Photo slideshow: Kentucky stops the streak at The Swamp
August wasn’t kind to Kentucky.
The players and coaches learned that both a beloved assistant coach and a star sophomore were beginning separate battles with cancer.
The month ended with starting left tackle Landon Young suffering a season-ending knee injury in the final scrimmage of the preseason.
“It’s truly been an emotional August for our program,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK’s athletics director in an area behind the stadium as players, coaches and staff celebrated following a 27-16 Kentucky upset of No. 25 Florida on Saturday night.
Even as the difficulties continue, September has provided moments of joy and healing.
In a victorious, joyous Kentucky locker room in the belly of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, head coach Mark Stoops handed the game ball to offensive line coach John Schlarman, who is undergoing chemo for an undisclosed type of cancer.
“It was really a joyous occasion in there just now as I awarded John Schlarman the game ball for the way the offensive line blocked,” Stoops said. “We rushed the ball for over 300 yards at Florida. That’s a pretty good number.”
Schlarman underwent a six-hour chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday morning and then coached his players in practice later in the day. It amazes Barnhart and everyone around the UK program.
“He’s a strong man going through a lot and I’m grateful to be able to give him a ball,” said Stoops, who is also giving one to sophomore defensive lineman Josh Paschal, who was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma, when the team returns.
Barnhart saw Schlarman coaching his players on Tuesday in the near 100-degree heat and then stay after on the field and meet with other players, too.
“It’s an inspiration,” Barnhart said. ”If you think you’re having a bad workout or a bad day, how about what he’s doing? These kids recognize that. It’s not lost on any of us.”
Schlarman’s offensive line helped UK rack up 303 yards on the ground and pass for another 151 yards. Quarterback Terry Wilson was never sacked.
The Cats, who beat Florida for the first time since 1986, averaged eight yards per play behind the line.
Benny Snell, who had 175 yards on 27 carries on Saturday, said the team is playing for Schlarman and Paschal.
“That’s the world,” Snell said. “That’s the world right there. … This one was for those guys. That fight, they’re forever in our hearts. So us being able to come out with a victory and we have problems throughout the team, it just means the most. So we keep those guys in our heart. That win was for them.”