Last night wasn’t fun. It was, I think, the antithesis of what many of us expected from the beginning of the Mark Stoops era. This statement obviously applies to the outcome–most Kentucky fans were assuming a win was imminent whether we will admit it or not–but it also applies to many of the story lines besides the outcome. So, for those of you having trouble pinpointing the exact source of your pain this morning, let me take a moment to troubleshoot the source of said discomfort before I return to going about my business like none of this ever happened.
1. The most glaring issue of suck last night for many fans was the play calling. Look, I won’t pretend to be Jon Gruden in my understanding of the many intricacies of football. I do, however, think that it is fair to say that last night’s play calling was , um, unexpected? Were there reasons for such a drastic deviation from the so-called Air Raid? None that I can think of. Kentucky hired an Air Raid offensive-coordinator, Kentucky played Air Raid sirens in our advertisements to entice consumers to buy tickets, and then Kentucky passed the ball 29 times to Western’s 34 attempts. It pains me to make this comparison, and you knew it was coming, but I would have had a hard time drawing a distinction between this staff’s play calling and the previous staff’s. On too many occasions, Kentucky was facing third and long and a piss-poor run play or the like was called. The conservative nature of last nights play calls flies in the face of what the staff said they were about.
2. What happened to neither quarterback winning the job before this game? I don’t know if the staff was attempting some sort of novice Jedi-Mind-Trick on Bobby Petrino in refusing to name a starter before the game, but I do know that I believed that no firm decision had been made between Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Obviously most of us expected Whitlow to be the starter, but barring some sort of remarkably efficient performance out of Jalen, I expected Smith to get a chance to prove his effectiveness early in the game. Since we got the opposite of a remarkably efficient start from Whitlow (he looked like he hadn’t passed a ball all off-season), it stands to reason that Max would get a chance to prove something–you know, since no one had won the job yet. Instead, Max Smith saw his first action late in the game when it was essentially over (yeah it was). What’s more, for the first time all night, with Max Smith in the game, the offense looked like one that fit the mold of the AIR RAID. The offense that this team was expected to run.
3. The defensive line looked awful. We expected the d-line to be our biggest strength. Western Kentucky, a team that gets the scraps of the scraps of mediocre teams (including Kentucky), made our defensive line look extremely weak. I can count on one hand how many times our front four pressured the quarterback. Specifically, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith’s names were called on far too few occasions if we are to believe that they are the elite rushers off the edge that they are supposed to be. Kentucky’s secondary was expected to be bad–and for the most part they were–but defensive line was surprisingly sucky, and for that, they have earned their spot in the things that sucked the hardest from last night.
3. Bobby Petrino is now 5-1 (fixed) against Kentucky. I guess nice guys really do finish last.
5. On a serious note, my condolences and thanks to those of you that made the trip to Nashville. Few things suck more than spending the time, the money, the energy and the emotions to travel and support your team on the road only to be rewarded with a gut-wrenching loss. Even though Kentucky lost to WKU last year, I suspect that most of you that made the trip expected a fun weekend filled with live music, good food and drinks, and a win to cap off a solid Labor Day weekend. While there is obviously an element of surprise in sport, Kentucky shouldn’t lose to Western Kentucky, virtually ever. That element of surprise was taken care of last year. Sorry fans.
Can this nation stay awake through many more performances like last night? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.