It still doesn’t feel real. From being ahead by double digits in the fourth quarter to a heartbreaking final few minutes, last night was tough. But for me, it’s all I’ve known. I am not 32 years old; I have never seen the Cats defeat the Gators. And that’s what makes this the hardest.
The classic “That’s So Kentucky Football” mantra has been long embedded in my vocabulary. I’ve heard it countless times and I’ll be honest: I’ve even said it more than I’d like to admit. But I hadn’t experienced the heartbreak that so many Kentucky football fans have felt over the course of a lifetime. Until last night.
I remember the amazing win over No. 1 LSU in 2007. I remember beating Steve Spurrier for the first time ever in 2010. And I most certainly remember where I was when Lamar Jackson fumbled and we beat Louisville.
But I remember the heartbreakers too. The demoralizing losses to Vandy or Tennessee, the embarrassing loss to Southern Miss, and the crushing defeats at the hands of the Cardinals. And now, the Florida heartbreakers.
Sure, a few years ago when the Gators got away with snapping after the clock expired, it was a tough loss because it shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. But it was nothing compared to last night.
Maybe it’s harder because I’m older and more invested, or maybe it’s because I’m a student at the University of Kentucky and felt the sadness of my peers on the eerily-quiet walk from the stadium to our homes. But maybe it’s just because I am young and optimistic. This year was our year. I’ve said it a few times, but this time I was confident, as I’m sure many of you were. We had a quarterback I trust; we had a coaching staff with experience and their own recruits; we had the new, multi-million dollar facilities; we had the motivation and the “hype.” But we also had the mistakes. Some people have endured 30 years of heartbreak, but I’ve had around 10. And last night was the worst.
I am now a part of the next generation of heartbroken Kentucky football fans. I’m in the club with those who continuously get their hopes up, just to have them chomped upon by the Gators. Some rivalries you’re born into — for instance, Kentucky vs. Louisville — but others take time to develop. While the other losses to Florida have stung, last night cemented the bitter attitude between young Kentucky fans and the blue and orange. And it won’t be fading any time soon.
But some things cannot be broken. I am still young and I am still optimistic. While dreams of going 6-0 are no longer in the realm of possibility, going 5-1 is still most certainly doable. A football program without the support of even their most loyal fans is no program I want to be a part of. So I’ll pick myself up, I’ll dust myself off, and I’ll be at Kroger Field next weekend to watch Kentucky fight for win number four. Because THAT is So Kentucky Football.