It was a perfect autumn day with the sun shining brightly and only the tiniest bit of coolness in the air. Every available parking lot surrounding Kroger Field was filled long before noon and there may have been a record number of tailgate sites set up. This was perhaps the biggest day in Kentucky Football, at least in the last 20 years and 63,543 fans were on hand to witness it. It was the 9th game of the season and the Wildcats were, to everyone’s surprise, playing the Georgia Bulldogs to win the SEC East Division and go to the SEC Championship game.
The day started with great promise and an almost immeasurable amount of excitement, The Cat Walk was easily the largest and loudest I had ever witnessed. It just felt like this actually could be a magical day for Kentucky.
While the Cats held their own in the first half and went to the locker room down 14-3 (the same score as last week’s game versus Missouri), it didn’t take long for things to unravel in the 2nd half. A targeting call against Darius West, and several inexplicably missed tackles by what had been an exceptionally strong defense all season suddenly found the Cats trailing 28-3.
As some fans departed the stands, the Cats put together a 9-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 9-yard run by Benny Snell, Jr. into the end zone with Kentucky’s first touchdown of the game (3:45 remaining in the 3rd quarter) to bring UK within striking distance at 28-10. They followed up with holding the Dawgs to a field goal, once again extending Georgia’s lead to 31-10.
But just when you thought all hope was lost, Terry Wilson led his team on another 7-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a tipped-then-tipped-again pass to A.J. Rose, and the Cats were once again within 2 scores of UGA at 31-17. After stopping another Bulldogs’ drive and limiting them to another field goal, the Cats had about 3 1/2 minutes to pull off one more miracle.
There was no miracle this week, however. With a final score of Georgia 34, Kentucky 17, the end result was pretty much what almost everyone, the BBN included had predicted at the beginning of the season: a loss.
There were, however, some things that some fans did not predict. For instance, a team that “had no passing game” according to some folks, doubled the Dawgs in passing yards (226-113). A team some folks said “only has one receiving threat and that’s Bowden” boasted nine different players that caught passes (3 of those passes were to C.J. Conrad, for those keeping score on that stat). A defense that had not allowed more than 20 total points to any team on the season gave up 20 in the 2nd half alone to Georgia.
The ending was not what the Big Blue Nation had hoped for and had begun to believe was possible. The Bulldogs executed with precision, the Wildcats did not. Terry Wilson showed more improvement, but the defense discovered that Georgia has a complicated offense that executed to perfection. As Coach Mark Stoops said after the game, “We missed more tackles than I can remember. They made us miss.” The main focus for the team now is “not to let one loss turn into two.”
The Cats will travel to Tennessee next week and will look for their 8th win of the season as they close out conference play. For the disappointed fans, it must be emphasized that Kentucky can still have a 10-win season. Had you told the BBN at the beginning of the year this team would get double-digit wins, I think they would have been ecstatic. There’s no need to hang our heads and certainly no reason to give up on football.
There is still a ride to enjoy, BBN!
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