By Ira D. Combs Syndicated Columnist
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
The Kentucky Wildcats football team and its rookie head coach Joker Phillips ended it's regular season Saturday afternoon in Knoxville with a very disappointing performance marred by their own unforced mistakes on both sides of the ball in all possible categories (fumbling away touchdowns at the goal line, overthrowing wide open receivers, special teams breakdowns in punt and kickoff coverage). Oh yes, let's not leave out the defense and their contributions to the days ugliness, especially the defensive backfield where Tennessee's receivers continuously ran by UK's safeties and cornerbacks. When the clock finally struck 0:00, it read Tennessee-24 Kentucky-14.
It could have easily read Kentucky-35 Tennessee-24, but that's the old would've, could've, should've game.
You could say that strange mojo that has infested the mindset of the UK football player for the last 20 plus years when it lines up every Thanksgiving holiday season across from the Rocky Toppers is still alive and well.
The entire days efforts by UK on many occasions mirrored the Ole Miss and Georgia losses when UK constantly shot itself in the foot and blew opportunities to seal the win as well by being its own worst enemy.
The regular season has ended in very mediocre fashion at 6-6 when in all reality it should have been a break thru year of 9-3.
What concerns me as I write this column, is I wonder if all that work that Rich Brooks done the past four years in breaking that longtime negative mindset with the players and fan base isn't making a U-Turn and looking UK squarely back in the eye once again. Realistically, looking back on the season UK was one sprained ankle (Marcus Lattimore - South Carolina) away from sitting at 5-7 today with the bowl streak broken.
To prove me wrong, UK football now has one more opportunity to keep the one positive streak they have in their corner alive, which is not having a losing season for five consecutive years now if they win their bowl game during the holiday season. This is all based on the fact that the SEC will have 2 teams in the 10 team BCS scenario which is pretty much assured with Auburn, LSU, Arkansas all having been ranked in or close to the Top 10 for several weeks now. That leaves either 7 or 8 bowl eligible teams for the SEC to tie into the nine bowl bids it has.
The educated guess has UK playing in the BBVA Compass Bowl (old PapaJohns.com Bowl) in Birmingham on Saturday, January 8, 2011 against either Syracuse or South Florida of the Big East.
Hey, don't be too critical or think UK is too "Big Time" for this bowl scenario because Alabama and South Carolina both accepted bids at 6-6 to play in this bowl in recent years. The Big Blue Nation needs to accept the bid in a gracious and grateful manner and use the opportunity to right the ship in the win column and use the extremely valuable practice time to get either Morgan Newton or Ryan Mossakowski ready for 2011.
In the meantime, I strongly suggest that the entire Commonwealth of Kentucky beg, tweet, Twitter, Facebook, or simply look to the heavens and pray that Randall Cobb decides his senior year is more important to him and UK football than it is to the NFL. Hopefully, he will consult some of his former teammates who are already there, and I think he will because the glitz and glamour of the NFL isn't all it's cracked up to be. Plus, Cobb's receiver and multi-purpose skills will be focused on much more on the national scene next year which should make his draft position more attractive in 2012 and his pockets much deeper with coins from those deep NFL vaults.
Cal's Cats Turning Some Heads
Coach Cal and his Thin Ten Wildcats left the Joe Craft Center eleven days ago heading west on a four-game road trip to Oregon and then onto Maui, Hawaii telling the media before departure they hoped to find out their weaknesses and come up with a fix-it plan to counter them with.
For the first three games on the trip it appeared this team may not have the shortcomings Calipari and others thought.
Enter UConn and the river of problems for this team flowed profusely and quickly and snowballed so quickly that Coach Cal took a Billy Gillispie type beating by 20 points because of one eight minute span in the first half.
Coach Cal did get one already known problem confirmed and two others revealed:
#1 Confirmed problem
- Freshman stars Brandon Knight and Terrence Jones both must be on the floor 34-36 minutes for the Cats to beat a quality opponent.
#2 Revealed problem
- Cal may have to roll the dice occasionally with this team concerning his hard stand on not playing players in the first half after they receive their second foul.
#3 Revealed problem
- Pull the zone defense play book out of the closet it will be needed on occasions this season maybe even more than he would like.
Now the Cats return this week to Rupp Arena for a token home game with Boston University (Tues.) 7:00 Fox Sports South and Big Blue Sports Network and then head to Chapel Hill, North Carolina for it's annual battle with the Tar Heels on Saturday at Noon on CBS.
Going into the season most UK basketball followers put the North Carolina game in the loss column thinking the Carolina talent pool and the Dean Smith Center experience would be too much for UK's young and slim roster to overcome. Then hocus-pocus ole' Roy Williams gets nailed a couple times out of the gate and UK opens a few eyes with it’s play against some quality competition in it's first five games and it appears this could be a more realistic opportunity at a quality road win than originally thought.
Hope they're right but this is the young Kiddie Cats first opportunity in front of a true hostile crowd. I'm looking forward to watching the Terrence Jones-Harrison Barnes matchup in particular. If nothing else this game could provide the young Cats with a real test in preparation for what's coming December 31st at the KFC Yum Center in Louisville. A strong performance by UK Saturday could bode well for the other two annual showdowns with the Cards and Hoosiers later in the month.
Updates on other UK Items of Interest:
Quick trivia question, who has the highest ranking of any NCAA sport on campus at UK presently?
None other than Matthew Mitchell's UK Women's Hoops team holding presently at #9. Mitchell's hard charging program has trumped last year's historic Elite Eight run by opening up this season with a 5-0 record including an impressive win against a ranked Notre Dame team and recently winning the Lady Eagle Thanksgiving Classic in Hattisburg, Mississippi.
The UK Hoops teams next game is this coming Sunday afternoon Dec. 5th at Louisville in their sparking new KFC Yum Center at 2:00 pm, and the game will be televised live on the Wazoo Sports TV Network.
Enes Kanter's final appeal opportunity comes up between December 6th and 8th and will be executed by teleconference from the Memorial Coliseum/Joe Craft Center offices which will be hooked up with the NCAA appeals committee in Indianapolis. His appeal process will be organized and lead by Kentucky's NCAA compliance coordinator Sandy Bell but it's believed that Kanter and his parents made a strong request to UK that he be able to speak his peace himself straight to the committee. I'm thinking Mitch Barnhart will make an appearance as well since his clean image is supposedly respected so much across the NCAA fraternity of administrators.
This committee that Kanter is going in front of has reinstated the eligibility of a couple players in recent years from UK (Randolph Morris and John Wall) with relatively mild and appropriate penalties to each of those players but keep in mind Kanter's situation is much different and will be groundbreaking in the annals of the NCAA record books and whatever the final result is will be a strong precedent setting piece of legislation. I can't help put believe the new NCAA president will be involved behind the scenes. Question is, if he is will this be a positive or negative for UK and Kanter. Well, I can tell you this the new NCAA president came from the University of Washington to the NCAA's highest post. Yes , that is a school that UK stole a couple of nice basketball players from recently but that was after he left Washington.
One thing that I can tell you is that he tried unsuccessfully to hire a certain AD for his school on his watch at Washington and was extremely impressed by this individual in the hiring process. Who was this impressive administrator that he fell for but couldn't bring on board to be a Washington Huskie?
None other than Mitch Barnhart!!!!!
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