For a while now, I’ve thought Kentucky has had a very fortunate season. At the very beginning of the season, most pundits pegged us at 4 or 5 wins. We embarrassed Louisville in their own stadium thanks to an incredible fourth-quarter. We handled our business with the other non-conference games; barely containing Middle Tennessee’s comeback notwithstanding. We played Alabama fairly evenly, thanks to some of their penalties and lack of defensive focus in the 4th quarter.
We were given four turnovers against South Carolina to work with. A fortunate fumble prompted our improbable Arkansas comeback. After getting our ass stomped by Florida, we listened (since we couldn’t watch, Big Blue Network!) as Mississippi State missed a 27-yard field goal to secure our 6th win. Then after that, we were thisclose to upset Georgia, because Georgia’s offense decided to take the day off from defending the run.
So if we’ve had a fortunate season, I guess we’re due losing a game we had every business to win.
Of course, its how we lost that hurt the most. Playing with what appeared to be very little leadership. It mirrored the lack of leadership we saw just 24 hours earlier with the roundball team.
And just like the blame for the VMI loss lays mostly at the feet of Billy Gillispie, the blame of this loss lays on Coach Brooks and his staff. In his press conference, he took the blame for not having the team prepared for Vandy. He said, “If I had some answers, we wouldn’t have started that way. Its my job to have answers. Put it on my lap.”
To be fair, this is a young team. Several of our commenters were pointing out that many redshirt and true freshmen are playing for us. That is a valid point, when you look at the offense and special teams. Winston Guy’s roughing the kicker penalty could be attributed to his youth. Guy accidently rolling Matt Roark into the punter could also fall under that category.
Cobb’s INT in the first half was completely inexperience: Cobb threw to his spot, and the WR on the play didn’t come back to it. Cobb’s second INT was mostly inexperience: if the game’s on the line, you don’t throw at cornerback DJ Moore.
But make no mistake; you can’t use the youth/inexperienced card for our defense. Almost all of our starters are juniors and seniors. On their side of the ball, they should be the ones dictating the game. And tonight, for the first half, they were pushed around… like freshmen.
(Of course, it didn’t help that when the defense WOULD get a stop in the first half, Kentucky’s offense wouldn’t stay on the field. Roughly 5 minutes of offensive possession in the first half. Amazing!)
One mistake that wasn’t really a mistake: Micah’s roughing the passer play. It was a touchy foul at best, a blown call at the worst. Micah was doing the right thing. That penalty put Vandy at their 49 yard line. On the next play, Chris Nickson runs for 36 yards, which puts Vandy in scoring position.
But, evidently, you can blame him for the bad first half on defense. After the game, he said, “[Coach Brooks] stressed day in and day out how important this game was and made it very clear that it was a must-win game for us. For the team to come out flat is not on Coach Brooks, it is on me being one of the leaders of this team.”
Once again, a problem with leadership results in an unfortunate turn of events.
Now, don’t take my assessment of Kentucky’s “luck” as an indictment against their quality of play. There have been tons of mistakes and bad play on all sides of the ball, nearly all season. But there has also been a fighting spirit and a drive to succeed. Without their desire to make plays, Kentucky would be 3-8.
In two weeks, Kentucky gets at least one more chance to show that desire that has made a difference. To see if leaders will rise and rally on the field. Pulling down win #7 against Tennessee will be a crowning jewel for this Wildcat team.
A most fortunate ending.