On Wednesday, I wrote, “U of L will prevail in a game that will be more competitive than competent.” You can look it up.
Frankly it was a confident prediction. As I lumbered out of Papa J’s last week after the Cards lost to FIU, the feeling that Louisville would beat UK came over me like a warm glow. (Okay, it wasn’t exactly that poetic, but it was a palpable feeling.) Given the state of Cardinal football, losing to FIU didn’t seem that damnable. The Floridians, while not SEC quality, are a better than average team. (Yesterday they conquered Central Florida to go 3-0. And UK isn’t SEC quality either.)
The Cards, despite the L, improved significantly over the previous week’s performance against Murray State. Charlie Strong and his staff are a driven gang. They have the will to succeed.
Down Lexington way, I’m not so sure. I’m rooting for Joker Phillips. But, to be honest, he displayed little as offensive coordinator, and even less as head coach, to show that’s he’s up to the Herculean task of making UK a viable football power. While they were 2-0 before last night, they looked worse than U of L, and against a much weaker second game opponent.
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The game certainly was indeed more competitive than competent. Not that it took inordinate perception beforehand to figure that’s how it would play out.
UK rushed 32 times for a grand total of 35 yards. That’s Atherton H.S. territory, football fans. As battered as U of L’s offensive line has been, UK’s is worse. They couldn’t open holes. They six sacks.
Kentucky couldn’t close on too many drives in the first half. They seemed to dominate the first quarter, yet trailed 3-7 when it ended.
Louisville was far from perfect in victory. They were penalized 83 yards. Several of the infractions could have cost them the game. Roughing flags against Dexter Heyman and William Savoy were especially needless. False starts by Hector Hernandez showed he’s still got much room for improvement. A hand to the face penalty on Adrian Bushell on UK’s last drive. Hakeem Smith’s interference in the end zone, giving UK new life on its last scoring drive.
Scott Radcliffe dropped what should have been a sure TD pass.
Even the zebras made a mighty blunder. Shouldn’t UK have been penalized on that whistle from the stands play?
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But the Cardinals did do a lot more right than the Wildcats.
Teddy Bridgewater showed unexpected presence in his first extended action in his first game away from home. 10/18 in the air and two marvelous TD tosses. His throw to Radcliffe was also right on the mark. He is The Future, and the future is closer to now than we might have thought.
Dominique Brown emerged as a real offensive threat.
The D Line dominated.
The D secondary gave up no long balls. Kentucky’s big gainers were on the screens one would expect against Louisville’s aggressive, gambling defense.
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I am loathe is give credit to my friend David, with whom I watched the game with others. But, in an unexpected turn, he actually made two really astute observations last night. He asked if I was going to give him his due today. So I shall.
He railed against Louisville’s use of prevent D at the end of the first half, after the Cards had gone up 14-3. He was absolutely correct. It allowed UK some hope heading to the locker room, as the Cats drove down the field, cutting the deficit to four.
He was right again at the end of the game, with the Cards celebrating on the sideline, the W virtually assured when Morgan Newton’s last toss sailed out of bounds, and U of L needed to just to take a knee to close the deal. He said Strong should put Will Stein in the game to take the snap, even though he’d been sidelined since early in the 2d quarter with a shoulder injury.
“How stupid,” thought and said I, “why put in a guy who is hurt?”
Charlie Strong agreed with David. It was obviously the call.
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Where do the teams go from here?
For Kentucky, it appears all downhill.
Up next are Florida, LSU and South Carolina. Which puts the Cats 2-4 at their mid-season breather with Jacksonville State. The only arguable “sure win” after that is Ole Miss. (Former Cardinal Zack Stoudt threw it 69 times in the Rebs’ 7-30 L to Vandy yesterday. Five of them were completed to Commodores.) A final 4-8 record is eminently possible.
With a week off, U of L’s future remains a question mark. (Both on the field and off.) While beating UK, its biggest rival, is sweet, a good football team it does not make. Kentucky simply is not much.
Who knows what’s going to happen in the squiggly Big East? Carolina isn’t as shaky as it seemed it might be with the off season turmoil.
6-6 is all this edition of the Cards can legitimately aspire to. If Louisville gets there, it will have been a truly successful campaign.
The future remains bright for U of L. Hopefully it will be in a conference that plays football that matters.
– Seedy K