Photo by Jonathan Ray

Dear Kentucky Fans: Enjoy It.

November 1, 2018
700

Kentucky vs. Georgia for a trip to the SEC Championship game. Yes, you read that correctly. No, it is not a typo. No, this is not a dream. The University of Kentucky Wildcats are 60 minutes away from a date with Alabama or LSU in Atlanta on December 1st, 2018. Kentucky fans have waited their entire lives for this moment. Mark Stoops and his program have been working for six years for this moment. Well, this moment is finally here. We are inside 48 hours from the biggest game in Kentucky football history. With all due respect to the National Championship team of 1950, and the great teams of the 1970s and 1980s, and the trip to the Peach Bowl in 1993 and the Outback Bowl in 1999, this game on Saturday is more important and many believed to be more improbable. Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Six years ago, when Mark Stoops came to Kentucky, the Cats were in a terrible place. They had just come off a 2-10 season and stared down the barrel of another one. Years two and three brought great promise at the start, only to end with heartbreaking 5-7 records. Then, in 2016, the Cats broke through. A 7-5 season led to a bowl appearance and high expectations. 2017 brought another 7-5 season and a trip to a second consecutive bowl. Many thought 2018 would be a rebuilding year, but then everyone returned. Josh Allen, Mike Edwards and Jordan Jones by-passed the NFL Draft to come back for their Senior seasons. Combined with Benny Snell in his Junior year, the roster set up to be one of the best in UK history. Still, despite all of that, Vegas picked Kentucky to only win 5.5 games. Well Vegas, they have 5 in the SEC and 7 overall, with four games to play. Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

This season has been special. We knew it would be special in week two when Kentucky (finally) knocked off Florida after 31 long years. The streak ended. That would have been enough for most fans. Not for this team. Beating South Carolina for a fifth consecutive year and dominating Mississippi State would have been enough for most fans. Not for this team. In years past, losing at Texas A&M would have broken many fans, and broken many teams. Not these fans. Not this team. When everything went wrong against Missouri, many fans were likely ready to give up. The dream was all but over. Not for Lynn Bowden. Bowden told Coach Stoops he was going to return the punt. Guess what? He did. For 67 yards and a touchdown. With 1:24 on the clock, one time-out and 81 yards to go, many fans did not believe it was possible. Terry Wilson did. Wilson silenced the critics and led the most improbable drive in UK football history. A drive that will live in infamy with the WildKemp drive in 2014 against South Carolina. Then, the play. With no time on the clock, Kentucky had one chance to gain two yards and score. Everyone in the world knew Benny Snell Jr. was getting the ball. But then, he didn’t. Wilson dropped back and threw a dime to CJ Conrad in the corner of the end zone. Kentucky won. The dream was alive. Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Will Saturday be easy? No. Don’t expect it to be. Winning isn’t supposed to be easy. Winning is not as enjoyable when it is easy. Nothing has been easy for Kentucky. Nothing has been easy for Coach Stoops. Nothing has been easy for any of these players. Why should Saturday? Saturday won’t be easy. But, Kentucky doesn’t want it to be. This team. These coaches. They relish the opportunity to be overlooked. They relish the opportunity to be the underdog. Guess what? They are. No one thinks they can win. No one thinks they can get to Atlanta. No one thinks they can earn a spot in the Playoff. Guess what? Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Enjoy these next few days Kentucky fans. Enjoy Saturday. These moments do not happen at Kentucky. These games do not happen at Kentucky. Correction, these moments did not happen at Kentucky. These games did not happen at Kentucky. This is not the same old Kentucky football. This is new. This is fun. This is legendary. Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

Fans have long waited for this team. For this opportunity. You can feel a buzz in the air. You can feel an energy around this city. You can feel the magic. Saturday is going to be the most nerve wracking day in the lives of Kentucky football fans. Remember to enjoy it. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the tailgate. Enjoy SEC Nation. Enjoy the pre-game. Enjoy the team running out onto the field. Enjoy every, single, one of the 3,600 seconds of game time. Enjoy it. Kentucky is 7-1 and playing for a trip to the SEC Championship game.

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