Bowl games and the beginning of the College Football Playoff are nearly two weeks away. Coaches and players around the country are eagerly preparing for what’s next, spending hours on the practice field and in the film room. This season, the SEC will have 10 of its 14 teams representing the conference in a bowl game.
Kentucky is not one of them.
The Wildcats capped a 5-7 regular season with a loss to Louisville in a make-or-break season finale in Lexington, Ky. While most of the SEC’s teams aren’t quite focused on next year yet, Kentucky has to be. This season marked the fifth straight season that the Wildcats didn’t become bowl eligible and now the program is in desperate need of a breakout season.
Coach Mark Stoops sat down with the Louisville Courier-Journal’s Jon Hale and the Lexington Herald-Leader’s Jen Smith on Tuesday to address necessary adjustments that need to be made.
“Nobody is more pissed off when you see bad football on the field than me,” Stoops said, according to Hale. “I know very clearly what good football looks like.”
The Wildcats went on a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season, falling to Auburn, Mississippi State, Tennessee, UGA and Vanderbilt during that stretch. They ranked 10th in scoring and last in sacks recorded among SEC teams for the year. Hale and Smith both reported that Stoops was vague about changes to his coaching staff moving forward, but the possibility at least seems to be there.
“I’m not prepared to really talk about that,” Stoops said, according to Smith. “I’m never going to just make decisions, I’m dealing with people’s lives.”
Stoops was hired in December of 2012. In his first season as the new coach, the Wildcats were an abysmal 2-10 overall, with zero conference wins. In 2014 and 2015, the squad finished 5-7 both times, picking up two conference wins each year.
Stoops has been an open book all year, sharing his frustrations, acknowledging the problems and addressing the fans’ frustration. But he’s also been optimistic after each loss about turning things around. Again, that was the case, Tuesday.
“I absolutely firmly know that we can build a winner here and that we will,” he told Hale and Smith. “Our time will come.”