John Clay: UK football's ugly season just got a lot uglier

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 23, 2013 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

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

    TV: ESPNU

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

ATHENS, Ga. — In a football season where the silver lining has been that Kentucky has, at least, been competitive for the most part, Saturday night Mark Stoops' Cats were anything but.

The Cats played their 15th consecutive SEC game without a win.

The Georgia Bulldogs played name-your-score.

Final: Georgia 59, Kentucky 17.

It was as if suddenly the thin thread barely holding this undermanned band of Cats together unraveled and the whole thing just fell completely apart.

For starters, it took Georgia 64 seconds to score its first touchdown. By halftime, the Bulldogs had scored four more.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, a record-setting senior playing in his final home game, threw four touchdown passes in the first 17 minutes before leaving the game with a left knee injury late in the second quarter. He didn't return.

It didn't make a bit of difference. New Georgia quarterback, same Georgia result.

Murray's backup, junior Hutson Mason, came in. And on his first possession, threw another touchdown pass, a 24-yarder to running back Todd Gurley. By the end of the third quarter, Mason had completed nine of 12 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown.

In the second half, Kentucky lost 18 yards on its first play. Georgia scored soon after.

On the first play of its second series, Kentucky fumbled the football away. Georgia scored (very soon) after.

There's not any real reason to continue the gory details, is there?

If Georgia was the hammer, however, Kentucky had to know it was going to be the nail.

A team of insufficient talent even when at full-strength, the week's trio of suspensions left the Cats particularly short-handed.

The Cats were playing without a starting wide receiver in Demarco Robinson, both starting cornerbacks in Cody Quinn and Nate Willis, and a key defensive reserve in Jason Hatcher. With the exception of Willis, suspensions accounted for all the absences.

Meanwhile, Georgia entered off the crushing heartbreak of last week's 43-38 loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs had rallied from a 20-point deficit to take the lead, only to bat a potential interception into the air and eventually into the hands of an Auburn receiver for a 73-yard touchdown.

In an injury-riddled season, it was the most painful experience of the Georgia season.

Saturday night was also Georgia's Senior Night, however, and the Dawgs shook off last week's disappointment for this week's celebration.

Facing a UK secondary without its two starting corners, Murray didn't disappoint. He completed 13 of 15 passes for 137 yards and three touchdowns. That was in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, on the other side, UK starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow was injured on the team's fourth offensive snap. From there, the snowball kept rolling, growing larger as it moved.

Where do Stoops and the Cats go from here? They have one game left, Saturday's season-finale against Tennessee at Commonwealth Stadium.

In actuality, next season has already begun. Stoops said this week he wants to get started right away on weight training.

Even we in the media have taken to asking plenty of questions about the development of redshirts, adjusted needs in recruiting, what changes Stoops might make in off-season conditioning.

From now until February, Stoops has to hold on to the commitments he has gained to this point, the ones that provide much of the hope for the future.

As for the present, it's not so precious. Saturday, Kentucky played like a team playing out the string, which is something we hadn't seen to this point.

The hope has to be that sometimes you have to reach the bottom before you start the climb back up.

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

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service