The margin for error is low for the Kentucky Wildcats as they try to make a bowl game for the first time of Mark Stoops’ era.
Dave “Buzz” Baker has been around Kentucky football for a long time, having announced SEC games since 1990. He’s seen the ups and (mostly) downs of the Wildcats trying to field a competitive team in the nation’s deepest and most talented conference.
This season, as Mark Stoops’ team enters the final stretch at 4-3 and hoping to make a bowl game for the first time since the head coach arrived in 2013, Baker sees a team that needs all the breaks it can get.
“It’s just one of those things. They’re probably good, not great. They don’t have much of a margin for error.”
Baker, who currently works for a number of media outlets including ESPN Regional, Fox Sports and SEC Digital, said that Stoops getting more involved in the defense has made a difference as the season has progressed.
“The defense probably didn’t play as well early and it is looking more and more like it might be because Stoops wasn’t calling it, I’m not 100% sure. Ever since he has gone back there and basically start calling the plays, they have played a lot better.”
The Wildcats were extremely friendly to opposing offenses early in the season, giving up 131 points in the first three games to start off 1-2. Holding South Carolina and Vanderbilt to 23 combined points in victories showed improvement, but a relapse happened this past Saturday against Mississippi State, giving up 38 points to an offense that had been stagnant almost all season.
Luckily for the Wildcats, the offense, which has struggled most of the season, woke up and was able to put 40 on the board for the victory. The lack of success on the offensive side of the ball doesn’t shock Baker.
“That doesn’t surprise me. You lose [Patrick] Towles. You have a guy like [Drew] Barker who is unproven, and then he gets hurt. You get a guy in Stephen Johnson who comes in, I mean, he wasn’t even on campus in December. They went out and got him and a junior college to make sure they had somebody else.”
The Wildcats now must do what they haven’t been able to in the last few years: close out a season strong and reach the postseason. For Stoops, it could be a matter of whether or not he will remain the head coach in Lexington next season.