John Clay: Picking up the pieces from UK-Arkansas debacle

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistOctober 14, 2012 

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Joker Phillips reacts to a play during the second half of a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark., on Oct.. 13, 2012. Photo by Beth Hall

BETH HALL

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

Some random notes on Saturday's 49-7 fiasco in Fayetteville, Ark.

■ My youngest son messaged me to ask how miserable the UK-Arkansas game was.

Between the game and the weather, extremely miserable. I have covered a couple of weather-delay games before, both UK-Louisville, the first also involving John L. Smith back in 2000.

The second involved Bobby Petrino in 2004.

What is it about those guys and storms?

But in my 25 years of covering UK football as beat writer or columnist, I had never covered a weather-shortened game until this one.

■ The 49-7 romp apparently was fun for Arkansas.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson said afterward, "We had a lot of guys making plays, which is fun to watch."

■ Arkansas led 42-0 at the half. The last time the Razorbacks led a BCS school by 42 points at the half was 1978, when the Razorbacks were on top of Texas Tech 42-0.

Arkansas won that game 49-7 as well, but without a weather delay.

■ The 42-point win was the second-largest SEC win since Arkansas joined the league in 1992.

The Razorbacks beat Mississippi State 52-6 in 2003. They whipped Tennessee 49-7 last year.

And did I mention that last night they didn't play the fourth quarter on Saturday?

■ The thing about a weather-shortened game — it was called with 5:08 left in the third quarter — is that it skews all the statistics for the numbers guys.

For instance, Arkansas gained 539 yards through 40 minutes, which is what will be listed in the record books. But there were 20 minutes left to play.

It's sort of like that 71-63 seven-overtime Kentucky-Arkansas game back in the Rich Brooks-Houston Nutt Era, which the Razorbacks won. You need to throw out all the stats of that game as well.

■ Wilson completed 23 of 31 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns before exiting early in the third quarter. Wilson did not throw a TD pass last week at Auburn, just the second time in his 18 starts he failed to throw a scoring pass.

He made up for that early Saturday, hitting freshman running back Jonathan Williams for a 74-yard TD on the Razorbacks' very first play.

■ Kentucky trailed an eye-popping 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, and the Cats have now gone 20 consecutive games without an offensive touchdown in the first 15 minutes. That's mind-boggling.

■ Yes, the Cats are riddled with injuries and youth, but they were not anywhere close to competitive on Saturday night.

Not in any phase of the game. Well, except punting.

■ True freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow was just 2-for-10 for 83 yards through the air. Take away his 61-yard TD pass to LaRod King, and the freshman was 1-for-9 for 22 yards. This is a kid who shared quarterback duties on his high school team last year.

■ So if Patrick Towles can come back from his ankle injury, do you play him? There are five games left in this lost season. Do you ruin any chance of applying for a medical redshirt?

I say no.

■ Arkansas had gained 307 yards by the end of the first quarter. At that pace, the Razorbacks would have gained 1,228 total yards.

■ UK defensive coordinator Rick Minter: "We got a total beating down today."

■ Former UK coach Rich Brooks Tweeted Saturday night, "My phone is going dead. The Cats are as well. Hang in there."

You have to wonder what Brooks is thinking. He either initiated or approved the Joker Phillips head-coach-in-waiting plan, after all.

But then Phillips replaced some of Brooks' longtime assistants. One was Steve Brown as defensive coordinator. For all the complaints about Brown's vanilla schemes, the Cats have done no better under Minter.

You can make the case that they have been worse.

■ I don't envy Mitch Barnhart. I know the UK athletics director wants to keep Phillips, but that's going to be a lot tougher stand to take after Saturday night's debacle.

If Barnhart can stand up in the face of what would be overwhelming criticism and say he is committed to Phillips, more power to him.

But that's going to be difficult to do.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com

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