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The Best and Worst from the TaxSlayer Bowl


Mark Stoops’ first bowl game as a head coach was my first Kentucky bowl game.  Even though we left without an ideal result, the reward for Kentucky’s 7-5 regular season was still an enriching experience.  Here’s the good and the bad, beginning with the bad (around the New Year, you must always finish with the glass half full).

The Worst

5. The Basketball Watch Party

I do not intend to put the UK Alumni Association on blast.  The event was fine with the hand they were dealt, but it’s an example of the biggest problem with the TaxSlayer Bowl: Jacksonville simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the BBN.  In other locales — Nashville, New Orleans, Vegas — there are plenty of places for large crowds to congregate and everyone can still be accommodated.  That was not the case in Jacksonville.

4. Watching the Triple Option

When the matchup with Georgia Tech was announced, there was a a collective sigh across Kentucky.  I was convinced Kentucky would be able to figure it out after 15 practices, but I was wrong.

You can’t simulate linemen diving at your knees for 60 minutes in practice.  You can’t simulate the speed of their offensive and defensive lines.  You can’t not get bored watching it.  All you can do is get annoyed and fall on the ball when it’s loose.  Unfortunately, every time the ball was loose, it bounced right back into Tech’s hands.

Tech didn’t play dirty.  Tech simply plays a style that incites postgame fights in the parking lots.

3. The Referees

There were more than a handful of, “what in the hell was that?” calls.  My least favorite was the Kash Daniel “piling on” penalty, which took UK out of field goal range after Tech’s opening third quarter drive.  Mark Stoops’ least favorite call was at the end of the second half.  No one could explain to him why the clock didn’t run, allowing the Yellow Jackets to kick a field goal as time expired .  Essentially, their ineptitude gave Tech three points (if you’re keeping track, that’s at least six more points for GT).

Stoops gave the refs hell all the way back to their halftime locker room.  When they shut him out, he kicked their locker room door, then threw a Gatorade cooler at the door to cap off a fantastic tirade.  They better hope they never bump into him on the streets of Youngstown.

2. Bye Bye Boom

I wish Mr. Williams nothing but the the best moving forward, but it stinks that we won’t get another year of Booms.  He’s battled injuries, now it’s his time to monetize his elite athleticism.  Still, I am greedy and wish I could see him do fantastic things for another year in a Kentucky uniform.  He’s done so much for the Kentucky football program, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment, but this is the one I’ll never forget.

1.  The Scoop and Score

The stadium was rocking.  The game started perfectly with a deep out to Dorian Baker.  The Cats were rolling.  All was going according to plan.  Then the wind was sucked out of the stadium.

The Cats had plenty of time to overcome adversity, but it wasn’t just an anomaly.  UK’s offensive line got their ass kicked all game by the speed of Georgia Tech.  Kentucky had the advantage in the passing game, but Stephen Johnson rarely had enough time to release the ball.  Johnson willed two late scores to add some juice to the game, but it was too little, too late.

The Best

5. Savannah

The night before beginning my bowl week, I took Freddie Maggard’s advice and stayed the night in Georgia’s coastal paradise.  I’d heard good things from many, still, it surpassed all of my expectations.  We only had about four hours to explore the historic downtown, but I enjoyed the unique design and the delicious fish and chips.

4. Jon Toth’s Last Press Conference

A man not known for his sense of humor, in his final press conference Toth was filled with zingers.  You have to appreciate dry humor to appreciate Toth’s remarks, just like you have to appreciate consistency to enjoy his play at a position that is more difficult and important than most realize.

You will be missed Mr. Toth, and not by just Freddie Maggard.

3. Top Golf

It took a lot for me to not put this at No. 1.  I could not stop laughing during my first 20 minutes on location.  As a person who isn’t terrible at golf, I received so much joy watching much better athletes flail like toddlers learning new motor skills for the first time.

For probably the first time in five years, I got to see UK football players in a relaxed environment where they could be themselves.  Interviewing them with a dozen other reporters doesn’t produce genuine conversation.  It was nice to chat with a few guys and just talk about stuff, instead of staring at them through a screen discussing football.

2. The UK Pep Rally

The Big Blue Nation never disappoints, but rarely I’m surprised to see just how crazy you people are.  I was surprised to see the crowd of thousands Friday night at Jacksonville Landing.  Bowl games are supposed to be a reward for the fans and Friday night felt like a reward.  Despite dissension throughout the year, it was heartwarming to see everyone on the same page, happy to be Kentucky football fans.

1.  A New Year’s Eve Bowl

Every once in awhile with this job, I forget I’m working and have a “Holy Shit” moment.  When I walked onto the turf at EverBank Field on Saturday, I had a “Holy Shit” moment.  After four years of football seasons featuring teams that didn’t average four wins, I was covering UK at a New Year’s Eve Bowl in Florida.

It was a wild football season, filled with epic collapses, nail-biting finishes and a victory on the road against a Heisman Trophy winning rival.  Some may be disappointed in the finish, some may say the Cats were just happy to be there.  Consider me just happy to be there.

