I have been accused on more than one occasion of being naively optimistic on the subject of Kentucky football. In my defense, it does take some amount of self-delusional thinking to continue to be an ardent supporter of the program. Also, despite its rep as a depressant, I find that Maker’s Mark tends to bestow a rather chipper attitude on most any subject. With that said, I found a number of positives stemming from UK’s foray into the swamp, as cleverly depicted above, before the Gators ultimately spoiled the evening by taking the Cats down for that inevitable death roll. Here they are:
Woodson. In my mind, Saturday was the day that Andre Woodson cemented himself as the UK quarterback for this season and the next. This has little to do with his numbers, though 210 yards and zero picks was impressive. Instead, it had more to do with intangibles. I have always thought of Woodson as a bit of an enigma. He appears to me almost like someone who learned how to play the position by reading a book about it. He has always had the tools to be successful. (Size, arm strength, accuracy, reasonable athleticism.) What he never seemed to have was any feel for the game. On Saturday, he finally demonstrated these qualities by hanging tough in the face of the rush, throwing the ball away when there was a chance to safely do so, and demonstrating leadership and a desire to compete. These are qualities I had not seen from Woodson previously, and was honestly not sure that he possessed them. Now that I have seen it, he will be the guy for as long as he is at UK.
Pulley. As many times as I have been accused of being delusional about UK football, I have been accused ten times more of being a Hoptown homer. At the risk of further earning this reputation, I think Curtis Pulley emerged in the Florida game as Kentucky’s number two receiver. Now, before everyone starts screaming, I know what Dicky “the touchdown maker” Lyon’s numbers are, and I know that he caught 7 passes Saturday to 6 for Pulley. However, bear in mind that Curtis has never played receiver other than a handful of snaps last year, and that he is still getting the majority of practice reps at quarterback. Nonetheless, Saturday is the first time he has been turned loose as a receiver in a game. Against possibly the best secondary Kentucky will face, Pulley showed the athleticism and tackle shedding ability that we have seen from the quarterback position, but combined it with great hands, and surprisingly good routes. Clearly, he still has work to do, as seen by his fumble, and he will still get the majority of practice reps at quarterback, but I look for Pulley to be Woodson’s big play receiver by year’s end.
Zero turnovers. At a hostile environment, against the level of athletes that inhabit the Florida defense, to have no turnovers is impressive. Kentucky was throttled in turnover margin last season. If Kentucky continues to create more turnovers than they lose, you can start making your holiday reservations in beautiful Shreveport.
Running game. This sounds ridiculous due to the total number of rushing yards. (22 carries for 39 yards.) However, if you take out Woodson’s sack yardage, Kentucky had 13 carries for 66 yards. Clearly, this is not a dominant figure, but to average five yards per carry against a stout Florida defense without Rafael Little is certainly respectable.