By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops wasn’t going to dwell on his team falling behind 13-0 before it came on to thump Austin Peay 49-13 Saturday to become bowl eligible.
Stoops said it was a “happy locker room” on Senior Day and should have been.
“I told the team that we talk about toughness and an attitude, every day, and being resilient, and this team has showed that. It wouldn’t have happened without the great leadership of our seniors, and I’m very happy for them,” Stoops said.
“They have been through some ups and some downs. And they knew very clearly when I got here that what we were up against and what we were trying to do, there was going to be some tough times. And they stayed the course. They never flinched. And it’s not always easy, but that’s been a fun group to coach, and we’re going to continue to push forward.”
Stoops prides himself on a never flinch attitude but confirmed he was more than just a little emotional for his team’s success.
“It’s hard to control the emotions right now. It is because I’m very thankful and appreciative of this team, the administration, our fans, the people that sat out there tonight – and it was cold, nasty day – and stuck with us through the good times and the bad,” Stoops said.
“And I greatly appreciate everybody. I said it day one and I continue to say it, that it’s going to take all of us to take this program to new heights. So, it is. It’s hard, for me right now, to be totally honest with you, because I’m very proud that have group. ”
So is senior Jojo Kemp, one of the top players in Stoops’ first signing class. He came to UK from Florida believing he could help turn the program around. It hasn’t gone as well as he hoped, but he’s happy to be going to a bowl game.
“I feel joy in knowing that I was able to affect so many people in this community and state. I said I wanted to come here and change the culture and outlook of Kentucky football, so just knowing that we took a step forward is just an awesome feeling. I just want to keep going, and when I leave I just want to keep getting better and better. I will always bleed blue,” Kemp said.