After a rough season filled with injuries and losses, Mark Stoops first season in Lexington has come to a close now that all of college football is over. Stoops first season showed promise, despite finishing with a 2-10 record. The win column mirrored that of Joker’s last season, but the effort and heart the team played with did not at all. The team showed resiliency in the losses to Florida and Georgia, teams that would have rolled to big wins in Joker’s last season in Lexington. This happened despite being depleted from injuries and lack of consistent quarterback play. This season gave us some glimpses into the future. This is something that ESPN mentioned when they recapped the seasons best and worst moments, as well as the offensive and defensive MVP.
Offensive MVP – Jon Toth
The Wildcats didn’t have skill position players who produced eye-popping numbers, but redshirt freshman center Jon Toth started 11 games and graded out well. He had 41 knockdown blocks and missed only three assignments for the season. He earned a spot on the coaches’ SEC All-Freshman team.
Defensive MVP – Avery Williamson and Alvin ”Bud” Dupree
Senior linebacker Avery Williamson led the Wildcats with 102 tackles and had four tackles for loss, a sack and two fumble recoveries. Williamson earned second-team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches. Junior defensive end Alvin Dupree also had a strong season, leading the team in sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (9.5).
Best Moment – Close Loss to South Carolina
In a two-win season, there typically aren’t many great moments. There were some positive moments in losses, particularly the fight the Wildcats showed to keep their game against South Carolina close on Oct. 5. The Wildcats trailed 21-0 at one point and 27-7 going into the fourth quarter, but pulled to within a score in the final quarter and ultimately lost 35-28.
Worst Moment – Blowout Loss to Georgia
The late-season blowout loss to Georgia wasn’t pretty. Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray threw four first-half touchdown passes before leaving with a knee injury, and his backup, Huston Mason, came in and threw for 189 more yards, running and throwing for touchdowns. Georgia ran away with a 59-17 victory.
While I agree with three of the four picks ESPN made, one stood out as questionable in my mind. That pick was Jon Toth for Offensive MVP. I do agree that the there were a lack of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball this season. There was no one player that stood out amongst the rest, but there was a group of players. Those players were the newcomers that Stoops and company brought in last season, who accounted for most of the offense. Of those players, Jojo Kemp finished with the most rushing yards on the team with 482 yards and 3 touchdowns. On the receiving end of the ball, UK’s top three receivers were all newcomers. Leading the way was Javess Blue 586 yards and 4 touchdowns, followed by Ryan Timmons with 338 yards and 2 touchdowns and Jeff Badet with 285 yards and 1 touchdown.
With the new recruits coming in to join forces with these young guys on the offensive side of the ball, combined with the changed attitude Stoops and company has brought with them, it is the fan base and administration is hopeful. The Wildcats should continue to improve upon the effort and strides made in this season and take it to a new level altogether. And hopefully, those improvements will start showing up in the win column, something that would make the fans and administration alike very happy with the Commonwealth Stadium and Nutter Center renovations on the horizon.