Posted: 6:26 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013
By Greg Alan Edwards
You won't hear my article title coming from Mark Stoops' mouth. Matter of fact, you won't hear it from the other coaches' mouths either. And there is one other thing you will not hear from any player, coach, or administrator tied to this football team. Excuses.
So, your Saturday night "Crush Western" party got ruined, eh? Your victory parade through the streets of Bowling Green, KY. wearing blue and white and cruising by Bobby Petrino's house with the horn blaring got cancelled. Poor you. You ready to give up? Ready to lie down and just roll over so that the football fans of the collegiate world can torture you at their leisure? Make you squeal like a pig while you try and gather your dignity from the scraps of Doritos and pizza crust left littered all over your floors from the party goers who gathered with you to impose their will on the lowly Hilltoppers? Welcome to reality. Welcome to a world where you don't fix things with a wave of a wand. You have to actually work at it. And guess what? We actually have a coach who is not only willing, but ready to do just that.
Mark Stoops did not ask for four or five years to implement a "plan". He came in with his guns blazing, boots on the ground, and feet running approach from day one. He has accomplished much in his short stint as our head football coach this season. And he did it without winning a single game. Then the season starts, and he dares to lose the first contest of the year against a lowly team that had the temerity to embarrass us last year. How can he do that? We needed our pride back. We needed our swagger to get ourselves righted for the rest of the drubbings we were going to take at the hands of the SEC Elite that we have to face this season. He couldn't even beat Western.
Is that Chicken Little I hear in the background? Were the Cats in one of Nostradamus' predictions about the end of the world and we missed it? No, they were not. We got beat by an opponent who knew how to exploit our weaknesses that were obviously a lot worse than we realized, and made us look bad. So what. It happens. That is not the problem.
A lot of teams lost to some rather unworthy opponents over the weekend. Some were a lot better teams that the Wildcats at this point. And they lost to teams that were supposed to be worse.
Connecticut, South Florida, Boise State, and Oregon State all lost to teams that they were supposed to beat. Some of them lost to teams they were supposed to scald. Rutgers allowed lowly Fresno State to take a game from them that they should not have lost. Purdue collapsed against Cincinnati in a game which was not expected to be a blowout by Purdue, but they were expected to be able to handle the Bearcats at home. Losses happen. Upsets are no longer something that occurs once in a lifetime. They are now a part of everyday life, even in the mighty SEC. Just ask Georgia. They were looking at their best shot at a National Championship season in a long time and allowed Clemson to take that dream away before the season really got started. Clemson is a good team, but Georgia was supposed to be better.
No, if there is a problem, it will show in how the loss is addressed by Stoops and his young and uber-talented staff. Will they allow this loss to define them, or will they double their efforts, push their young freshmen even harder to contribute, and start looking for playmakers who want to make a difference even more? My money is on the latter. Stoops did not get here by allowing one loss to put his team in any place that would allow themselves to be dismissed so quickly or without cause.
Kentucky is going to be a better team. That is a given. Why? To be honest, because they could not get worse than the play shown in the last couple of years. The team has issues a mile long, but they are also a much more talented team now than the one Stoops inherited a few months ago.
The real question that we might ought to be asking, is what has happened to the mighty Big Blue Nation? The fanbase that carries it's basketball team to glory at every given opportunity, books hotels in Hawaii years in advance "on a hunch," fills arena after arena all over the country and in foreign countries to boot seems to have lost their ability to shrug off a bad game. Are we so spoiled now that we cannot tolerate a loss in a game that was a toss-up to win? Most experts ranked Western Kentucky well above the Cats in their pre-season guides. USA Today went so far as to say that Western was 25 places better in their rankings of the entire FCS. Kentucky did not even make their Top 100.
Is the Big Blue Nation only a shadow of it's former self? Has the arrival of John Calipari, Matthew Mitchell, and Mark Stoops made us so complacent that we are unable to stand up, dust ourselves off, and move on to face the next challenge?
Maybe we suffer from what seems to be eating away at a large portion of this country's citizens. Has our sense of entitlement gotten so big that we need to crush everyone in our path to feel redeemed and valued in what and who we are? Should we have expected that Petrino and Western just lie down prostrate and allow the march of the Wildcat Faithful to begin? Or is this just the separating of the wheat from the chaff? Does this kind of a loss send the newbies who were just in it because Joker was finally sent packing and they wanted some justifications for their "I-told-you-so's?"
One thing is for certain. No one knew how many losses we might take this season as Coach Stoops lays the foundation for what should be the best future this team has had in a long time. It is going to be ugly at times, it is going to be fun at times, and it is going to be heartbreaking at times. Those things are a given if you are a sports fan.
There's a leak in the boat. We sprouted a stream of water Saturday night and the bilge pumps kicked in. Now, we can either start fixing the leak, keep pumping out the water, or jump in the ocean and do our best impersonation of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. What are you gonna do? As for me an mine? We woke up this morning, put on our Blue and White, and went and had breakfast with my sister and her family visiting from Alabama, all decked out in their crimson National Football Championship gear. And we never skipped a beat. And we won't. Not ever.
Starting to panic? Patience, Grasshopper.