Sports

Football fans read too much into one game

John Clay
John Clay

It's the way of the modern fan.

After Kentucky beat Louisville 31-27 two weeks back, fans regarded Rich Brooks as the coach with three straight bowl wins and three straight triumphs over the school's archrival.

But after Kentucky was crushed 41-7 by Florida last Saturday, in fans' eyes, Brooks was suddenly the coach 1-24 against SEC East foes not named Vanderbilt, a coach in need of a rocking chair back in Oregon.

Message to fans: Just chill.

If we've learned anything less than a month into this college football season, it's that no one game, no one performance, should be judged in and of itself.

Examples:

Opening weekend, Iowa needed two blocked field goals in the final seconds to hold off FCS team Northern Iowa 17-16, inspiring talk that Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz might be on thinning ice. Three weeks later, Iowa visited Happy Valley and shocked fifth-ranked Penn State 21-10.

Two weeks ago, Florida State's 54-28 blistering of BYU in Provo, Utah, produced hosannas that Bobby Bowden, "Hot Bobby," was finally back. Last Saturday, the Seminoles returned home and lost 17-7 to a South Florida team that started its backup quarterback.

Aside from the post-game histrionics, Oregon appeared punchless in that 19-8 loss at Boise State on Sept. 4. Last Saturday, the Ducks drilled sixth-ranked California 42-3.

Mighty USC beat Ohio State 18-15 in Columbus one week, then lost at Washington (0-12 last season) the next.

In the SEC, South Carolina gave up 41 points in a loss to Georgia, then held Mississippi to 10 in a win over the Rebels. Florida appeared vulnerable during an uninspiring 23-13 win over Tennessee, then invincible on the way to a 31-0 first-quarter lead over Kentucky in Commonwealth.

In other words, individual Saturdays are just that, individual Saturdays.

It's the collection of Saturdays that matter, what a team does over the long haul, week in and week out.

It isn't just college football, either. The Bengals had to endure "Same ol' Bungles" after losing on an 87-yard touchdown pass to Denver 12-7 the opening NFL Sunday. Now the Queen City has erupted into a chorus of "Who Dey" after Marvin Lewis' club drove 71 yards in 16 plays over the game's final five minutes to beat Pittsburgh 23-20.

This we know: Kentucky can't beat Florida. The Cats haven't defeated the Gators since 1986. And the gap doesn't appear to be narrowing. Last year, it was 63-5 in Gainesville. This year, it was 41-7 in Lexington. Take your pick.

But in the past 12 years of that losing streak to the Gators, Kentucky has somehow managed to reach five bowl games and, under Brooks, string together three straight bowl victories and three straight winning seasons.

There's still reason to believe that can happen again. Beating third-ranked Alabama this Saturday would be a monumental feat, though the guess here is UK will be more competitive this Saturday than it was last. Winning either of the following pair of road games, at South Carolina and at Auburn, will be no easy feat, either.

But the one thing we know from college football 2009 is that we don't know what's going to happen from one week to the next, much less several weeks down the line.

Don't get hung up on one game.

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