It is rare that a big event you are looking forward to ever really meets your expectations. You get excited about taking a trip or doing something memorable and inevitably the vision of what will happen in your mind ends up being deflated by the strong uppercut of reality, usually in the form of a speeding ticket, hotel with cockroaches or forced conversations with an accountant. But occasionally hopes become reality, which is exactly what happened for me this weekend as Lexington gave us one of the better sporting weekends in recent memory. It began for KSR Day (as we liked to call it) at Keeneland, which saw a beautiful day, college kids galore and UK’s new commitments walking around soaking it all in. Then came Midnight Madness that saw some complaints from those watching at home, but few from those in attendance, as the Enes Kanter entrance provided the loudest non-basketball related sound I have heard in Rupp since Pitino was introduced as Louisville coach for the first time. And all was then capped off with a win in Commonwealth that put the above expression on Spurrier’s face and ended two silly win streaks that were a long time coming. It was celebration time in Lexington and the streets were hopping. A quick summary of what we saw:
— In the last decade, there have been four huge home wins, those over Georgia in 2006, Louisville and LSU in 2007 and now South Carolina in 2010. The game on Saturday night however was different than all the rest because of the surprising way in which Kentucky found a way to win. At halftime, there were probably very few outside the locker room that truly believed Kentucky could storm back and overcome an 18 point deficit to upset Spurrier and his visor of love. Then after the first three and out, even the true believers had their faith challenged and the question on my mind was drifting to “how many times will I have to hear ‘fire Steve Brown’ on the postgame show?” Even when Kentucky drove down the field to cut it to 28-17, the crowd noise was low and the energy was not where it needed to be. But one fourth down run by Cobb and a juke by Chris Matthews and the last quarter saw Commonwealth as alive as it has ever been. The storming of the field after the INT capped it off, but more than anything the night was about a celebration of being a UK football fan. For one night, the ball bounced UK’s way, the breaks fell towards the Cats and win was given, not taken away. Its about time.
— It was a banner day for Mike Hartline, who found himself in the position of being named one of the four finalists for National Player of the Week, but not being one of the two player selected by the Big Blue Network as UK Players of the Game (nice job there BBN). Hartline was great the entire evening, making the right play, getting no turnovers and making big, game-winning type throws when it mattered most. Even Hartline’s most vocal critics have to admit that he played a great game and was the key factor in making the victory occur. I hope he savors the win and the weekend, as it was a longtime coming for him.
— One of the big differences for Mike this year has been the dual WR threat that UK has developed in Cobb/Matthews. It was a banner day for #8 as well, as he had 12 receptions and basically torched the South Carolina secondary throughout the night. There was no matchup for his height and speed and Matthews created an audition tape that may very well lead to him hearing his name called at the Draft this Spring. And as for Cobb…well he is Cobb. He does everything to win and makes virtually no mistakes. His muffed punt seemed to suggest he was human, but his various runs and receptions provided counter evidence. Another great performance by a player that will see his name among the greats to ever play here.
— Randall Cobb also made news today when he used his Twitter feed to criticize some fans for leaving early, arriving late and not believing in the Cats. The comments were later removed by Cobb and have been debated endlessly all day. Most of the debate has centered around whether Cobb was “right” or not in what he said and whether the description fit some fans. That debate is somewhat boring to me as of course there are idiot fans in the UK fanbase who are fairweather…there are some in every fanbase. As to how many are like that, who knows. What is unfortunate about Cobb’s decision to write it, is that it has gotten play nationally (on Yahoo and CNNSI) and will be used by rivals against UK in recruiting (“see even their legendary players think their fans believe it is a basketball school”). This was a huge win for UK and the future of the program and we dont want to diminish it by distracting from the win and its future importance. Joker Phillips today said Cobb made a mistake and blamed it on youth, an assessment that is certainly correct. I am sure Cobb wishes he had a mulligan, but ultimately he has earned the ability to make a few mistakes with all the goodwill he has mustered during his career. This will just be an unfortunate blip on the radar screen that will ultimately go forgotten in the long term.
— Switching gears, Big Blue Madness produced possibly my favorite moment in the history of the event. While some complained that it wasnt like last year (folks you need to get used to that….this team isnt last year’s and if you keep hoping it will be, you will continually be disappointed), virtually everyone who attended seemed to love it. And there was nothing better than the Undertaker entrance from Enes Kanter that tore the roof off of the place. We at KSR had been hoping for weeks that UK would execute such an entrance and I even played what it would be like on the radio show last week. But I never thought they would actually do it. Kudos to UK for making it happen and Enes for selling it with the great hat. When I saw Enes after his entrance, he had a huge smile on his face and he asked, “did you like that?” I told him it was great and he said, “that was the best thing ever.” Great moment for the kid and the event.
— Speaking of great moments, huge shoutout to the UK Hoops Coach Matthew Mitchell for teaching us how to Dougie with some dance moves that had the ladies in the crowd going wild. I think Coach Mitchell is hilarious and he has become a huge KSR favorite with his appearances on our shows. You can see why his players love him and how he is able to bring in the recruits he has to Lexington. Similarly, we also loved the Jorts “Carlton” dance, taken from the mind of Beisner and brought to life in Rupp Arena. Jorts is a great personality who loves being a UK basketball player and even though he wasnt on the UK basketball poster (which is absurd…someone should get canned for leaving the only Senior off), he will be the KSR star this year.
— Finally, we cant get out of here without mentioning the Louisville Cardinals’ embarassment this weekend on and off the field. They lost to Cincy at home, which happens but then followed it up by taking a commitment from transfer Tony Woods. The former Wake Forest player is going to Louisville after leaving Wake Forest due to his assault charge from an incident in which he fractured the spine of his baby’s mother. Just when you dont think Rick Pitino can do anything else more mock-worthy, he tops himself once again. Look, I am not going to be a moralist, as every program has kids that screw up. But to bring a kid on with this record, after the 18 months you have had inside your athletic program….well it is beyond the imagination. But it sure gives me good material for the radio.
Speaking of radio, Monday will be great…celebrating the big weekend and making fun of the Cards. It will be a big day on the site as well, including some behind the scenes stuff from the weekend that just passed. Also we will have more on why Kanter didnt practice and when we will know more on whether, and when, he will lace them up for the Cats. Stay tuned….