I was so excited to write this article, friends. It was going to be magical, my Shakespearian proclamation that Kentucky football had finally turned the proverbial corner by toppling traditional college football powerhouse Florida in front of 62,000 rabid Wildcat fans, each and every one frothing at the mouth that comes with mercifully ending the longest losing streak in college football. I even begged my editor Melissa, at TOPS in Lexington Magazine – and the cheese to my macaroni – for permission to wait until after the game, one I presumed would finally be a victory. Being the awesome woman she is, she granted my wish.
But I was wrong. So very, very wrong. We’re still not there. Yet.
It’s understandable, the anxiety Big Blue Nation has about its football team. The program finally has all the building blocks assembled for a foundation of future greatness. We have the facilities, we have the coaches, we have the recruiters, and for the first time in my lifetime, we are getting SEC caliber players at every turn to commit to Mark Stoops and his vision. We’ve waited decades for Kentucky football to become a formidable, respected member of the SEC football fraternity. Already high expectations went meteoric after knocking off South Carolina in Columbia. Then, that meteor crashed back to earth against the Gators.
I still feel good about this season and Kentucky’s prospects for a bowl game. UK still has a great shot to come out of September 3-1 overall with a 2-1 SEC record if the Wildcats can solve the Missouri Tigers in Lexington (more on that below). But with that optimism comes a few gray clouds in the horizon, hovering over us as the season rolls along. Let’s have a reality check.
Kentucky is very close to having the dreaded quarterback controversy. No one touted Patrick Towles more than me. I still have confidence in his experience and his abilities, but his performance against the Gators gave the Drew Barker fans the opportunity to express themselves. Towles is still having accuracy issues and nothing is more important to Shannon Dawson’s offense than an accurate quarterback. After Florida, I’m afraid the firm grip Towles had as QB 1 got looser. A lot looser.
I have all the faith in the world that Mark Stoops will play whichever quarterback puts Kentucky in the best position to win football games. Making the tough calls is why Coach Stoops is the head coach. If he believes Patrick Towles is still his guy, Stoops will give him the nod. If not, I don’t believe he would hesitate to put in the ballyhooed redshirt freshman Barker.
New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson’s play calling is driving me nuts. I love Kentucky stretching the field and going for the big play. UK has the talent at the skill positions to do that. I hate the fact that Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, and Helen Keller could’ve seen Kentucky was going to run the ball repeatedly against Florida. There was no creativity. As of this writing, Kentucky hasn’t scored a touchdown in six quarters. That’s not going to cut it.
This is Kentucky’s best backfield since Marc Logan and Mark Higgs. The combination of Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp, and Mikel Horton is lethal. Each bring a unique element and talent trait to the running back position. Kentucky undoubtedly has an SEC-level running back corps for the first time, well, since before the internet became a thing.
The Missouri game now becomes the biggest game on the schedule. Win, and the Wildcats are smack dab in the middle of the SEC East race. Lose, and the Wildcats will be climbing out of the hole to be contenders with road games at Mississippi State and Georgia looming large around the corner. While Missouri isn’t Florida, a Kentucky victory would be huge for the program.
My fantasy football team sucks. The Drew Tang Clan is 0-2. CJ Anderson, you are killing me.
The new Commonwealth Stadium rules. So, this is what an SEC atmosphere feels like. In 39 years, I’ve never seen a better turnout for a Kentucky football game than what I saw against Florida. Keep bringing it, Big Blue Nation.
I will never pick Kentucky to beat Florida again. Ever. In fact, I will approach every preseason prediction calling Kentucky 0-1 out of the gate. At this point, I don’t think Kentucky will ever get over the hump.
Remember, there is tons of football left. Keep the faith.