By LARRY VAUGHT
During his appearance at the recent Governor’s Cup to promote the Kentucky-Louisville football game, former Kentucky coach Rich Brooks said having “great people in the locker room” was the reason his team rallied during the 2006 season to likely save his job and change the fortunes of UK football.
“They did more to protect me than anything. They stood up for our staff, and they went out on the field and accomplished the things that they knew they were capable of but had failed at different junctures leading up to that 2006 season. That was a watershed year for Kentucky, I think, and showed that we could compete in the SEC and get some things done,” Brooks said.
Did it ever.
UK lost 49-0 at LSU and had a bye week to lick its wounds. Most fans thought the season was over again in mid-October, but Brooks asked his team to get tougher — and it did.
“We were a soft football team, and LSU exposed that on us,” Brooks said. “I don’t like being a soft football team — I never have — so we decided that we were going to be physical. If we were going to go down, I’m going to go down swinging in my beliefs and the way I believe football should be played and that’s being a little tougher and a little more physical.”
Kentucky beat Mississippi State 34-31 in must-win game, followed that with a win over Georgia to snap a nine-year losing streak and then added wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana-Monroe to get bowl eligible for the first time in seven years. UK went to three more bowls under Brooks.
Now Kentucky coach Mark Stoops can only hope 2016 is his benchmark season at UK.