Kentucky continued its success the following two seasons by earning back to back bowl appearances.
Then the ship sank straight to the bottom.
Hal Mumme gave UK fans something they hadn't had in recent seasons, hope. Mumme's style of play was exciting, and it put UK in position to win ball games. Looking back at it now, those days were nothing but pure fools gold for the growth of the program. Mumme resigned after the 2001 season in the mist of recruiting violations, which would eventually land UK on probation and reduce their scholarship numbers greatly in the coming seasons.
Enter Guy Morriss.
A tough assistant under Mumme, Morriss accepted the job knowing the problems that faced him in the future. After a 2-9 season that saw UK endure heart breaking losses to LSU, Tennessee, and Mississippi State, Guy and his Cat's busted through to win seven games in 2002, including an upset of #17 Louisville to open the season.
As vividly as I can remember that stunning win against Alabama a few years earlier, I can remember far greater the UNBELIEVABLE loss to LSU in 2002. Trailing 30-27 with just seconds to play, LSU quarterback Marcus Randall connected with Devrey Henderson for a ridiculous 75 yard touchdown as time expired. As if UK fans thought they had seen it all, we all were reminded anything is possible with Kentucky Football.
Shortly after the season, Morriss bolted to take the head coaching position at Baylor. Some say that Morriss left because of problems with the Athletic Department. I think he left because of the task that was ahead of him with probation striking the hardest in the coming seasons.
One step forward, two steps back.
The heart breaking losses are not anything new to the program. Fans have been sulking for years over games that UK has let slip away. Who could forget the back to back pass interference penalties that set up a game winning field goal for Tulane in 1980. Danny Wuerffel's touchdown pass to Chris Doering that propelled Florida to pull out a win in 1993. The Peach Bowl game later that season which watched linebacker Marty Moore snag a game clinching interception, only to fumble during the return and set up Clemson's game winning touchdown.
Whether it has been probation, losing seasons, or heart breaking losses, one thing has remained consistent over the years…….
How many teams across the country can go 2-9 and have 65,000 people show up on Saturdays? The answer is zero. Why are UK fans so loyal? I have no clue. Most would say that we are waiting for the day that UK football arises from the dead to win an SEC Championship. Or maybe it's because just when we think we have seen it all, the impossible reappears on a foggy Saturday afternoon in the Commonwealth.
One of these days impossible will take our side, and then we all will know, UK football has awakened, and is finally here to stay.