Photo by Clay Jackson
Listen: I’m one of the most devout Kentucky football fans you’ll ever meet. I cut my teeth on the Bill Curry years, rejoiced in the excitement of the Air Raid era, cursed Claude Bassett’s fat rolls, big a sad adieu to Guy Morris, and grew to love Papa Brooks and his homegrown tomatoes. During the preseason, I actually believed in the RISE movement. Now? Well, let’s just say I’ve reverted back to the my old wistful Kentucky football fan habits (other team scores? “At least we get the ball back.”). All that being said, even I can’t envision a Kentucky upset today (sorry, Desmond Howard). But, that doesn’t mean that the Cats can’t show us something. Here are a few things Kentucky fans NEED to see from this team to get the fan base back on board:
1. Better Blocking on the Offensive Line
We’ve gone over this a million times, but the offensive line was turrible last Saturday against Louisville. In fact, I’d go as far to say they are the Cats’ achilles heel at this point. Diss Morgan Newton all you want, but he was not the problem last week; in fact, he was one of the bright spots, considering what he had to deal with. The line didn’t give him any protection and failed to provide opportunities for the running backs. With all five starters back in the lineup, we must see improved blocking in order for the offense to get going. It won’t be easy…Florida’s linebackers make Louisville’s look like Will Stein.
2. Faster tempo on offense
Kentucky’s offense looked halfway decent a few times against Louisville: right before halftime and at the end of the game. In fact, that’s where we scored our two touchdowns. What made those two scoring drives so successful? The hurry up, no huddle offense the Cats used because time was running out. This week, just about everyone and their mom has encouraged the Cats to keep using the no huddle, and let’s face it: if we have a shot against Florida, it’ll probably be by catching them off guard. The hurry up offense could help this bizarre offensive unit find a rhythm and beat their worst enemies: themselves. Instead of overthinking and psyching himself out, Newton can operate on instinct. Hey, it worked when nothing else did against Louisville, right? However, Randy and Joker better have a back-up plan ready in case the hurry up offense fails…or things could get ugly (uglier?) fast.
3. Better coverage on the run, deep throws
Is it just me or has the defense just gotten scorched on long throws? For the most part, the defense has held it together this season, but give them a third and long and you may as well give the other team six. Yes, our red zone defense has been impressive, but when it’s just one receiver and one defensive back in the red zone, it’s been awful. And don’t get me started on the run defense. Louisville ran it for 181 yards last week, and if you think that’s bad, take a look at Florida RBs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps. Rainey went for over 200 all-purpose yards last week against Tennessee and Demps might be the fastest man in college football. No, seriously: he’s the current NCAA Champion in the 60- and 100-meter dashes, the latter of which he posted a blazing 9.96 time in. That would have earned him sixth place in the 2008 Olympics. How do you even defend that? Danny Trevathan, Randall Burden, and Taylor Wyndham all better eat their Wheaties. In fact, they all need to eat their Wheaties while watching the tape of Wyndham’s hit against Tebow two years ago. On loop.
4. A team playing to win
By far the most discouraging thing I’ve noticed in this Kentucky team is their attitude. Most of the time, they don’t even look like they want to be out there. I realize there is little chance we win this game, but for me to continue to be a faithful fan, I need to see a spark. I need to see a fire in these kids’ bellies. Maybe it will be coming into the game as the underdog for the first time. Maybe it will be Charlie Weiss/Rick Minter rivalry thing. Maybe it will be the fact that they have absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain. But something has to change. I want these kids bopping on their toes, champing at the bit to play this game. Sure, they might lose, but at least they will have tried. I tried to fly Kyle Chandler out from Hollywood to deliver his best Coach Taylor pep talk, but apparently he’s still celebrating his win at the Emmys. So in lieu of that, I’ll just say this: have some pride, Wildcats. If you don’t, how can we?