebow.
We all know how that ended.
The legacy of that 2006/2007 group will echo throughout Kentucky football history for eternity. And it all started with that beatdown in Death Valley.
My hope is that this past week’s game against Alabama will be for this team what that LSU game was for that 2006 group – the turning point. I hope they use it to fuel their fire – leave it all on the field these next three games, end the season on a great note, and carry that momentum into next season.
Look, to put it nicely, Saturday was a very “humbling” experience for us. We’re taking the right steps towards getting our program to the next level – Stoops has achieved a tremendous amount in his time here and will only continue to improve upon that. But as you can see, there’s still a very long way to go if consistent, high-level success is the goal. Saturday was a huge step backwards, but I have faith in Stoops that he will get us back on course.
I love our team and I’ll never give up on them. I hope you all will say the same. Let’s ride with these guys the rest of the way.
And who knows? A year from now, we might be hearing this from college football analysts:
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