Yesterday 65k people watched the Louisville Cardinals defeat Kentucky 27 -13. The crowd was probably eighty percent UK fans. Those in attendance saw a UL with a clear talent advantage over their in-state rivals. What they also saw was a young UK team that grew up a little on the big stage.
The young Wildcats gave Louisville everything that the wanted for two quarters, despite struggling on offense throughout. The defense that let Kentucky down in the WKU loss was nothing short of outstanding until fatigue finally caught up to them. The most important thing that happened is what didn’t happen. Kentucky didn’t give up, despite being down to a Top 10 team and losing their starting quarterback, they fought until the very last snap. It was a stark contrast to past Kentucky teams, even the one we saw in Nashville. The team played to win, and many of their miscues resulted from players trying to do too much.
At the end of the day, Kentucky was probably a better team than most thought and Louisville isn’t as good as their ranking suggests. Mark Stoops’ team certainly gave Kentucky fans reason for hope this season and next. Wildcat fans should have reason enough to keep filling Commonwealth for 2013. Yesterday’s effort would have beaten Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Missouri. It would have given Florida fits and probably gone to the wire with Tennessee.
Next year might be better than anyone previously expected. Charlie Strong isn’t shaking in his Keds or anything ( partially because he has an eye on USC and Texas), but I know he didn’t like what he saw on the field yesterday. Kentucky hung with the ballyhooed Cards and they did it with mostly new players that this staff brought in. Next year’s crop will be twice as good if the coaches can hold them together. The future is so bright it needs shades, but we have to stay behind these guys this season. Coaches and recruits are watching how Big Blue Nation handles this and we need to step up and deliver.