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My Yearly Plea for Mark Stoops to Go Undefeated at Kroger Field

Bryan Hashby:Bryan the Intern05/24/24

BryantheIntern

Mark Stoops has gotten the UK football program to a level that almost nobody could have imagined when he was hired in 2013. Previous UK administrations were able to piece together good seasons but never could continue consistent winning. Stoops has cemented the Wildcats as a serious opponent week in and week out, a can’t miss bowl team, and UL’s daddy.

But for this program to truly take the next big step, there is a hurdle that Mark Stoops’ program must be able to complete: An Undefeated Home Season. UK typically gets 8 home games a year and 7 when they play at Louisville. Simply winning those games in front of your fans gets you into a decent bowl without needing to do anything on the road. But instead, UK has year in and year out blown games at home. Obviously in the SEC you are going to play some elite teams at home. It’s never going to be an “easy” home slate. But this fanbase, and the coaching staff, are always wanting to claim we are an elite program. But elite programs don’t lose home games at the rate we do.

YEARLY HOME RESULTS

2013: 2-5 (Louisville, Florida, Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee)
2014: 5-2 (Mississippi St, Georgia)
2015: 4-4 (Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, Louisville)
2016: 5-2 (Southern Miss, Georgia)
2017: 4-3 (Florida, Ole Miss, Louisville)
2018: 6-1 (Georgia)
2019: 6-2 (Florida, Tennessee)
2020: 3-2 (Ole Miss, Georgia)
2021: 6-1 (Tennessee)
2022: 5-3 (South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Georgia)
2023: 4-3 (Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama)
COMBINED: 50-28
SEC ONLY: 21-24
AVERAGE HOME LOSSES PER YEAR: 2.5
AVERAGE HOME LOSSES PER YEAR (removing 2013): 2.3

We have had bad teams, decent teams, and great teams during Mark Stoops’ tenure. All of those teams combined to lose an AVERAGE of 2.5 games per year at Kroger Field. And they are all conference losses, sans Southern Miss in 2016 and 3 Louisville losses. But we can not act like we are nipping at the heels of the top echelon of SEC football when time and again those teams come into our stadium and beat us.

Mark Stoops is 29-4 in his tenure against non-conference opponents at Kroger Field. That means he is 21-24 against SEC opponents. A losing record. At home. That just can not be acceptable.

IT’S JUST US (AND VANDY)

Simply put, Kentucky does the worst at protecting it’s home field in the SEC (not counting Vandy). It hasn’t been just Mark Stoops either. And in fact, Vandy has an undefeated home season more recently than Kentucky does. Take a look at the last year that each of the 13 other SEC teams (not counting Texas and Oklahoma yet) had an undefeated home season:

2023: Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, Texas, Oklahoma
2022: Tennessee, Alabama
2020: Texas A&M
2019: Florida
2017: Auburn
2014: Mississippi State
2013: South Carolina
2011: Arkansas
2010: Missouri (Big 12)
.
.
.
.
1982: Vanderbilt
.
.
1977: Kentucky

It has been almost 50 YEARS since this UK fanbase went an entire season without losing a game at home. And in that almost 50 years I only counted 6 times that UK even lost just 1 home game during the season:

1987: Lost to Tennessee 24-22
1993: Lost to Florida 24-20 (Chris Doering game)
1998: Lost to Georgia 28-26
2006: Lost to South Carolina 24-17
2018: Lost to Georgia 34-17
2021: Lost to Tennessee 45-42

MARK STOOPS FIRST GOAL

Everybody is always looking for how Mark Stoops program can make the next leap. It usually involves beating Georgia and/or making an SEC title game. And certainly those should be program aspirations. But how about the fan experience? I would imagine longtime season ticket holders have gotten pretty darn tired of walking out of Kroger Field dejected. I would think, for once, going an entire season with only celebrations would be a great achievement for this UK football team. And one that would likely lead to some of those other goals being naturally accomplished.

This year Kentucky gets Southern Miss, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Vanderbilt, Auburn, Murray State, and Louisville at home. Running that slate of games will be very difficult. UK will probably be the underdog in a couple of them. But I am tired of all of this conjecture that Kentucky is on the verge of being an SEC elite program when we can’t do the basic thing all elite programs do. Protect your homefield.

You want the next “step” in this program’s ascent. You have it right there.

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2024-06-12