It’s been preached all week, we all know the result, and we all want to get past it.
But what will it take for fans to have a “Men In Black” moment where their memories of last weekend’s abysmal second half completely disappear?
If the Cats come away with a win, if they manage to head to the Swamp and take down the Gators for the first time in 30 years, does last week magically vanish?
State Street would be set on fire and the entire city of Lexington would be torn to the ground. Crazy celebrations aside, the slightest bit of confidence would be restored in the fan base to allow for the stands to be somewhat full next Saturday against New Mexico State, hopefully unleashing a domino effect of optimism for the immediate future.
Say Kentucky still takes the loss, but they’re competitive, remain strong and full of heart for all four quarters, and show a competent run defense against a legitimate SEC opponent. Is faith restored again, or does an 0-2 start to the season sink the ship?
On the complete flip side of things, what happens if the Wildcats get their heads caved in by a stout Florida defense and the UK defense manages to turn Gator RBs Jordan Scarlett and Mark Thompson into human wrecking balls? Would all hope for the remainder of the season be lost? Or is this result something fans expect to see come kickoff, easing the pain of what would be UK’s 30th consecutive loss to Florida?
Reports say team morale is ridiculously high right now, players are getting healthy again, Florida is home for a good chunk of Cats, and the entire team has a chip on their shoulder to make a statement following last week’s embarrassment.
When you dive into team specifics, UK’s offense led the SEC in multiple categories last week, despite nearly an entire second half of little to no production. Drew Barker led the SEC in passing yards with 323, Garrett “Juice” Johnson led in receiving yards with 143, and UK tied for the most 40+ yard plays with four. UK has a stacked receiving corps, and the talent gap with Florida’s star-studded secondary is rapidly closing in. Florida’s offensive line struggled against the UMass front seven last weekend, which certainly bodes well for Kentucky’s thin defensive line. There are more than a few positives to take account of, but there may be just as many negatives.
If you look at the yards per attempt on the ground last week against Southern Miss, the numbers are almost identical, SMU rushing for 3.9 yards per carry and UK with 3.8 yards per carry. The difference between the two? UK rushed the ball just 25 times for 96 yards compared to SMU’s 68 for 262 yards, which is unacceptable on both sides. A huge portion of the Golden Eagles’ carries came in the second half, where the Wildcats couldn’t do anything to stop the attack. Nearly every carry, it seemed, the Cats gave up four or five yards, chipping away at the play clock and inching their way to the goal line on almost every drive in the second half.
On offense, “Boom” Williams is an elite SEC back, and he needs to be used as such. Just 13 carries is inexcusable, especially when he was averaging 7.2 YPC on an offense that was struggling to do much of anything in the second half. Jojo Kemp has to step up and be the latter half of a two-headed monster, gaining seven yards on five carries doesn’t cut it. If Kemp can’t contribute, Mikel Horton and Siheim King must get reps today to match the rushing attack of the Florida Gators.
56 total yards in the second half is sad, but just two first downs and three turnovers is sickening. If UK even dreams of pulling off the upset today, they have to remain consistent through all four quarters.
Will a tight halftime score force Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw to come out guns a-blazing? I sure hope so. A vanilla second half offense and zero run defense equates to a loss, simple as that.
My pregame take:
Almost no one is giving the Cats a chance in this game. Media, analysts, fans, no one. Florida saw last week’s tape (or lack-thereof according to Jim McElwain), they hear the fans talking down on Kentucky, and they see 29 straight victories.
Kentucky wants to restore a fan base with little faith, get revenge on back to back heart-wrenching losses against the Gators, and prove themselves as a bowl team, especially after last week.
- Drew Barker stays consistent, throws for 260 yards and three touchdowns.
- UK’s stable of running backs average 4.5 yards per carry and put up 170 total yards.
- The front seven manages to put pressure on Del Rio and force two turnovers.
- Wildcat secondary gives up no huge home run balls.
- The run defense gives up under 150 yards on the ground.
- Special teams make no ridiculous errors, punts average 45 yards and they drill the necessary field goals.
Cats end the streak. 27-20.