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Bye Week Reflections From A Very Satisfied UK Football Fan

five-game-collage

Kentucky football is on a bye this week, so we have plenty of time to take a breath, rest our tailgating legs, collect our thoughts, and look ahead to the next (little over) half of the season. It has been an up-and-down ride through the first five games of 2015, but I think Big Blue Nation is pretty satisfied, collectively. I know I am, and tonight I would like to share some of my favorite moments and positive opinions from the 4-1 start.

*****

The new Commonwealth Stadium opened with a Boom.

It was a perfect opening to the new Commonwealth Stadium and the 2015 season of Kentucky Wildcats football. Boom Williams took it straight up the gut for a 75-yard rush for a score. Lexington erupted:

“We wanted to score on the first play of the game,” said Williams. “Kind of set the tone and get some momentum going our way. When you believe and visualize something all week, it’s kind of in tune to happen.”

 

Patrick Towles silenced his critics against Missouri.

Leading up to Kentucky’s home contest with No. 25 Missouri, a large portion of the UK football fan base was stirring up a quarterback controversy. Towles’ 8-for-24, two-interception performance against Florida the week before was heavily scrutinized, and many fans raised doubts he could win in the SEC.

Towles responded with his best game as a Wildcat in the win over the Tigers, UK’s first top-25 win since 2010.  He completed 22 of his 27 pass attempts for 249 yards and two touchdowns, plus another score on the ground. There was a pivotal stretch in the game when he completed 11 consecutive passes.

As a huge fan and proponent of Towles, I was not only relieved to see him play well in the biggest game of his career, but happy for him, personally. He solidified his spot as Kentucky’s starting quarterback and proved his biggest critics wrong when his back was against the wall.

Dorian Baker put the team on his back and saved the program.

Is it too far to say Dorian Baker saved the program last weekend against Eastern Kentucky? Not at all. If he doesn’t will the Wildcats to a late, come-from-behind victory, the wheels fall completely off UK football. All of this excitement, gone. Mark Stoops has done an outstanding job getting things moving in the right direction and there is momentum behind the Cats like never before, but a loss to EKU would’ve derailed everything.

So when Dorian Baker hauled in a 50/50 ball on 4th-and-2 in the corner of the end zone, then mauled over EKU defenders for the game-winning score in overtime, it kept the entire ship afloat. Not to mention, it was a hell of a performance, no matter the circumstances.

Prior to the game-tying fade route in regulation, Patrick Towles told his offensive coordinator, “If Dorian has a 1-on-1, I’m going to him.”

Baker said afterward, “There wasn’t a chance I was going to let (the defender) beat me.”

It was a close one, but as I like to say: “Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”

@JBallardPhoto

And his second touchdown, the game-winner in overtime, Baker demanded the football. It was his third catch in overtime and he ran through four EKU defenders for the score.

Shannon Dawson said Baker told him, “Gimme the ball.”

The defense has been much better than expected.

I will openly admit I had very little confidence in Kentucky’s defense entering the season. With so much youth and inexperience called on to fill holes on that side of the ball, the defense, I thought, would be what held the Cats back through the first four games.

Boy, was I wrong. It was quite the opposite, actually.

I’ll have another helping of crow as I commend D.J. Eliot and his players for an impressive start to the season. The Cats gave up only 17 points per game in the first three SEC contests  and they rank among the best in the nation in red zone defense.

Veterans like J.D. Harmon, Jabari Johnson, Cody Quinn and Khalid Henderson, who many us had given up on, have been vital components of the D all season. You could argue Harmon has been its biggest playmaker, to much surprise.

The preseason talk was Kentucky will have to score a lot of points on offense to make up for what the defense allows. That preseason talk couldn’t have been more inaccurate. The D has come up huge in key moments, and outside of a few winded stretches, has been consistent throughout.

Denzil Ware’s fumble return was the first sign of the new UK football.

When Denzil Ware, playing in only his second college football game, returned a two-point conversion fumble 98 yards for a defensive PAT in Columbia, we knew the tides had turned for Kentucky football.

That is a play that, for centuries, has happened against UK, not for it. And to follow it up with a game-sealing interception by Chris Westry, also in his second game? You mean to tell me we get the big plays now? Get out of here.

Kentucky is 4-1 entering the Auburn game.

Yes, Patrick Towles’ inconsistency is troublesome. Boom Williams’ recent attitude problem is concerning, though it appears to be in the past. Kentucky needed late heroics against Louisiana-Lafayette and Eastern Kentucky, two teams it was supposed to handle rather easily. The D gives up far too many yards on the ground. Play calling can be questionable at times. The list goes on.

However, Kentucky is 4-1 entering the Auburn game. Kentucky is FOUR and ONE entering the Auburn game. Any of us would’ve taken that record through five games if it was offered before the start of the season. All day long.

We can sit here and complain about this and gripe about that, but sitting at 4-1 and 2-1 in the conference is a pretty damn good feeling entering a bye week followed by what was labeled as the biggest game of year. The bowl hopes look promising and the only loss of the year was by a single possesion to one of the four or five best teams in the SEC.

Auburn is more than beatable.

Once the sixth-ranked team in the preseason poll, Auburn is now an unranked and very vulnerable opponent on Kentucky’s schedule. The Thursday night game we labeled as a loss when the schedule was announced is now looking more like a potential win for the Cats. UK will likely be favored.

Auburn just isn’t very good this year, nowhere near what everyone expected. The Tigers don’t have a quarterback, and to make matters worse, it dismissed its star wide receiver today. Only South Carolina and Vanderbilt rank lower in the SEC Power Rankings.

