Congratulations, UK Football…you win. Not on the field obviously, as you blew a huge lead at home in a must-win season opener. But you beat the crap out of us, defeating your ever-resilient fan base on Saturday. You pulled the ol’ switcheroo on us one more time, and this time you may have knocked me out for good. I particularly liked the new wrinkle you put in this year — start poorly so I would think “same ol’ Kentucky,” THEN rip off the best 23 minutes of the Stoops era, only to then roll over and die for the last 32 minutes of the game. I was texting everyone I knew telling them how good the defense looked, how Barker was the leader we had been waiting on, and how once House got things a bit more settled in the kicking game we would really get rolling this year. And then you landed your best haymaker yet, and I am officially down for the count. You win, I give up.
I apologize for the negativity up front, but maybe this will prove therapeutic. I was raised to not say anything at all if I couldn’t say something good, but I am going to have to leave my raisin’ at the door on this one. There is literally nothing good to say. Sure I could fake my way through a few paragraphs about the first half offense, the play of Jordan Jones or JD Harmon, etc. But in the end, there is no positive to take from this game. A loss in different circumstances to Southern Miss would’ve been hard to swallow, but this was ridiculous. We were up 25 points, then gave up 34 unanswered. The embarrassing stats have been gone over multiple times on the site, so no need to be redundant. The point is this — we got outcoached, outplayed, and out-hearted by an inferior team, AGAIN. We lost to a mid-major program, albeit a good one, at home, AGAIN. We once again discovered new humiliating ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, AGAIN.
Let’s start with the offense, which was the least atrocious unit of the team in the loss. Barker was as bad in the second half as he was great in the first; cannot turn it over three times in a half. The offensive line was not nearly as good as advertised. Mosier had some crucial mistakes as the game unraveled, and even the ballyhooed interior of the line was manhandled on multiple occasions. Where was Boom? I thought Gran would feed him the rock, but apparently his feel for handling running backs was a bit rusty in week 1 as our team’s best player only touched it 13 times. But still the offense was not the reason we lost — they were off the field far too long at a time to get any sort of second half rhythm going. The defense made sure to keep our best unit off the field as much as possible.
The defense was horrendous for the final 32 minutes of the game, but our first half defensive success was really fool’s gold, as Shannon Dawson’s unwillingness to stick to the run even though it was working kept Southern Miss’ offense in check for us. Then Dawson did something he didn’t do all of last year for UK – he adapted. He went into the locker room down 18, put on a tape of the EKU game last year and told his team, “This is how we are going to win the game.” Our defense came out and failed to counter Dawson with even a single adjustment. Southern Miss scored on every second half possession except the kneel-downs at the end, and we didn’t do one thing to stop them. Stoops’ MO since he got here has been to play terrible after half time, and at some point you have to call that what it is — he and Eliot are either unable or unwilling to adapt during the game.
I’m not saying Stoops can’t coach; I am saying that he has yet to prove he can coach. I mean, he just got outwitted by Shannon freakin’ Dawson! UK will not stop the downhill run against anybody so long as we keep asking three defensive lineman to hold the line — we just do not have the horses to do get the job done. The 3-4 will yield similar results week in and week out during SEC play. Opponents will dominate time of possession, which will wear our thin defense out; we’ll give up a ton of rushing yards 5+ at a time, and we will lose. The future will look just like our last three years so long as the coaching staff refuses to change. But I’m not a football coach, so what do I know…
Special teams play was also pretty awful. The return game was not spectacular, but was at least solid. The kicking game was another story. Blocked punt, dropped field goal snap, and a 35 yard punt average. That alone will get us beat in SEC play. Oh yeah, and we almost lost a surprise onside kick. I don’t think Matt House made any friends at Commonwealth on Saturday, but it could have been worse I suppose.
Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result, and I’ve been UK football insane for years now. No more. No more optimistic predictions, no more blind hope, and no more emotional investment. No more buying into Talking Season Stoops every year, only to have Football Season Stoops make a fool of me. No more planning my Saturdays around kickoff — you’ve gotten my best for about 20 years now, and have given me very little in return (2007 being the exception obviously). I think I’m finally done. I’m joining #teamjared if he’ll have me. I am now a “show me” fan. I’ll still watch, I’ll still rock my Kentucky blue, and I certainly won’t cheer for anyone else; I’m just going to try to not to care so much anymore. So you win UK football, but why did it have to be your own fans that you defeated?