By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — Pick out the worst possible scenario you can imagine for Kentucky to start the football season. But even if you do, it could not be as bad as what happened here Saturday night.
Kentucky blew out to a 35-10 first-half lead over Southern Mississippi. Quarterback Drew Barker looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate. Receivers were running free. The defense got two big-time interceptions from J.D. Harmon.
Kentucky fans who blamed offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson for much of last year’s woes were happy because he’s now the offensive coordinator at Southern Miss.
But starting with a touchdown pass in the final minute of the first half, Southern Miss started dominating the game and WON 44-35. The visitors scored 34 unanswered points and dominated the second half.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops made no excuses for his team after Southern Miss ran 92 plays.
“As tough as it gets. All the work we have done about finishing games, very difficult. Same thing happened last year when we ended the season in this stadium (blowing a 21-0 lead to Louisville),” Stoops said. “They outcoached and outplayed us. It hurts our team, our fan base, our administration.”
Stoops said he did not remember apologizing to fans for his team’s play before, but he did that after Saturday’s loss and asked fans “not to bail on us” but he understands the frustration.
“That’s a tough pill. Our fans deserve better. I will tell you this — we will play better,” Stoops said.
“I know everybody has every right to question what we are doing, but we will stay the course. You saw how we can play and ill play. The guys knew what they were doing and executed and made plays.”
However, Stoops said the TD pass to end the half was the “punch in the gut” that his team could not handle.
“We gave up a home run punch in the gut. We had to move on and we didn’t,” Stoops said. “Once again, I apologize. Our fans deserve better and I get it.”