A lot’s happened in the past month. Kentucky closed September with a win over Missouri, which at the time felt huge. The Cats were 3-1 and everyone was on board the football train. After a rough October, fans are swiftly switching platforms for basketball. What happened? Let’s go over it all in this month’s Emoji Index.
Offensive play calling
One of the most controversial topics in UK football right now is play calling. In his first year of calling plays solo, Shannon Dawson showed he wasn’t afraid to throw the long ball against Louisiana Lafayette, and in the South Carolina game, efficiently balanced the run and passing attack. The first signs of trouble came against Florida when Kentucky abandoned the run on the final drive, which may have cost them the game. Confidence returned against Missouri when the Cats were able to move the ball despite Boom Williams not having a big day.
An impressive two-minute drive vs. Eastern overshadowed an otherwise meh outing, but where was that savvy late-game play calling vs. Auburn? With no timeouts, Kentucky squandered a potentially game-winning drive by running an inside draw on second down. Shannon Dawson took a lot of heat for that drive and things didn’t get any better against Mississippi State, a game everyone would like to forget. When discussing the play calling earlier this week, Mark Stoops said that going forward, he’ll be “more forceful” with his communication. Hopefully I won’t have to break out that skull and crossbones emoji next time around.
The rational amongst us believed Kentucky would be lucky to get to 6 or 7 wins this season. After wins over South Carolina and Missouri, all but the most level-headed started believing the Cats could do something special, and the most optimistic even looked ahead to the SEC Championship game. Ha! A loss to a disappointing Auburn team brought everyone back to Earth and a blowout in Starkville exposed Kentucky’s four wins for what they were: not that impressive. South Carolina and Missouri aren’t good, and Kentucky didn’t exactly look like world beaters against Louisiana Lafayette or EKU.
The path to the bowl is still Kentucky’s for the taking, but the outlook doesn’t look as rosy as it did a month ago. Charlotte should be an easy win, but Vanderbilt’s defense has actually done a thing or two this season and the ‘Dores beat Missouri, UK’s “marquee win” this season, 10-3 last week. Ugh. Louisville remains a toss-up, but Kentucky’s chances against a Tennessee team on the rise and Georgia in Athens aren’t great.
Basketball interest level
As football’s momentum has slowed in the past month, basketball’s has picked up. I maintain that the swing to basketball wouldn’t have happened as quickly had Kentucky beaten Auburn; however, the “casual football fans” (aka basketball fans waiting for basketball to start) got their hopes up just to be dashed by Kentucky’s fatal first half performance vs. the Tigers. From there, the floodgates to Rupp were open. A pitiful performance against Mississippi State gave those teetering on the edge a little push, and things will really get ugly if Kentucky gets blown out by Tennessee on Saturday.
If Kentucky can keep it respectable against the Vols and take care of Vandy and Charlotte to get to a bowl, fans will remain supportive, even if from a distance. Upset Tennessee and the bandwagon will fill up once again.
In 2012-2013, Kentucky’s point guard was Ryan Harrow, and given his struggles that season, I’m just going to quantify him as a ghost. In 2013, Andrew Harrison arrived and was joined by Tyler Ulis in 2014. Now, Calipari says he has plans for Ulis, Isaiah Briscoe, and Jamal Murray to all share the backcourt at times.
(All of this was really just an excuse to use the two dads and their son emoji. Get it? Because Tyler is short.)
Admit it: when Tyler Ulis committed to Kentucky back in September 2013, you didn’t know what to make of him. At the time, most considered Ulis the backup plan for Emmanuel Mudiay, who committed to SMU in August 2013. Ulis quickly proved us wrong. In charge of his own platoon, he showcased his speed and skills, dishing out 8 assists vs. North Carolina and 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in UK’s thumping of UCLA; however, his breakout game came against Louisville. Ulis scored a career-high 14 points, 12 in the second half, against the Cards, putting the team on his back and never looking rattled, despite taking a blow to the head that will give us the GIF that will go down in UK/UofL history:
From there, it was clear Ulis was a baller. After sharing time with Andrew, the team is now Tyler’s, and I can’t think of a point guard I believe in more. Not even John Wall. If his 12-assist performance last night is a preview of what’s to come, we may not have him for much longer. (ðŸ˜¥)
Can you believe that a month ago, none of us knew who Katina Powell was? (Well, maybe some of you did, but you’d never admit it.) Louisville’s prostitution scandal broke back on October 2, and since then, we’ve had quite the entertaining side story to check in on from time to time. This morning, I did a Google Trend search on “Katina Powell” and gave the chart a little KSR flair. The two major spikes you see are when the story broke and when ESPN confirmed Katina’s allegations with five former Louisville players and recruits. I’m assuming that little plateau at the end was the appearance on “The View,” because I definitely had my popcorn out for that one.