Before you go all Scrooge on us and gripe about how the Kentucky defense just wasn't up to the expected snuff this 2008 football season, time for a little dose of reality with your eggnog.
In 2006, Kentucky's defenders finished the season ranked 118th nationally in total defense out of, yikes, 119 teams.
In 2007, Kentucky's defenders finished the season ranked 67th in total defense out of 119 teams.
Now, fire up the drum roll, in 2008, Kentucky ranks 37th in total defense out of 119 teams.
"We've still got a lot of work to do to get (from) 37 to 1," said defensive coordinator Steve Brown on Tuesday.
To hear the Scrooges tell it, however, heading into Kentucky's Jan. 2 Liberty Bowl game with East Carolina, UK's "D" never quite lived up to the pre-season hype. It gave up 63 points to Florida — well not all 63, considering the Cats had back-to-back punts blocked deep in their territory — 42 to Georgia, made Vandy quarterback Chris Nickson look like Tim Tebow, and gave up 21 second-half points at Tennessee.
But in the defense of the defense, let us offer these:
■ Exhibit A, or nagging injuries. No, the defense didn't lose a Dicky Lyons or a Derrick Locke, but an assorted number of defenders lost key practice time to aches and pains, twists and turns, bumps and bruises.
"We had that run of high-ankle sprains," said Coach Rich Brooks on Tuesday, using the phrase as if high-ankle sprains were akin to a contagious rash.
But Brooks is also on the button. And now that the Cats have had a full month off to nurse their wounds, the thinking is the defense will be stronger, better, more like the unit that was stoning people, to use a Bill Curry phrase, back in September and early October.
■ And then there's Exhibit B, or the offense. For the most part, defenses don't operate on an island. It's a team game, you know. The defense helps the offense. The offense helps the defense. As for the latter, this year anyway, the defense didn't get much help.
The UK offense ended the regular season ranked 110th out of 119 teams. Second half of the season, it didn't just have a difficult time scoring points, it had a difficult time sustaining much beyond a three-and-out.
Thus, the defense was on the field for longer periods of time. More plays. More chances for mistakes. More chances for opponents' points.
Who knows whether the offensive snarls will be straightened out by the day after New Year's. But Brown does know one thing when it comes to the Liberty Bowl.
"We've got to tackle," he said. "When you look at the bowl games, the things that hurt defenses is bad tackling."
The reason for that? The large amount of open time since the last game, perhaps? So hard to simulate game tackling in practice? Both, possibly, said Brown. But he says it has more to do with being motivated and eager to play.
"Usually the higher the stakes, the higher the passion and the better the tackling," he said.
This Kentucky defense should be eager. It's the last college game for seniors Braxton Kelley, Myron Pryor, Ventrell Jenkins, Johnny Williams, Marcus McClinton, David Jones and Robbie McAtee. Juniors Trevard Lindley, Jeremy Jarmon and Micah Johnson have already indicated they will investigate the possibility of applying for the draft.
Plus, it has some Scrooges to set straight.
"I'm looking for us to go down there," Brown said, "and be as focused as we can be."