“Holly Freeland will never NOT be a UK fan, no matter how much the football team tries to make her” was my facebook status over the weekend. And, I meant it. And, no- I am not “one of those fans” who believes UK football is simply a 3-month introduction to building excitement for basketball season. I grew up in Western Kentucky, where blue is the only color we bleed. Sure, it’s mainly for basketball, but that doesn’t mean football is merely an after thought. It just means when all else has gone wrong, we can always count on basketball to make us smile. How else do you deal with having losing streaks to not one, but TWO rival teams for over 20+ years? Or, knowing at one time, you not only had Bear Bryant at the helm… but also lost him? It has seemed to most UK fans that football will always live in the shadows of basketball, and after a performance like Saturday, you begin to understand why.
This was the year of: Operation Win. This was the year they could do great things, build on momentum they’ve created during 4 straight bowl appearances. And, while that can still happen (Let’s shoot higher than a bowl game in Tennessee, please), Kentucky will always remain “middle of the pack” with games like Saturday. Operation Win is starting to look like Operation… When?
It was clear to everyone watching the game that UK was the better team… everyone except UK players and coaches. How else do you explain the boring play-calling? And, when it finally got exciting… it was because we were down 22 points. I’m no mastermind, and I’m certainly not calling for anyone’s heads after the game. However, methinks if you play with that mindset the entire game, you win the game by 3-4 touchdowns… easily. It appears the coaching staff plays the game conservatively, so the players do as well. Both the coaches and the players are missing that fierce mentality that not only keeps you in bad losses (see Florida last week), but also gives you the obvious and complete advantage in games you should easily win (see Ole Miss).
Sure turnovers and penalties killed the team. The defense may have just as well suited up for Ole Miss. The two fumbles were with two of our biggest offensive threats, and I’d rather them have it in their hands than anyone else’s, fumble or not. They make things happen. Exciting things. But, I think UK’s biggest problem is simply predictability. With a one-dimensional QB, a conservative play calling system, and haphazard defense, it’s no wonder UK is coming up short. I read that UK is currently #1 in passing defense in the SEC… amazing statistic, right? Sure… if you didn’t read between the lines in knowing that’s because we can’t stop the run. Why would an opponent throw the ball when they can be 3rd and 19 and convert on a run like Ole Miss did?
I’ll always bleed blue, and I’ll always cheer on the pigskin Wildcats as long as they field a team. But, games like Ole Miss sure do make me miss basketball season.
The ‘Cats have a tough one at home next week against Auburn. I hope both the coaching staff and the players show up with a winning mentality and make everyone forget the last two games. Because if they don’t, Kentucky fans will be looking forward to the next big UK event on Oct. 15: Midnight Madness. And, once basketball starts…