The University of Kentucky football team is 2-1 but judging from the vibe around the Wildcats, they might already be on life support when it comes to fan support.
Following a 41-7 loss to Florida last week in which the Cats fell behind 31-0 in the first quarter, Coach Rich Brooks had to deal with a caller to his radio show who questioned the progress of the program during his tenure despite three straight bowl victories. And message boards and reader comment pages have been overflowing with disenchanted fans.
When asked whether he thought fans were on the verge of jumping off the bandwagon, Brooks said, "I think a lot of them already have. Let's be honest. A lot of people just lurk in the darkness waiting for the first opportunity to pounce, and they're pouncing. So be it. There is no patience in society today. Fifteen minutes of shame can undo a lot of things that are pretty good. At least my shame was on the football field."
No. 3 Alabama is in town Saturday. Things don't get any easier after that with road trips to South Carolina and Auburn. If the Cats don't show improvement, those who haven't jumped off the bandwagon might start getting in position.
UK running back Derrick Locke said he doesn't blame the fans for being upset.
"Paying all that money to come to the games, coming early, celebrating, and for what?" Locke said. "To get a blowout like that in the first quarter? I'd be mad, too, if I paid my money. I understand where they're coming from."
Receiver Randall Cobb said UK "choked" against Florida.
"That's exactly what we did," Cobb said. "We had a great opportunity with Florida coming in as the top-ranked team in the nation and we just went out and choked. The first play of the game there was a lot of fumbling around and guys not knowing what's going on. It felt like a Pee Wee team out there. It was embarrassing."
Kentucky tried to regain its focus this week in practice. The coaches picked up the tempo and pitted the first-team offense and defense against each other more. It's the same blueprint UK used after a 49-0 whitewashing at LSU in 2006, and the Cats responded by winning five of their last six games.
"This week you could feel it," Locke said. "Practice was how it's supposed to be. Everybody going hard, hitting, I was like, 'OK this is fun.' We picked up the intensity. I think that's what we were lacking, that speed and intensity."
As for Alabama, this will be their first true road test. Coach Nick Saban said his team will have to play its "A" game in dealing with what figures to be a desperate Kentucky squad playing in front of 70,000-plus.
"The players have to know that they have to stay focused, keep their intensity, sense of urgency, discipline and execution when they are on the road because the momentum of the game is sometimes going to change in the other team's favor and they have to be able to overcome that," Saban said.
Brooks isn't worried about the tough road ahead. He's more concerned about showing the Commonwealth crowd that UK is better than it showed against Florida.
"They're all tough in the SEC," Brooks said. "The disappointment to me is how poorly we played last week. We need to correct that. I can't do anything about how the games are aligned and what's happening. I still have a lot of belief in this football team."