Blue Sunday: The Morning After

My favorite pre-game take on the Governor’s Cup battle came from a rabbi at one of the local synagogues. Yesterday was Rosh Hashonah, the first full day of the Jewish High Holidays. Kidding both Cardinal and Cat fans in his congregation, he mentioned how both have always wanted their teams to play on New Year’s Day, but who’d have figured, he asked rhetorically, that it would be the Jewish New Year? Lemme hear some shofar, please!

And there were more than a few wags pointing out before kickoff how Mitch Barnhart undermined his Wildcats by moving the game to Week Three. How easily might UK have won had this been the opening game, when it clearly had a superior team?

As for the aftermath of the game, a gutty UK win despite trying to hand it to the visitors on a Big Blue platter, there are two issues for U of L fans: 1) Has U of L improved, and 2) Were there any signs that Kragthorpe has the team turning the corner toward eventual success?

It is clear that Louisville was an improved team yesterday. Hell, they probably have better players at the skill positions and should have won the game. Justin Burke, Scott Long, Victor Anderson and Doug Beaumont are all the equal or better than their UK counterparts. Where Kentucky is clearly superior is on the offensive and defensive lines. U of L didn’t come close to a sack, or to dominating the run game when it had the ball.

U of L was ready and focused and played an inspired game.

The problem comes with perspective. UK will be nip and tuck for .500 this year. What Rich Brooks does is amazing with the talent he gets. But one must never confuse the Wildcats with a really good football team. So U of L should be proud they played their biggest rival tough, but understand this wasn’t one of the nation’s better squads that beat them.

One guy’s take is this: There was nothing apparent yesterday to indicate that Steve Kragthorpe will ever be able to lead this team back to the upper echelon. Which is where it was when he arrived. His offense is pedestrian. His in-game decision making is questionable. The number of delay penalties and misuse of timeouts because of slow play calling indicates a lack of organization that has been apparent since his first game as Louisville coach. His kickoff team made two horrible gaffes in a row, resulting in a UK TD. (And while it is not directly indicated by yesterday’s loss, his recruiting remains for the most part run of the mill; his ability to coach ‘em up yet to be seen.)

The coach was pissed after game, losing his religion in his press conference, lashing out at the media for no apparent reason and responding curtly to the questions asked. Well, good for him. That kind of passion is necessary to develop a winner. Problem is he hasn’t displayed the other necessary characteristics that also must be present for ongoing success.

And so it goes. The Cards almost gave their fans something to smile about. But they didn’t. U of L got the ball three times in the 3d quarter inside UK territory, had big gains on the first plays of the drives and came away with but 6 points. That’s some sorry offensive football.

With a daunting task coming up this week at Utah, the hand wringing will continue. Fans will wonder if the improvement shown is to the level Tom Jurich is looking for to keep this coach that many in the fan base have already given up on?

Those looking for just some hint of resolution to the Kragthorpe quandary woke up this morning with the same queasy stomach they’ve had since he arrived.

– Seedy K

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