Comments from first-year Kentucky coach Mark Stoops indicate that he can feel the season slipping away from him.
Realistically, that process began with the Wildcats’ season-opening loss to Western Kentucky.
Stoops apparently drew too exhausted of his team’s struggles – and mental fragility – to keep it in-house any longer, ripping his team to the media on Wednesday.
Kentucky travels to South Carolina for a divisional game on Saturday, and Stoops said bluntly what the football-watching public already knew: His team isn’t ready.
Here were some of the highlights from Stoops:
“Some guys are looking for a rock to hide under. It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game, and I don’t know if we’re ready for it.”
“If we go give it everything we got, prepare every day to win and prepare to play, then I can live with the results. But this was not part of our journey today. This was not a good day.”
“…21-point spread ain’t enough. Because we ain’t even close to that right now.”
Sadly, Vegas hasn’t taken Stoops’ advice. The game is still listed as a 21-point spread.
Stoops has to be close to wit’s end, and, of course, is justified. The Wildcats have been atrocious all season.
Part of Stoops’ job when he first came to Lexington was to change the culture. His comments Wednesday make it clear that hasn’t happened yet.
The motives for Stoops are obvious: Send a statement to the team that the feeling sorry for yourself mentality will no longer be tolerated in the Kentucky program.
Has he delivered the message too late to generate any momentum in 2013, though?
As our Ryan Wooden pointed out earlier today, this is an imperative time for Stoops and first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones as they try to hold together impressive recruiting classes.
More than anything, Stoops needs his team to not quit on him during a stretch that could absolutely break its will.
The Wildcats have been inept offensively in recent weeks with QBs Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow apparently stuck in neutral.
The entire team needed a jolt this week. Whether or not Stoops provided it remains to be seen, but at this point in what appears to be a lost season, it was a calculated gamble.
What Stoops must now do is find out if he fired up his team or if he alienated it.
If the answer is the former, the payoff is a change in mindset for demoralized players.
Fortunately if the answer is the latter, he can deliver offseason messages by cutting ties with the biggest culprits and start building a winning atmosphere with minimal pressure to win now.