Kentucky Wildcats: Mark Stoops Faces Must-Win in Opener

By Tim Letcher

During last season’s miserable 2-10 season for the Kentucky Wildcats, one of the lowest moments came on September 15 at Commonwealth Stadium. On that evening, Western Kentucky marched into Lexington and beat Kentucky 32-31 on a two-point conversion in overtime.

Former UK head coach Joker Phillips saw his team pass for more than 300 yards but rush for only 41. Kentucky trailed for most of the contest before scoring with less than a minute left to tie the game at 24-24. In overtime, Kentucky scored first and added the extra point. WKU answered with a touchdown of their own, then elected to go for two.

On the conversion, WKU quarterback Kewan Jakes threw a lateral to running back Antonio Andrews, who then threw the ball back across the field to Jakes, who scampered into the end zone and solidified the upset.

It was perhaps the biggest win in school history for the Hilltoppers, who have only been members of the Football Bowl Subdivision since 2008. To beat not only the flagship institution in the Bluegrass State, but also a Southeastern Conference opponent was huge for the Western Kentucky program.

Kentucky players have not forgotten about that game. In fact, in his Monday press conference, new Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said that the players should have taken that loss hard, and that he has reminded them about last year in preparation for the 2013 game.

Western Kentucky players, especially linebacker Andrew Jackson, have been talking trash leading into the game, saying that they are not worried about Kentucky and that they will handle them.

Simply put, Kentucky cannot lose to Western Kentucky in football. Ever. Kentucky is in the SEC, and SEC teams aren’t supposed to lose to Sun Belt Conference teams in football.

The question marks that surround this game are also a part of the story. Stoops has never been a head coach, so how will his team play? Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino has been out of the game since his days with the Arkansas Razorbacks; how will he react? And what about the players in the new schemes; how will they perform?

Stoops knows that this game is a must win for his team. He will face a coach on Saturday, Petrino, who owned UK when he was head coach of the Louisville Cardinals. And Stoops will be a head coach for the first time, and will have to deal with all that goes with that.

For all of the good he has done during his time in Lexington, Stoops can’t afford to lose to WKU on Saturday. That could be a major setback to the Kentucky program, and a setback that the Big Blue cannot afford.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google


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