So a win is not out of the question when Kentucky returns to the field for its sixth game. In fact, it’s expected. Take care of business in that one and then there are five wins on the board through six games, a very improbable scenario two months ago.

 

All things considered, this UK fan is very satisfied through the first leg of the 2015 season.

 

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

20 Comments for Bye Week Reflections From A Very Satisfied UK Football Fan



  1. Stephen
    8:13 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    Is it to early to start looking forward to what the defense might be next year?



    • john wall
      8:39 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

      nope, can say the same thing about the offense too. lets just enjoy it and keep getting better



  2. AlinIndy
    8:44 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    I love all the optimism…..But let’s not get too far ahead of our self…..They’ll be bringing their A game also. GO CATS!



    • Luke
      11:56 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

      I agree. Be careful in hyping up this game too much. The Florida game was a lesson.



  3. datDguy
    8:57 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    If one steps back and takes a broader look at the FBS college landscape, it’s hard to find a team in the top 20 that has played consistently well on both sides of the ball, while winning out and beating the spread against every opponent. UK is no different. I’ve not done the research but suspect that UK is one of the 5 youngest teams in a major FBS football conferences and we are all guilty of letting our expectations get out ahead of reality and the data, which suggests this team should be lucky to win 3 games in the SEC. Our scheduled “body bag games” with UL-L and EKU didn’t pan out like we had hoped, as both teams were much stronger than we expected when we finalized those contracts two years ago. We’ve been fortunate to this point to remain relatively injury-free, which has kept us this young team competitive. Regardless of how the remainder of the season unfolds, barring a complete collapse, I’m pleased with how this team has performed. Remember, fans, we are just 2.5 years removed from one of the weakest teams this program has ever produced….stay positive, at the very least, this is an entertaining football team. Embrace it.



  4. catfan4life
    9:43 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    Good post. I also say stop with the prognostication stuff. The EKU gameshould should remind us the games are played on the field rather than through a microphone or print.



  5. Radmankd
    11:16 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    For me, Florida was the bigger game considering the losing streak. Yes, Towles stepped up vs. Mizzou. One game. He had a couple last year. I’ll save my evaluation until the season is over. Last year’s slide is still in my memory. Yes, very happy with 4-1! Still work to be done and games to play. All in. GO BIG BLUE!



  6. Air Raid
    11:22 pm October 6, 2015 Permalink

    This will give Patrick and company a week to pull their heads out of their asses.



  7. PTow Encourager
    6:16 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

    Patrick is about to show how Blue He bleeds!!!



  8. J-Dub421
    7:10 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

    Comeback against Eastern was one of the greatest wins in school history.



    • Downs4UF
      10:28 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

      At the end of the day. It was EKU.



    • Ha!
      11:18 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

      Troll is stealing names and trolling.



    • Ha!
      11:18 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

      Got on at 7am to troll. Elementary school starts so early these days!!



  9. NavyCat
    8:21 am October 7, 2015 Permalink

    The Missouri game might have silenced Patrick’s detractors but the EKU game woke them back up again. One game does not a great quarterback make and Patty Happy-feet is going to have to play a lot more consistently to make a believer out of a bunch the fans. When he puts together several games in a row without the roller coaster ride I’ll begin to believe; the potential is certainly there. Big Blue is 4-1, which is huge. There is a lot of work to do by coaches, which Stoops acknowledged, offense, defense…etc. but the Cats are headed in the right direction.



  10. gns
    12:02 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

    Wasn’t Towles’ qb rating for the EKU game over 140? Get off his ass!’



  11. Tej
    12:18 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

    Posters like #9 want Patrick to be perfect in every phase of the game on every snap. Unfair, unreasonable, just ridiculous-yes. No qbs, All-Americans included, throw every pass into the receiver’s numbers or to his outstretched fingers. No qb avoids every rushing defender. Patrick threw for 300+ yards, led us back from a 14-point deficit in the last 7 minutes, and he still gets criticized by a vocal few. Matt Jones called fans’ treatment of Patrick similar to that of Andrew Harrison. An apt comparison .



    • NavyCat
      12:48 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

      Not perfect just consistent. Could’ve easily lost to ULL due to a 2nd half implosion, same thing at South Carolina, Florida was a disaster, Missouri showed what he is capable of and then EKU. If that was all we had to go on then you’d be right but last year wasn’t any better. As I said, he has the potential but for UK to make the jump to the next level he has to be more consistent to think otherwise is ignoring the obvious. We won’t be coming back from 14 down in most of our upcoming games. We’re lucky it was EKU and not another SEC team. If pointing out the facts is “getting on his ass” or being unreasonable then so be it.



    • J-Dub421
      12:54 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

      Towles can’t be consistent when the offensive line isn’t consistent. He needs time to throw.



    • Tampa satchel
      10:21 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

      We don’t have a QB problem as much as we have an O-line problem. As J-Dub said, it’s hard to be accurate when you can settle in. Get of Towles!



  12. sardiscat
    1:41 pm October 7, 2015 Permalink

    Where is the nonsense about UK’s defense having “so much youth and inexperience” coming from? Nine of the players getting the most snaps on defense this year (Johnson, Johnson, Lewis, Hugeunin, Forrest, Henderson, Flannigan, Quinn, Stamps) are seniors and Harmon would be but for having to sit out a year. Last UK defense I can remember with this much experience was the 1993 team.