By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe Kentucky’s opening 38-24 victory over Toledo was not quite as dominant as some Kentucky fans — or even coach Mark Stoops — might have wanted.
However, some other Southeastern Conference coaches certainly would be happy to be in Stoops’ shoes today and maybe Kentucky’s schedule does not look quite as daunting now.
Let’s start with South Carolina, a team UK has beat five straight years but was picked to finish higher than UK in the SEC Eastern Division. The Gamecocks opened their season losing 24-20 to rival North Carolina and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp certainly has to be on a real hot seat now. South Carolina has games with Georgia, Alabama, Texas A&M and Clemson left not to mention Florida and Tennessee — plus UK.
South Carolina let true freshman quarterback Sam Howell throw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to wipe out an 11-point Gamecock lead. North Carolina had two scoring drives over 90 yards in the second half.
Next take a look at Tennessee, a team that beat UK last year and many felt might make a big jump this year. Instead, the Vols opened the season by losing 38-30 to 26-point underdog Georgia State. Yes, 26-point underdog Georgia State that went 2-10 last year came into Knoxville and won.
Former Danville all-state lineman Nathan Fuqua is the defensive coordinator at Georgia State. His mother, a 1970 Danville High School graduate just like me, was at the game and told me she never heard “Rocky Top” again after the midway point of the third quarter.
Georgia State had never beat a Power Five opponent and after losing its final seven games last year — all but one were by two touchdowns or more — this didn’t seem like the time to end the streak.
To make matters worse for the Vols, the announced crowd of 85,503 in the 102,000-seat stadium shrunk dramatically the second half and fans were active on social media after the game blasting second-year coach Jeremy Pruitt.
Tennessee quarterback Jared Guarantano didn’t mince words after the loss.
“I’m disgusted to be honest. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. I’m really upset right now, and I’m pissed” Guarantano said. “Why shouldn’t I be? We lost a game. Going into the season we had high expectations and none of those expectations go away. A lot of teams lose their first game and they go on and do so and so. We just have to go back to the drawing board and do a lot of film study and just clean it up.”
Kentucky doesn’t play Mississippi but Ole Miss lost 15-10 at Memphis. The Cats do play Missouri, a team UK has beat four straight times and a team many feel can win at Kentucky this season. The Tigers were down 34-17 to Wyoming after three quarters even though Wyoming had just five pass completion — but Wyoming did have two 100-yard rushers already — and eventually lost 37-3`.
So much for Clemson transfer quarterback Kelly Bryant being the savior for the Tigers this year because Missouri lost with him throwing for 423 yards while Wyoming threw for 92. And don’t forget that Missouri beat Wyoming 40-13 last year.
Perhaps that puts what Stoops had to say immediately after UK’s win in a little different perspective.
“It’s always a good thing when you walk in and you win by 14 points and you’re frustrated in a lot of ways, but that’s okay. We’re striving to be the best we can. We left a lot on that field, but we also did a lot of good things,” Stoops said.
Or certainly a lot more good things than Tennessee, South Carolin and Missouri did.