When Mark Stoops takes his Kentucky Football troops on the road for the first time this season it will be in Columbia, South Carolina where the Wildcats hope to retain their spot atop the Southeastern Conference East standings.
After last week’s challenging win over Chattanooga, Stoops moved solely into second place for all-time coaching wins at UK. He only trails Paul “Bear” Bryant by 8 games.
Kentucky football, Stoops ready for the wild scene at South Carolina
Historically Kentucky has not always fared well when they travel out of the Bluegrass state, but in the past four seasons, Stoops is gradually shifting that trend.
In his ninth season at the helm Stoops has compiled a 52-51 record, at first glance, not the greatest, but bear in mind he inherited a mess from Joker Phillips and took years to mold his defensive-minded, grind it out on the ground philosophy.
Fast forward to 2017 and the tides began to turn after four years of recruiting his type of player. From 2013-2016 his Cats went just 2-14 when they hit the road.
But in the past four years, he is 6-11.
This season the Wildcats go on the road five times and realistically have a shot at going 4-1. Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Louisville all should be wins. Georgia is a challenge very few teams have success at so we’ll assume loss.
It all begins this week with a shot at South Carolina, a team Kentucky has dominated the past 6 out of 7 years.
Under Stoops, Kentucky is 2-2 at Williams-Brice Stadium. A loud, insane, and annoying place to play where roosters crow all game and the endless playing of “Sandstorm” grates in your head. A tradition born 12 years ago when the Gamecocks knocked off No. 4 Ole Miss.
No doubt Stoops has told his team they can expect a wild environment with white towels waving madly when the rooster crows and that song plays.
Mark Stoops has been piping in this song over and over in practice so it suffices to say the players are already sick of hearing it.
“Making these guys aware of it. We do have two classes, a significant amount of guys, that have not been in this environment. We’re going to address it. I’m not going to overdo it but they have to understand.”
So if they want to silence that on Saturday they simply must get off to a quick start, put up early points and Brad White’s defense stifle any offense Shane Beamer’s team trots out there.
Will Levis can’t throw any picks and not fumbling the ball away or that crowd will only be whipped into a frenzy.
“We’re expecting that (noise) and more when we get there. Obviously, we’ve heard all of the tales about it being a cool atmosphere and that their fans are really passionate. We’re trying to use that as fuel and motivation going into the game.”
Ironically Stoops turning the trend on the road began when the Wildcats toppled South Carolina 23-17 on September 16, 2017.
Two years ago UK fell 24-7.
If Kentucky hopes to contend for the second spot in the SEC East this is a must, must-win.
Stoops remembers Kentucky’s 2017 visit to Columbia much more clearly than two seasons ago. South Carolina capitalized on one of the miscues on a Sawyer Smith interception and struck early before Kentucky regained control.
“First play of the game, bam, place erupts, goes nuts. We throw an interception first possession, bam, it goes nuts,. (But we) settle in, we take full control the rest of the first half.”
That can’t happen. South Carolina is riled up and ready for the Wildcats.
Coach Beamer made it clear what he wants to hear and that’s the crowd so loud that the noise level “tears a hole in the masks” of attendees.
Big Game Boomer agrees that the 7:30 p.m. game will be electric and tops in the nation on Week 4.
Kentucky football travels well and there will be blue and white mixed among the crowd, but UK players will never hear them unless the Wildcats put points on the board early and often and stifle the home crowd.
Big Blue Nation will have to send its cheers and good vibes from all around the globe to help support this team.
Stoops, White, and offensive coordinator Liam Coen will have their guys ready and Stoops hopefully will move one step higher on the win list, his team continuing to dominate the Gamecocks and that road wins total will continue to trend upward.
Kentucky according to WynnBet as we discussed Kentucky is currently trending between a 5 and 5.5 point favorite.