So we have had over 24 hours now to get over the 25th heartstomp by the Tennessee Vols over our beloved Wildcats. Thus it is time to move on and get ready for what will be a BIG week in both football and basketball. With that in mind, lets reset where we are for both sports, along with a practice report from the UK Louisville practice today:
While I understand the fact that most people consider Louisville to be our biggest rival in all sports, I grew up in a different place. I am from Eastern Kentucky and grew up on the border of Tennessee, so the Big Orange is my natural rival and their football team has spent 25 years being my white whale. After 25 straight defeats, I never actually have a high degree of confidence that a win is coming against the Knoxville Terrorists. However when that ball popped out with about 3 minutes to go, I thought the storybook ending could be ours. The Seniors, winning the big game, breaking the streak and a Knoxville native scoring the winning touchdown. It couldnt get much better.
But then, for reasons that are beyond my comprehension, the coaches didnt give the Knoxville legend a chance to add to his mystique. On the two biggest plays of regulation, Randall Cobb didnt touch the ball. And the rest is history. The debate as to why continues to rage on and answers are being sought (and here is what we have found…there is no good answer). When its 1st and 10 at the 13 and you have a chance to win…Cobb gets it 3 and maybe even 4 times in my playbook. But thats not what happened and the overtime loss followed.
People are understandably upset. But I do think that with all the gripes that exist, one truth should not be forgotten. Kentucky did have a good to very good season this year. There are six teams tied in the SEC this year at 7-5. Those teams are: Tennessee, Auburn, Georgia, Arkansas, South Carolina and Kentucky. Historically, we dont belong in the group with the first three teams and we usually dont with the second two. But we are there…and now we dont look to out of place. In fact, it says something about what Rich Brooks has done that someone, anyone much less many someones would find 7-5 and a 4th straight bowl big something to complain about. But Brooks has elevated the program and expectations have elevated accordingly.
Now the question remains, which Bowl will end up taking the Cats. It says something about the UK football program and especially its fans, that the Cats are not a lock for the bottom of that 7-5 group. The pecking order for the Bowls is Outback (which is likely to take UT), Chik-Fil-A (which is considering the Cats, along with Auburn and Georgia), the Music City (which will take UK if available), Liberty, Independence and Papa Johns. My guess is that Atlanta or Nashville are the two likely locations. The representative from the Chik-Fil-A Bowl told me on Saturday that his bowl will make its decision by Monday. If that remains true, we might know UK’s location tomorrow. While some would be disappointed by another trip to Nashville, I would say that is unreasonable. YES, UK let an opportunity slip with the losses to UT and Mississippi State…but they jumped at opportunistic wins against Auburn and Georgia…one cant forget that. We remember the close and unlucky losses and sometimes forget the fortunate wins. This team probably was a 7-5 team…and that is where they finished. They will be rewarded with a good, but not great, Bowl and I will most certainly be there and if you are able, I hope you are too.
It was a GREAT UK turnout at the Louisville practice today, as fans produced the biggest crowd in recent years. I am not good at estimating numbers, but it was probably around 4,000-5,000 and the crowd was very energetic. Here are some notes from the evening:
— Calipari took the microphone and made certain that fans knew he wants to make major inroads in Louisville. He talked of potentially putting together a 3 game package in Louisville (with one conference game, one major opponent and one other), if fans show their support when games are played here. He urged fans to come out on Monday and try to sell it out so he could “convince the powers that be that we need to be here more.”
— Calipari brought the players out early and they signed autographs for 40 minutes before the practice began. I have never seen the players do that before and it is likely that virtually everyone towards the front of the stands got a signature of at least one player or coach. AFterwards the players said they enjoyed doing it and it was a great gesture for the fans.
— Before practice began, the players did some stomping on the UL Cardinal bird at center court. The crowd urged Patterson to stomp on it and he did with a smile and then Jorts/Boogie decided to do a running jump and stomp, which got a roar from the crowd. John Wall and Eric Bledsoe then got ready to do the same thing, but Assistant Coach Orlando Antigua came over with what Courier Journal writer Brett Dawson said was a “Dikembe Mutombo waving finger” telling them to stop. The crowd was sad. When asked afterwards if he was worried that stomping the Bird would make the UL team mad, Patrick Patterson said with a smile, “if it does, it does.”
— Daniel Orton and DeAndre Liggins were not there because of a class conflict.
— The exciting part of the festivities (besides the section in which kids shot against players….a feature that I know is money from the Barnstorming Tour days), was the Three Point Shooting contest, in which the players were divided up into teams and competed against each other. The Blue Team had: Cousins, Stevenson, Dodson, Harris and Krebs…..the White Team had: Patterson, Wall, Bledsoe, Hood, Harrellson and Miller. The Blue Team won…four straight.
— Members of the crowd screamed “JORTS” after most Josh Harrellson free throws. He always laughed and his teammates began calling him that. KSR 4 Life.
— After the game, Patrick Patterson was asked what he signed for fans during the autographs and he replied that he signed a baby shirt, a big and a pair of men’s underwear….although he was quick to add that they were boxers and not “tighty whiteys.”
— Calipari spoke a bit in the post-practice presser about the importance of Louisville to his team’s plans and said that he (a) had no interest in ever playing in the new arena and (b) getting good games here on a regular basis. That then led Jerry Tipton to ask if Calipari felt like that he “owed it” to the students to keep good games in Lexington and if he believed the students would “resent” it. Calipari said no to both questions.
— Louisville sports television personality Fred Cowgill got a phone call in the middle of the press conference and the ringer played “Rocky Top”…I booed him.
— Calipari also said three little tidbits I found interesting….(1) he believes the team needs to learn the “ecstacy” of winning as a team and not just individual success…as proof he cited Demarcus Cousins being down on himself even though UK won in Cancun…(2) he said that John Wall is trying to get all “A”s in his first semester and used it to mock those who say one and dones dont go to class….and (3) he said that UK’s zone offense is poor, its man offense nonexistent and the Dribble Drive is a “version I have never seen before”, but then followed with his regular, “but I do love this team.”
All in all, a great day in Louisville and tonight’s game against 0-6 UNC Asheville should be fun. Stay tuned all day for more info on that and any Bowl game news as we get it.