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Cock-a-doodle-doo

After a 54 – 3 thumping in Columbia in 2011, the Wildcats were not happy leaving the field against Steve Spurrier. The look on Mitch’s face says it all. Cats are undefeated heading down to Williams-Brice Stadium…but are they as good as advertised? (Photo Credit Heart of Big Blue Nation).

(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Kentucky’s less-than-inspiring performance against Chattanooga surprised nearly everyone. A game expected to be over by halftime wasn’t fully settled until the final seconds ticked off the clock. All of BBN finally breathed a collective sigh of relief after Tyrell Ajian’s 95-yard pick-six secured the 28 – 23 victory. Sure, the Wildcats (3 – 0, 1 – 0 SEC) remain undefeated…but was a close game against an FCS opponent just a momentary fluke, or is Kentucky possibly not as good as everyone thought they were?

“Let’s be honest,” Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said at his weekly media conference. “I try everything in my power not to have them let down. But I think they all just wanted to wrap that game up, put it aside, and move on. You can’t do that.”

I’m not quite sure the contest against the Mocs can be summarily dismissed as just a “let down” game. After all, Chattanooga controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Mocs outgained the Wildcats 171 – 102 on the ground while averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Defensively, they nullified Kentucky’s ground and pound while employing two deep safeties to limit Kentucky’s big-strike passing attack. Subsequently, the Wildcats were never able to establish rhythm with their balanced run-pass schemes.

Here’s more reason to worry. After three games, Kentucky sits near the bottom of the standings in turnover margin (-6). Quarterback Will Levis has thrown four interceptions on the year. Kentucky has also lost four fumbles. That’s eight turnovers already compared to only twelve total for the entire campaign last year. Add to that the lack of a significant pass rush to put pressure on the opposition, and you can see why the miscue meter keeps trending in the wrong direction.

Not to be out done by the offense and defense, UK special teams also have a few deficiencies to clean up. An assignment error led to the blocked field goal attempt from a week ago. A shanked kickoff this week together with some questionable punt-fielding decisions and some bonehead penalties have fans longing for the days of Dean Hood as special teams coach.

Having said all that, this year’s version of Kentucky Football is nowhere near the gloom and doom of the past. In fact, there’s still plenty of season left for a magical run. The fun starts this Saturday evening down in Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks have a new regime in place with first-year coach Shane Beamer calling the shots. Even though they’re coming off of a 40 – 13 drubbing at the hands of Georgia, the Carolina fan base appears totally bought in from the get-go.

I lived in Columbia for three years and know how passionate the Garnet and Black are about Carolina Football. Other than baseball (and a few displaced Clemson folk), the football team is always the talk of the town. Spirits of George Rogers, Jadeveon Clowney, and the ghost of Steve Spurrier all prowl the cavernous concourses of Williams-Brice Stadium.

This game won’t be as easy as I first thought when it appeared on the schedule. Although rebuilding, Carolina (2 – 1, 0 – 1 SEC) isn’t as bad as pundits first predicted. They rolled over Eastern Illinois 46 – 0 in their opener, then squeaked by East Carolina 20 – 17 before losing last week in Athens. Their defensive front seven is good, so establishing a run game will once again be paramount for Kentucky to succeed.

Mental preparation for this one will also be huge. Might a packed stadium full of ravenous opposing fans, Sandstorm blaring on the loudspeakers, and that aggravating rooster crowing “cock-a-doodle-doo” be enough to rattle Stoops and his team?  

“I got the headsets on, so I don’t hear any of that,” Stoops answered. “I know it gets rocking and can appreciate it, but once I put the headsets on, I don’t hear any of that.”

Let’s hope the team will be able to block it all out too. If they can, we’ll know by Saturday night if this Kentucky football team is a force or a fraud.

Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. His new book, CUT TO THE CHASE, is now available on Amazon. His newest Kentucky Basketball book, KENTUCKY PASSION, is scheduled for an October 19th release. If you enjoy his writing, you can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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4 thoughts on “Cock-a-doodle-doo

  1. Really good article. Love the alliteration, “Cavernous Concourses”. I’m thinking if UK can cut the turnovers down to 1 or 0 they can pull this game out by a TD. If they turn it over 3 or 4 times I’m thinking this game will be their 1st SEC loss. No matter what, I’m sure the defense will show up.

  2. I’ve been to several games in Columbia. Yeah, it starts out loud, but it seems like all you have to do to shut them up is put one really strong drive together early in the game. In 2017, Deebo Samuel scored on the first play of the game; UK was intercepted and fumbled on it’s first 2 possessions! Then we settled down, led 14-6 at the half, won 23-13.

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