UK Football

John Clay: Storm clouds ahead for UK football

John Clay
John Clay

If football fortunes were expressed in meteorological terms, Bill Meck, T.G. Shuck and Jennifer Schack would all be breaking into your regularly scheduled programming right about now.

They would be pointing to Doppler radar images of darkening red and green circles, of flashing electric yellow globs, of ominous circular formations approaching in the shapes of Gators, Tigers and Gamecocks.

They would be instructing Kentucky football fans to D-U-C-K.

D — Go Down to the lowest level

U — Get Under something

C — Cover your head

K — Keep in shelter until the storm has passed

Projected date the storm will pass: Around about Oct. 9, once the football Cats return from Columbia, S.C.

That would be just in time for basketball's Big Blue Madness, by the way.

Friday night we all went to bed holding what we believed to be certain unalienable truths. Pittsburgh and Syracuse were bedrocks of the Big East. Auburn might never lose a football game.

And even though Kentucky had not played particularly well the first two games, it would have enough to beat visiting Louisville for the fifth consecutive year.

Sunday morning we woke up to a brave new world.

It's not a good one, as far as your local grumbling Kentucky football is concerned. This was a fan base unwilling to give second-year head coach Joker Phillips a honeymoon in the first place. Now it seems ready for marriage counseling.

In its long-suffering way of thinking, the sound it is hearing in its head is beep-beep-beep.

It's the sound of a program in reverse.

UK has gone from 8-5 in 2007, to 7-6 in 2008 and 2009, to 6-7 last year, to a home loss to a Louisville team that was beaten by Florida International the week before.

(By the way, that was Florida International's first win ever over a BCS conference school.)

What should be most troubling to Joker Phillips, Mitch Barnhart and Company is that for all the talk of UK's stellar freshmen class, the Cats lost to a Louisville team that played a true freshman (Teddy Bridgewater) at quarterback for three quarters.

As well, U of L's leading rusher (Dominique Brown) was a sophomore. It got a touchdown catch from a true freshman (DaVante Parker). It started two freshmen (John Miller and redshirt Jake Smith) on the offensive line.

Bryan Station alum Roy Philon was surely the defensive player of the game Saturday night with 21/2 sacks and 11/2 tackles for loss. The Louisville defensive tackle is a sophomore.

The brand new video boards at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday showed highlights of Kentucky's win over No. 1 LSU in 2007. That was to be the corner-turning moment in the Rich Brooks Era, a time when the Cats climbed into the AP top 10, when ESPN's College GameDay came for a visit, when it appeared Kentucky football had finally arrived.

Since beating LSU, the Cats are 24-24.

It's likely to be 24-27 after the next three weeks.

Kentucky hasn't beaten Florida since 1986. LSU may be the best team in the country this year, and that game is in Baton Rouge. South Carolina is also unbeaten, winners of the SEC East a year ago, and the bearers of a grudge thanks to last year's loss to UK at Commonwealth.

"The defenses are only going to continue to get bigger, faster and stronger," said UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders on Saturday night. "There are things we need to get fixed."

Or fixed down.

The meteorologists might point to an approaching hurricane. But for Kentucky football fans, the real storm may already be here.

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