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An Effort-Less Loss to the Volunteers

Terry Wilson got sacked, and sacked again, at Tennessee. (Vicky Graff Photo)

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.”


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  1. Every player on the team needs to know from DAY 1 that if you don’t give the effort to win, you don’t get on the field.
    I realize players will make mistakes in assignments, just get beat sometimes, get over matched sometimes, but EFFORT is a must. Either bring it or stay home.
    These players evidently don’t think Stoops will bench them for not giving effort. Either that, or there were so many not giving effort he couldn’t bench them all.
    If they play like this for the next game, they will get beat even worse than what Tennessee did to them.
    Not sure Stoops is in control of the team at this point in the season. Seems to me that the players aren’t listening and Gran isn’t either. Stoops has said many times this season they need to get more players involved on offense, but it never happens.

  2. When has anyone ever seen Stoops in total control on the sidelines? He normally looks detached whenever camera pans on him. Two weeks ago he was kicking out ceiling tiles and Saturday he should have been body slammed thru the floor boards. There is no excuse for what we all had to suffer thru this past weekend. That performance was right there with Cal’s meltdown. By the way, Army gave Duke a better game that we did. They only lost by 22. Stop the insanity.

  3. Stoops does not have the discipline or toughness to keep his players focused through the entire season. This is why his teams always fall on there face in the second half of the season. I am not saying to get rid of Stoops, but he needs to change now!

    There is no excuse for any Kentucky Team to get over confident in their position! Kentucky has been the whipping boy of the Southeast Conference for the last 65 years.

    One or two more losses and this team loses everything it gained in the first part of the year! It can happen, when you have an offense that can’t score and a defense that is worn out.

    Finish 7-5 and play in the Music City Bowl! You will not have fans or season ticket holders excited or buying tickets next year. I would not pay 5 dollars to go to either of the last two games.

    Stoops job is secure, but the future of UK Football is bleak at best. This may just be the season that dooms UK Football forever! How can you expect the fans to get excited, when the players are not?

    1. Ben, I agree on you assessment of Stoops, especially your reference to his lack of toughness. It may be there, but I don’t see it. I will give Coach credit, he did say this loss was on him, and it was. UK could have shown more fire last Saturday than they demonstrated from a “pickle salesman” at the helm. For one thing, Stoops don’t seem to grasp what this Tennessee game means to the State of Kentucky and it’s football fans. This should be all out war, or don’t get on the field. Rocky Top plays and UK folds.

      Most players at this level are scared to death of their head coach, not so much physically, but they truly know who is in charge. I don’t think Stoops garners that respect, I really don’t. Plus, guys will play their hearts out for a coach they respect. That don’t mean you will not lose a few. But it will not be for a lack of effort and desire from everybody involved, including assistant coaches. Your future, and playing time, are in his hands, they know that, and they respond. For example, nobody, player or coach, gives poor effort on a Saban coached football team and not hear about it. He is the “gold standard” today.

  4. LOL !!!
    Did Stoops plagiarize Calipari ????

    1. “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.”

  5. Ben…..You might have a legitimate point here about possibility UK FB being doomed forever under Stoops. The local Nashville sports jocks really laughing it up the way that UT took out UK. UT only got 20 yds rushing against the all world power Charlotte and then hit us for over 200 yds. They mentioned the narrow window that we had here in Pruitt’s first year and also said that if we couldn’t take of business this year that it may never happen again because Pruitt better coach and recruiter. Gee, I think they stole my line…Hey PK..still duped by Stoops!

  6. Takes the blame, but offers no real solutions! I want specifics on what he is going to do better! It sounds like he is going to do things the same way and expect different results. I hope I am wrong, but he comes across as a deer caught in the headlights of a car! Tennessee is laughing at us, let’s not make it the entire State!

  7. Stoops loses a bunch of players off this 2018 squad too. This was the year to rise to the top, and now it is in a tail spin. He must get to 9-3 too salvage this and keep the natives happy. Anything less and it will not be good for him.

    1. I agree completely

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