On Saturday at Florida Area, aka “The Swamp”, Kentucky confronted a state of affairs that it had confronted many instances earlier than. The Cats discovered themselves within the recreation with Twelfth-ranked Florida, trailing by simply three on the half.
However via the years, Kentucky followers have seen their workforce be aggressive in opposition to a highly-ranked opponent for a half, solely to lose, typically in heartbreaking style.
Information flash – this isn’t the identical previous Kentucky. As an alternative of seeing the higher-ranked Gators draw back within the second half, it was the Cats who made massive play after massive play within the second half-hour on their strategy to a 26-16 win over Florida.
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) September 11, 2022
The Cats gained in The Swamp for the second time in three visits. The Cats beat Florida in back-to-back seasons for the primary time in 45 years (1976 and ’77).
Why is that vital? Effectively, it wasn’t that way back that Florida had gained 31 straight video games in opposition to Kentucky. Not simply in Gainesville, however total. That’s proper, 31 straight instances Kentucky and Florida met and 31 straight instances, the Gators had been the victors.
However that was earlier than Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington. It was completely applicable that Kentucky topped Florida for Stoops’ 61st win because the UK head coach, breaking the college file of Corridor of Famer Paul “Bear” Bryant as a result of exhibits simply how far the UK head coach has introduced this program throughout his 10 years in Lexington.
(In case you’re questioning – sure, that Paul “Bear” Bryant).
Earlier than Stoops got here alongside, Kentucky was, frankly, not on Florida’s degree. The Gators had been profitable Southeastern Convention and nationwide championships whereas Kentucky typically struggled simply to have a .500 file.
Stoops isn’t one to deal with particular person accomplishments. However after the sport, he instructed ESPN’s Katie George what passing Bryant meant to him.
“Lucky,” Stoops mentioned. “A whole lot of nice gamers, coaches have been via right here. To have the ability to persevere via this troublesome convention, I’ve nothing however respect and appreciation.”
Stoops has been methodical in constructing the Kentucky program. He has recruited. He has developed expertise. He has constructed a tradition. He, his coaches and his gamers labored very onerous.
Saturday’s win was proper up Stoops’ alley. It was a defensive battle for a lot of the evening and Stoops noticed his protection make the 2 performs that earned the win.
With the Cats trailing 16-7 late within the first half, Jordan Wright intercepted Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson and returned the ball deep into Florida territory. The Cats obtained a Will Levis landing to get inside 16-13 on the half.
Then, with the sport tied at 16-16, UK’s Keidron Smith intercepted Richardson and returned it 65 yards for a landing, giving UK the lead for good.
Stoops began his UK profession by going 12-24 in three seasons. Since then, he has gained 49 video games with simply 29 losses. And it has all led to Saturday’s second, when Stoops set the file for many wins in Kentucky soccer historical past.
However Stoops being Stoops, he’ll be proper again to work tomorrow, specializing in Youngstown State. That’s how he has constructed this program and that’s how, on this evening in Gainesville, he handed a legend.