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Kentucky Football: Evolve or Die; The Evolution of Mark Stoops

Mark Stoops was on the precipice of a failed career at UK, but after the last two weeks, he has evolved into the coach UK needs.

USA Today Sports

The quote "Evolve or Die" is a business term coined by Craig Charles but used in variation by many other facets of life.

The meaning behind Charles' adaptation of it fits Mark Stoops in year four just perfectly.  It is becoming clear that Coach Stoops is trending toward the former part of that quote.

I was really hoping to be able to write this article as a fun follow-up to the one I wrote here titled 'three games to define a career' for coach Mark Stoops...  I just did not think it would be this soon.

If you follow my writing, you know that up until this year I was the ultimate sunshine pumper for Mark Stoops. I prematurely claimed the 'game to be changed' two years ago after beating South Carolina.

I could have easily been accused of carrying Mark Stoops' water and had little defense of it otherwise.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I have been absolutely blistering Stoops since the Florida loss.

I will fully admit, after the Southern Miss embarrassment and the Florida lay-down, I snapped...  I was done and really thought Stoops was not the guy for this job.

What a difference five games makes.

With the win today over Missouri, Kentucky now has five wins and barring a meltdown the likes we have not seen before, they should be going bowling.  Let's be honest folks.  If we crap the bed against 0-8, 1-AA Austin Peay, we do not deserve a bowl, or happiness, or a football team for that matter.

The biggest difference in what we are watching this year vs. past years is pretty clear and stark.

  • Year 1 was ugly, as it should have been
  • Year 2 was fools gold with the schedule
  • Year 3 was an epic meltdown down the stretch with locker room division, regression, and shades of an imploding program
  • After the 1st two games, this season it appeared to be a continuation of the above... and then something changed.  The coaches and players went to work.
  • Before this season He had never won when trailing at the half, we had only beaten USCjr, Vandy, and Mizzou at home in the SEC
  • We came back to win after trailing USCjr at the half, beat Missouri on the road, and took down Mississippi State.

It would have been very very easy for the team to implode after the Florida game and it really did look like a 3-4 win season was ahead of Big Blue Nation.  The 'Cats now have four Wins just in the SEC for the first time since Coach Brooks roamed the sidelines.

You can argue that UK has not really beaten anyone of note during this stretch, but that rings hollow when you consider that the 'Cats have beaten the SEC teams they are supposed to beat.

This has not been the case for a long time now.  We have historically been on the business end of that equation.

I know, South Carolina is terrible...  Vandy is, well, Vandy...  Missouri is in a downward spiral as a university... and Mississippi State does not know what to do without Dak Prescott.

I get every bit of that, but consider this... it used to be UK/Vandy fighting for the best of the worst.  Kentucky is also the only team from the SEC East to beat a team from the West.  They have evolved and progressed, and you cannot deny it.

If you read anything in this piece, read this: At some point, we, have to stop using other program's woes as excuses to bring UK down.  Kentucky is 4-2 in the SEC, they are staring a bowl game in the mouth (ending a six-year drought), and in a 3-year period of down-the-stretch regression under Stoops, we are seeing progression.

Up until this season, Mark Stoops had only won a TOTAL of 4 SEC games.  He has tacked on four more wins in just this season.

Until this season; he had only beaten South Carolina, Vandy, and Missouri at home but now he has not only beaten South Carolina and Vandy again, he went on the road to Missouri and snapped a seven-game skid to Mississippi State.

Oh, and he did all of this after his cornerstone recruit and starting QB went down for likely the season.

Coach Stoops has taken a ton of criticism for his coaching and results, not to mention a weekend of ridiculous sabotage efforts, all in stride and all right on the chin.  He has done nothing but adjust (taking over the defense) and improve in 2016.

Not only is Mark Stoops now deserving of as much time as he needs for this job, he is the right man for this job and deserves nothing but support and respect going forward.

Also, think about this and let it sink in... not only is it possible for UK to be playing for a trip to Atlanta against Tennessee, it is plausible.

Florida still has to go to LSU and go to Arkansas.  If they lose both of those games and Kentucky can beat Georgia under the Commonwealth Stadium lights next week, they will be playing in Knoxville on November 12th to be the East Representative in Atlanta.

Is it a likely scenario, no... am I saying it will happen, no.

What I am saying, however, is that it is not a far-fetched reach, it is very plausible.  We have played the what-if game before, but never into November.

Commonwealth Stadium will be absolutely rocking (It better be anyway) next weekend when Georgia comes to town and if they can pull that game off... we might be looking at the SEC coach of the year.  What a turnaround from five games ago.