John Clay

Annual clunker leaves Cats at crossroads

John Clay
John Clay

There's been one a year.

At least, since Rich Brooks has been here.

In '03, there was a 27-17 loss at Vanderbilt. In '04, there was a 28-16 home-field shocker to Ohio. In '05, there was a 38-14 meltdown at Indiana. In '06, there was a 49-0 wipeout at Louisiana State. Even last year, there was an unexpected 31-14 drubbing by visiting Mississippi State.

At least once a year, the Kentucky football Wildcats string together four futile quarters of enough mental and physical mistakes to last an entire season.

Saturday in the tsunami at The Swamp, the Cats did all that and more, losing 63-5 to fifth-ranked Florida.

"Disaster," was among Brooks' post-game descriptions.

Ah, but even a 58-point loss counts as just one loss in the standings.

"We've got to put this behind us quickly," said Brooks.

Two years ago, after being smashed for 49 points by LSU, the Cats did just that, rebounding to win 34-31 at Mississippi State. That started a late-season surge that led to the Music City Bowl. And as luck would have it, a trip to Starkville is next on the agenda this time around.

But the rebound won't be so easy this time. With an off week in '06, the Cats had two weeks to get the LSU drubbing out of their bruised systems. There are only seven days between the Florida flogging and a match-up with Sylvester Croom's club this year.

Plus, Kentucky 2008 isn't Kentucky 2006. Back then, Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Wesley Woodyard, they were all juniors. They were maturing into their leadership roles. They had already learned a thing or two about pulling yourself up off the hash marks.

Now, quarterback Mike Hartline is a sophomore, quarterback/wideout Randall Cobb is a freshman. The defense is more experienced, but the defense isn't Kentucky's problem at present. Not only can't the offense put points on the board, it can't establish field position, or take time off the clock, all to the detriment of the entire team.

This 2008 Kentucky team isn't even the 2008 team of a month ago. Gone to knee injuries are two of its best playmakers in Derrick Locke and Dicky Lyons. The defense is battered, the product of too much time on the field.

We won't even get into the quarterback controversy, though most will. Even we supporters of the two-quarterback system must admit that Cobb was by far the more effective signal-caller in The Swamp. The Tennessee product might not have put UK in the end zone, but at least he got close.

It's ironic that shortly after Brooks uncharacteristically belly-ached about "the negativity," his team would give a performance worth being negative about.

Joke was Saturday that the Florida fans were leaving Florida Field early, but for an entirely different reason than those fair-weather UK fans departed Commonwealth Stadium the week before.

Truth is, that flogging at Florida is already old news. In the Rich Brooks Era, it's happened about once a year.

Question now: What are the Cats going to do about it?