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Mark Stoops isn’t going anywhere. The big boys aren’t smart enough to hire him.

·4 min read
Alex Slitz

Martha Stewart I’m not, but here’s what I suggest you do with Kentucky football’s just completed 9-3 regular season:

Savor it.

Admire it.

Frame it.

After all, take it from we faithful followers of the Big Blue Pigskin — with the scars to prove it — these things don’t come here around too often. A nine-win regular season. A winning SEC campaign, just the second since 1977. Victories over Florida and LSU, plus a 52-21 domination of archrival Louisville, at Louisville, on Saturday for the Governor’s Cup trophy, UK’s third straight blowout victory in the series.

Combined score of the trio: Kentucky 153, Louisville 44.

“That trophy means a lot,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said afterward. “We have a place for it for a reason. It looks good in there. Come see it.”

The oddsmakers should come see it. What was Las Vegas thinking, anyway? Making Louisville a three-point favorite? Must be spending too much time at Celine Dion shows. Why even before the final horn had sounded Saturday, UK recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow was throwing shade, tweeting from the sideline, “Dang we were a 3 point underdog lol. Go Big Blue.”

Oh no, he didn’t, was Stoops’ reaction when informed of what his “Big Dog” was up to.

Oh yes, he did.

Will Levis was the “Big Dog” on Saturday night. That’s what UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen called his quarterback, the Penn State transfer who after a week of hearing about the greatness of Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham rushed for 113 yards and four touchdowns. Afterward, Levis insisted he wasn’t bothered by the Cunningham hype, but you know it had to burn just a little.

“That’s who Will is,” Coen said. “He’s a competitor.”

His head coach is a competitor, too. All week, Stoops’ message was that his team had to regain the physical presence on which is program was built in the first place. Consider it done. There’s no great mystery to why the Cats are dominating the Cards right now. Kentucky is far superior in the trenches, where it counts, both on the offensive — shout out to the Big Blue Wall — and defensive lines.

Shout out to Brad White, the UK defensive coordinator whose scheme and players’ execution kept the normally ultra-elusive Cunningham harried, hurried, confused and bottled up all night.

“We knew the offense was going to run through him,” White said. “We had to do a good job of when it was drop-back pass situations of containing him and not allow big plays there. And we had to strain to the finish. And I think in both cases, our guys did.”

Now for the important stuff. Despite all the coaching carousel buzz, the guess here is Stoops isn’t going anywhere. No. 1, the so-called big boys aren’t smart enough to hire him. They’re afraid of the “We hired KENTUCKY’s coach?” backlash. No. 2, Stoops has a good thing going right here in the Bluegrass, something he built from the ground up in the toughest conference in America.

Do you realize how difficult that is?

“I know you guys get tired of hearing it, but take a look at the league again,” Stoops said Saturday, adding, “People are out of their minds if they don’t understand what you go through in this league (the SEC). They’re clearly out of their minds.”

And where did Kentucky finish in the SEC in 2021? If you go purely by records, the Cats were fourth overall at 5-3, behind only Georgia (8-0), Alabama (7-1) and Ole Miss (6-2).

“There are a lot of good football teams below us,” the UK coach said.

And they’re not done yet. Come bowl season, Kentucky has a shot at a 10-win season, not just its second in four years, but its second since 1977. That’s a long, long time.

“Naturally, I want 10 wins or 11 wins, right?” Stoops said. “That’s human nature, we all want more, but we’re just going to keep on working. We’re going to keep on growing the program, and we’re going to keep on recruiting. I told you in the summer that we’re on the right track.”

Three takeaways from Kentucky football’s romp over Louisville

Why would Kentucky ever stop playing Louisville in football?

First Scouting Report: Evaluating Kentucky’s bowl scenarios

Will Levis came to UK as a ‘running QB.’ He had a record day as one against U of L.

Wan’Dale Robinson sets UK’s all-time receptions record in Kentucky-Louisville game

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