By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
After watching the University of Kentucky football team self-destruct at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville on Saturday it’s hard to come up with words to describe it. Losing 24-7 to a team that had won one SEC game all year. A team that has an offense that is ranked No.120 out of 130 teams score 24 points on a UK defense that had been giving up 13 points per game. Did I mention that the UK offense ran fifteen plays in the second quarter and gained one —as in 1 — net yard of offense.
There just doesn’t seem to be words to describe exactly how abysmal the effort was from UK against the Volunteers. So it seems appropriate to hear about it from a player and coach that experienced the debacle first hand. Maybe they can explain what happened.
UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said, “OK, not a very good effort. Really starts with me and really ends with me. Didn’t have the team prepared. Not a good enough job by myself and I’ve gotta accept that responsibility, get back to work and do some things differently and try to get a better result. Not a very good effort. Needed to do a better job.”
That seems to be an gross understatement of the real situation.
Here’s Benny Snell’s take on what really happened. Benny said, “It was obvious that Tennessee wanted it more than Kentucky, so that’s why the outcome was what it was.” Benny Snell is not a person to mince words. He tells you exactly as he sees it which is refreshing in a world of coaching cliches and double speak.
Benny also mentioned what he thought was wrong and how to fix it. He said, “We weren’t one. We weren’t being one. I can tell when guys are going through the motions, whether it’s game or practice. I can spot that 100 percent. That’s really all that it comes down to. We all gotta be sold into the plan for this to work.”
Benny was also quick to talk about his solution to the problem which, by the way, differed markedly from Head Coach Mark Stoops. Snell said, “We gotta eliminate the guys that don’t got the hunger. If you don’t have it anymore, we don’t need you.”
As I mentioned, Mark Stoops take on changes that need to occur to right a sinking ship was a little bit different than Benny’s. Stoops said, when referring to corrections they could make, “We always could look at things. We won’t be drastic, but there’s things we can do to be more effective and we have to take responsibility for that and put our kids in a position to be successful.” He also mentioned, like Benny, that he didn’t think the team effort was there. He said, “Obviously I just don’t feel like we played our best and that’s on me. I’ve gotta get them to play harder and play better.”
Those comments by Benny Snell and Mark Stoops about the effort not being there are mind boggling to me. If they had said, “Our guys were tight, tried too hard” or like against Georgia, “Our guys were physically overmatched” but to say – about a team that has the opportunity to be remembered as the best UK Football Team in the last forty years – that we didn’t show up because guys didn’t bring the effort is beyond comprehension for me.
There is still plenty for this team to play for. The SEC East title is gone, a New Year’s Day Bowl Game is gone but they can still finish the regular season 9-3, play in a very prestigious bowl game and try to work their way back up the rankings after what will probably be a precipitous tumble based on the shellacking they took at the hands of the Volunteers.
So where does UK go from here? You’ve heard Benny Snell’s solution. I’m not sure I disagree with him either. But I’ll leave you with a quote from Mark Stoops about what he plans to do next week in practice to correct the lack of effort problem. He said, “There’ll be a different message, believe me. That’s on me and I’ve gotta get them ready to play. That didn’t happen this week.”
We don’t know what that message will be but hopefully it will be enough to get the players in the right frame of mind to play a very good Middle Tennessee team that can move the ball on anybody. And who knows, if that message fails maybe he can use the one Benny Snell proposed, “If you don’t have it anymore (the hunger), we don’t need you.”