There are days in Kentucky where the fall weather is spectacular. There are days at Commonwealth Stadium that see a sold-out crowd energetically wills UK to a football victory. There are days where an undermanned Wildcat team rises up with just guts and courage to slay a ranked SEC opponent. There are days where a young fan attending their first game gets to leave the stadium after seeing the Big Blue come away with a big win. Sadly, this past Saturday in Lexington, only the fall weather was spectacular.
For that small sliver of UK football fandom – including me - that had still held out hope that a bowl game was still a remote possibility, that fantasy can now be officially put to bed. There is no need to worry about travel plans for December/January to follow the Cats to warmer climes. Ninth ranked Missouri easily dispatched the Cats Saturday afternoon 48-17.
Kentucky did show flashes of being competitive with the Tigers, who appear headed for the SEC championship game in only their second year in the conference. Tailoring the offense to suit Jalen Whitlow’s running ability, the Wildcats did a respectable job of moving the football, but were all too often unable to come up with big plays when they really needed them. Whitlow was sacked 7 times. For a quarterback who earned the job with his ability to extend plays, that negative yardage makes it very difficult for an offense that needs to stay ahead of the chains to be effective.
Kentucky had no answer on defense for Dorial Green-Beckham, Missouri’s 6’6” wide-out who had a series of spectacular catches leaping above UK’s smaller defensive backs. His four touchdowns catches had people comparing him to Megatron.
UK’s special teams also had a day that they would like to forget. Shanked punt, blocked punt, failure to field a Tiger punt, and some long kickoff returns that put old Mizzou in great field position did nothing to help the Kentucky cause. There is such a small margin of error for UK to get SEC football wins that those types of mistakes spell doom for the Cats.
With three games remaining, Kentucky coaches are going back to work to try and build for next season. After being winless in the conference last season, a SEC victory or victories against Vanderbilt, Georgia, and/or Tennessee would be a bright spot to build on for the Mark Stoops era. To secure some wins in the remainder of the season, UK must put together a game where offense, defense and special teams all play well on the same day.
At the post-game press conference, coach Stoops seemed unbowed by the current loses and said he is determined to keep working to improve his football program. With a highly ranked recruiting class on the way, millions of dollars to be spent on stadium renovations, and a bunch of young players getting their trials by fire; the future should bode of better days ahead for Kentucky football.
Maybe, just maybe, in the not too distant future, there will be days when an SEC foe comes to town with the outcome of the game to decide who will advance to the SEC championship game and a possible shot at the national title.
Kentucky football playing for a national championship, what a day that would be!