For Kentucky Football, it’s all about streaks. Unfortunately, most of those streaks are ones that are not favorable for the Cats. Coach Mark Stoops promised he would change the game and change the perception and reality of Kentucky Football. To do that, these negative streaks must be ended, sooner rather than later. To that end, last weekend’s game against South Carolina was step 1 – our SEC road losing streak was halted. Up next is Stoops’ opportunity to finally stop the years of futility against the Florida Gators.
Ending the road losing streak was very important, make no mistake about that. However, I think it would be accurate to say that most of the BBN is more interested in finally defeating the Gators. After all, we haven’t beaten them since November 15, 1986. To put that in perspective, let’s take a brief look at how our world was back then:
Gas was 89-cents a gallon
Bacon was a mere $1.75 a pound (oh, for those days again!)
IBM unveiled their first laptop computer, the PC Convertible
Top Gun and Crocodile Dundee were 2 of the most popular movies
There was no social media, nor much of an internet for that matter. The protocol for email had just been defined.
Magnum P.I. was one of the top television shows
8 inch floppy disks were the storage media choice in the 80s
Yes, it’s been a long time since the Cats claimed a victory versus Florida on the gridiron, but it’s time for that streak to end. Here are the five keys I feel are essential for securing a Wildcat win on Saturday:
A strong start is a must. The Cats needs to score early and often. No lead is big enough to give fans a feeling of comfort. Kentucky Football history is not Mark Stoops’ history, nor is it the past of our current players. But the fans remember all too well those games where leads were squandered away, hopes dashed and losses mounted. If there were ever a time to run up a score, this would be the team deserving of it. We remember 65-0, 73-7, and 63-5. Forget about being respectful — if the opportunity exists to score another touchdown, don’t hold back.
Four quarters of stingy defense. The improvement seen on UK’s defense between weeks 1 and 2 was significant. We saw at South Carolina how dialed in our defensive players are when they are protecting the red zone. Josh Forrest, Chris Westry and Denzil Ware have all proven they are ready to make the big plays and they need to continue to do so. The return of Jason Hatcher is very timely and hopefully little rust remains on his game.
3rd quarter is critical. With all the positives on this Kentucky team, there is still a glaring issue that has occurred in both games this season. The beginning of the 2nd half has been a huge letdown. I think it is vital for the Cats to score their first possession of the 2nd half and set the tone. Know the opponent will make adjustments at halftime, and be ready to respond to those adjustments. Multiple 3 and outs are simply not acceptable in a game of this magnitude. Keep moving the chains and keep the defense fresh and rested.
Use all offensive weapons. The Cats have an exceptionally talented backfield and a nice group of talented receivers. Establish the running game early to open up the passing game. Yes, this is Football 101, but it works. The Gators seem to be vulnerable to giving up the big pass play this season, so airing it out is a necessity. Mix it up often and keep the Gators on their heels.
Fans need to support the team the entire game. It’s no secret that I was very disappointed at the season opener when significant numbers of the BBN left the game at halftime. Our team feeds off of the crowd’s energy and we must be there to provide that for them. Fans demanded better facilities and better players. We have both now, so let’s do our part and let our Wildcats know we are behind them and that we are indeed “All In.”
November 15, 1986 Photo: Charles Betram/Staff-LHL
I firmly believe Kentucky will win Saturday and, while it may seem unrealistic to some, I think it will be by a comfortable margin (my prediction is 38-20). Last season, the Cats were thisclose to ending this streak, and that was on the road and with fewer weapons. Everything I’ve seen so far this season has only strengthened my belief in this Kentucky team. At long last, it’s time for the streak to end and I am thrilled I will be in Commonwealth Stadium to watch this as it happens.