In my years of watching Kentucky sports, I am not sure that I have ever seen a player like Mike Hartline. Mike has been the starter at UK for most of three season, has captained UK to a solid season in each of those years and has generally handled himself well on and off the field. Yet for some reason, a part of the fan base has never embraced him and criticism of his play has been pretty consistent throughout his time at UK. I cant totally detach myself from those trends as while I have generally been on “Team Hartline”, last week I wavered a bit, especially on the postgame show and wondered aloud what the next move would be for Joker this season. But Hartline usually has answers and yesterday, he silenced his critics with what may have been his best overall game at UK. Mike was 23-28 (two of his incompletions were Cobb drops) and played outstanding from start to finish versus Auburn. He led Kentucky on sustained drives throughout the game and helped lead a second half comeback that could have been one for the books if the defense had pulled out a late stop. In short, he was excellent and a top half SEC quarterback throughout the day.
The true critics of course will find something to chirp about. Some say that “its easy to throw for a high percentage if you are dumping it off”….which might be true if those dumpoffs were not the right play in the situation, as seen by the high number of points put on the board. And there are also those that will point to a play here or there, blame Hartline and then say that he “cant get it done in the SEC.” But if you complain about Hartline yesterday, then you have lost your status as an objective critic of him. From start to finish he played a solid game…no real mistakes and he showcased leadership that helped give his team a chance to beat an undefeated top 10 SEC team. It was one of Hartline’s best days and while we can all go back and forth on other topics (such as the Defensive scheme in the first half), at least as it comes to Hartline, support should be unanimous.