Wiedmer: Kentucky football players should sue coach Mark Stoops for nonsupport

Wiedmer: Kentucky football players should sue coach Mark Stoops for nonsupport

September 25th, 2017 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops looks at the video screen during the second half of an NCAA college football game against South Carolina Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, in Columbia, S.C. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 23-13. (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

The lead sentences were almost certainly already written late Saturday night inside Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium (sorry, I just can't bring myself to write K-K-K-K-Kroger Field) press box. Something along the lines of, "Nobody beats Kentucky 31 games in a row."

Oh.

Wait.

Nevermind.

There were at least a few surprises within the Southeastern Conference this past weekend. The ease with which reigning league champ Alabama dispatched supposedly improved Vanderbilt in Nashville by a 59-0 score was surely one.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talks to his team during a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Florida won the game 28-27. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talks to his...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Georgia's 31-3 victory over Mississippi State might also count, if only for the ease with which the red-and-black Bulldogs beat the maroon Bulldogs.

Then, of course, there was that rather listless, lumbering, lamentable performance turned in by Tennessee against winless Massachusetts. A 17-13 win this coming weekend against visiting Georgia might make Neyland Stadium sway as never before during embattled coach Butch Jones' four-plus seasons on Rocky Top.

But unless a far different Tennessee shows up than the one that stands a shaky 3-1 at the moment, it's tough to see Georgia doing anything but remaining undefeated until it meets ... Florida.

Yes, Florida, which rather spectacularly — though not as spectacularly as it beat the Volunteers a week earlier — did what it has now done 31 straight autumns by besting the best Kentucky football team in years by a 28-27 score that was every bit as close, contested and contentious as those numbers imply.

But however much more competitive the Wildcats were than normal in this matchup, Saturday ended exactly the way the longest active winning streak by one Football Bowl Subdivision program over another has ended since 1987.

It ended with Florida on top, this time by overcoming a 27-14 hole inside the game's final 12 minutes. The winning touchdown came with less than 45 seconds to go. Further deepening the wound that never heals, a 10-yard gain by the Cats that would have given golden-toed kicker Austin MacGinnis a very makeable field goal for a last-second game winner and streakbuster was waved off by a holding call.

Forced to kick from 57 yards, MacGinnis was straight but short.

Of course, had the defense not inexplicably and inexcusably left Florida receivers uncovered for touchdowns not once but twice, the ending might have been much different.

But they didn't cover those Gators receivers. Not late in the opening half. Not with the game on the line in the final minute. They couldn't have played less defense if they'd just fallen down at the snap of the ball, which Florida once did against Miami to allow quarterback John Reaves to set an NCAA passing record.

(Just a hunch, but Kentucky coach Mark Stoops probably wasn't trying to endure the 31st straight loss to the Gators in order to further cement this series as the most one-sided matchup in FBS football today.)

Not that the long-suffering Kentucky football fan — as Lexington Herald-Leader columnist Mark Story long ago tabbed members of the Big Boo-Hoo Football Nation — hasn't seen this a few too many times before.

There was the game the Wildcats lost in the late 1970s inside Commonwealth when Georgia missed a field goal at the horn, but Kentucky coach Fran Curci had called a timeout prior to the kick. The Bulldogs hit the mulligan and defeated Big Blew.

There was a game against Tulane inside the Superdome in 1980, when Kentucky grabbed a lead inside the final minute, then had the Green Wave backed up inside its own 15. Unfortunately, two straight pass-interference penalties against the Cats put Tulane in field-goal range and, of course, the Green Wave hit the kick to win.

There was the 24-22 home loss to Tennessee in 1987, when Kentucky decided to send the diminutive dynamo Mark Higgs over the top four times from inside the 2-yard-line — hey, he did rush for more than 130 yards that day — to no avail.

And what Kentucky loyalist could forget the 1993 Peach Bowl, when linebacker Marty Moore recovered a Clemson fumble late only to fumble it back rather than hitting the turf and securing the win. Clemson scored to make a winner of Tommy West, who had spent the season coaching the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to a 4-7 record but won his first-ever game with the Tigers thanks to Moore's miscue.

Finally, because no team owns the Wildcats more than Florida, there's the 1993 game, when Kentucky intercepted the Gators seven times but lost on the final play when Danny Wuerffel found Chris Doering from 28 yards out.

Because of that, for so many members of the Big Blue Nation, what happened late Saturday is just another brick in the wailing wall that has grown larger than that great one in China.

But at the close of a game in which the Wildcats looked closer to their more elite SEC brethren in skill, speed, athletic ability and toughness on both sides of the ball against an elite program than possibly anytime since Fran Curci coached those probation-strapped Cats in the late 1970s, those long-suffering Kentucky fans might want to ponder something regarding Stoops, who was viewed as a defensive wizard when he arrived from his coordinator's post at Florida State in 2013.

That something is this, as harsh as it may seem for all the good Stoops has seemingly done to breathe life into one of the SEC's perennial bottom feeders: If he had been overseeing a Florida State defense that surrendered two touchdowns in which his defensive backs twice failed to cover receivers from, say, Florida, Miami or Clemson in a one-point loss, would he still be that coordinator on Monday morning?

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talks to his team during a timeout during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Florida Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Lexington, Ky. Florida won the game 28-27. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

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