With another Kentucky Wildcats football season upon us, the staff at Wildcat Blue Nation are digging into their memory banks and recounting our favorite moments in Wildcat football. Over the next month, we will be looking at these games and sharing our thoughts and memories on them. It’s not a countdown, but a look back at what has made Wildcats football important to us and what stood out. Hopefully Mark Stoops and his staff will be able to add a few more special moments this upcoming season.
Hailing from Ohio and having to deal with the constant (regular season) success of the Ohio State Buckeyes, seeing my Kentucky Wildcats rapidly declining from the consistency that Rich Brooks had built was extremely painful. Especially considering that, upon the retirement of Rich Brooks, offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips had high hopes. As a former Kentucky player himself, who saw the offense reach new heights under his guidance, many thought Joker could take the Wildcats to a new level. Unfortunately, this was not the case.
After reaching a bowl game in his inaugural season and finishing 6-7, his next two seasons saw a rapid decline. After the 2012 season, where the Wildcats went 2-10 (0-8), Joker Phillips was fired. This led to an intensive coaching search, one where many fans hoped would end in an offensive minded coach that could revive their diminished team. The favorite, for a lot of people, was Neal Brown. A former Kentucky player who was born and raised in the state, many thought he would be the answer to raise the level of talent and play in Lexington. The administration had a different idea in mind.
Mark Stoops, a rising defensive coordinator from Florida State, was their top candidate…and they were able to lock him down. The hire received mixed reviews from the Big Blue Nation, but the national media raved over the hire. And to top it off, upon Mark Stoops being hired, he hired Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator. In the end, both the Big Blue Nation and the administration were able to get their wishes. However, they had no idea exactly how successful the staff put together by recently hired Mark Stoops would get things headed in the right direction.