If 2017 is anything like 2016, Kentucky football fans are in for a treat.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

14 Comments for The Best and Worst from the TaxSlayer Bowl

  1. WildcatRX7
    9:38 pm January 2, 2017 Permalink

    To be fair, Georgia Tech’s “boring” offense leads the nation in explosive plays over 50 yards and is loved by football purists. Wouldn’t mind Kentucky trying the option out in the future if the opportunity arises.

    • Yoda
      10:59 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

      Exactly. And the same offense used by Navy, Army, Air Force, etc that regularly leads to nation-leading rushing yards per game is boring? Also, these same military academies use this offense and not surprisingly, there are no post-game fights in the parking lot. All things being equal, maybe our fans are the ones who need to be educated on triple option and not get riled up about 100% legal cut blocks?

  2. goose2
    10:08 pm January 2, 2017 Permalink

    I enjoyed the watch party . I had no problem getting a seat when I needed one or drink from the bar. I dinned before I went because UK said there would be only lite appetizers. very impressed with River city brewing Co. The Everbank Stadium left much to be desired.

  3. cats904
    10:31 pm January 2, 2017 Permalink

    There are plenty of places they could have held the watch party that would have been way more suitable but for some reason they didn’t. Jacksonville is much much bigger than New Orleans and also bigger than Nashville. The infrastructure is there. It was just a very poor choice for the venue.

  4. Sentient Third Eye
    8:35 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

    When Georgia Tech uses cut blocks, which are legal if questionably ethical, to disguise chop blocks, which are neither legal nor ethical, that is as dirty as it gets.

  5. 7ukncaa
    8:53 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

    Disappointing show by the Athletic Dept. / Admin to ride the waive of momentum and support the fans that spent thousands to follow the CATS. Pep Rally was super well attended b/c it was the only thing going on. I can’t believe they did not have some alumni or coaches to fire up the crowd. I would have even taken Mitch and some ex basketball players. Anything to make it great instead of just good. Fans were ready to explode and all they had was the cheerleaders and band. The fans made it an awesome environment and then it was just stale.

    UK Alumni breakfast was awful. No atmosphere and the food was poor. No bacon or eggs but cold biscuits and fruit. $25 per person for coffee and fruit. Again there was not continuity or ex players etc. They had the radio show but did not have Matt Jones there. They could have simply put highlights of the season on a TV and it would have jazzed it up. Poor effort.

    UK football so rarely has times to capitalize on incredible momentum and UK wiffed on this one. Great fans traveling a lot of miles and spending a lot of money only to be presented bare minimum by the alumni and university. I was not there for the watch party but I am not surprised to hear it was also underwhelming.

  6. Laker Cat 18
    9:15 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

    1. Kash Daniel’s hit was a bit uncalled for. I believe it warranted a flag. I like Kash, but that was not a smart move.

    2. UK’s personnel is built for the Georgia Tech’s offense to be honest. The Jackets ran it very efficiently. Their offense looked a lot more polished than ours.

    3. I was very disappointed in the coaching decisions for the Cats. The 16th ranked rushing offense in the nation was held to just over 150 yards total. It was obvious we were very excited to be there, but not as excited to win it. Benny should have touched the ball a lot more than he did. They were catering to Boom way too much.

    4. The ACC has absolutely whipped the SEC this year in the bowl season. So much that I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see Clemson surprise some folks against Alabama in the championship. Alabama’s defense is great, but their offense is suspect at times. I think they were exposed a bit in certain areas in the Washington game. Clemson completely dismantled a pretty good Ohio State team. Their defense is stout, but their offense “can be” lethal. Hurts is good, but Watson is better. He should have been your Heisman.

    • Sentient Third Eye
      9:48 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

      Exposed? Alabama’s defense played Washington’s offense to a tie. The Alabama offense really only needed to produce a field goal to secure the win.

    • Laker Cat 18
      10:24 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

      Alabama’s offense was exposed. Their defense is LOADED with a capital D.

    9:27 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

    34 yard average for punts. Is this midddle school? The Washington punter ,vs Alabama was consistently kicking 60+ yards on almost every punt…clearly he needed to, based on their pinned-back field position. 34 yards? Please.

    Gran needs to pull all the stops for every game. Conservative calling will lose games. We have proved it for years. The offense against Louisville showcased what this team is capable of.

    I remain supportive and optimistic for the future.
    The corner has finally been turned but vestiges of “classic UK football” continue to plague an otherwise good team.

    • Sentient Third Eye
      9:50 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

      As ESPN commentator mentioned several times, UK suffered from a bit of “just glad to be here”. I don’t think we saw a lot of what the coaches wanted to see, at least not until the 4th quarter, when they finally got the 1st quarter game plan (airing it out) to work.

    • Laker Cat 18
      10:26 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

      That wasn’t the first quarter game plan. That was urgency. There was zero urgency to move the ball until we had out backs against the wall at the end.

  8. foamfinger
    9:59 am January 3, 2017 Permalink

    I absolutely love Stoops going off on officials and on Coach Johnson for no-calls/questionable calls. That is why the players fought for him and their fellow teammates after the bad start to the year. It was really them against the world.

  9. BluKudzu
    2:48 pm January 3, 2017 Permalink

    it appears the game was lost at the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball. Next year we should be better. We will need to be, the schedule is not going to get easier. I hope UK football builds a culture of winning, and I hope that game helps them to define what is needed to get there. Back for 2017. Go Cats.