Kentucky coach Mark Stoops has performed his best magic trick.
On Saturday, Stoops earned his 10th win at Kentucky. It was his first milestone since turning around the program.
Three years ago, he inherited a program at the bottom of the SEC.
The team didn’t have an identity. The Wildcats didn’t have a quarterback and were inexperienced.
In his first year, Stoops went 2-10 and winless in the SEC in 2013. However, he started to change the team’s culture.
He implemented a system that values hard work and toughness. His first signing class brought in 28 recruits.
Stoops wanted his players to be blue-collar workers. He wanted them to embody the state.
The Wildcats improved to 5-7 in 2014 and are already 3-1 this season.
“You’ve got to have guys make plays in critical situations to start growing and winning and winning consistently,” Stoops said after Kentucky’s 21-13 victory over Missouri on Saturday. “So, I would never say it’s a must-win, because I know we’re getting better as a program. I know we’re building a program here. And we’re recruiting the right guys and our coaches are working hard and good things are happening.”
Players like running back Stanley “Boom” Williams and defensive end Denzil Ware were part of that initial class. Williams leads the Wildcats with 343 yards rushing and Ware has 15 tackles and leads with three tackles for loss.
And even though quarterback Patrick Towles has been inconsistent at times, Stoops has been able to build around his talents.
The approach has worked. Kentucky has returned to relevancy.
Just watched Kentucky vs Missouri and it was fantastic. Great defense and good plays on offense. You could see the potential last week. Wow
— Rich Brooks (@UKcoachbrooks) September 27, 2015
Kentucky held Missouri to 13 points, fewest allowed to a ranked opponent since 1993 versus Ole Miss.
— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) September 27, 2015