Despite 27-13 loss to Louisville Cardinals, Kentucky Wildcats football is on the right path

Sep 14, 2013; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Raymond Sanders (4) runs the ball against Louisville Cardinals linebacker James Burgess (13) at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

I have to say that I have written about a lost of frustrating UK football games in my four plus years as editor of this site. And I have to say that this is probably the best I have felt after a UK loss in my lifetime. There are many things that went wrong for UK and you can argue that Kentucky should have won the game. And I realize that this feeling is fleeting, but you will never find me feeling more positive about a 27-13 loss to the #7 Louisville Cardinals.

My biggest fear going into this game was Louisville scoring early and often and this being a game similar of some of the Florida beatdowns that Kentucky has suffered. That fear was negated as UK held Louisville without a first down on their first three drives. Thanks to a Jalen Whitlow fumble (on his first play of scrimmage), UL did get on the board. But the gift fumble at the UK 27 resulted in a FG and not a touchdown. For their first three drives, UL had 19 yards on 9 plays. If you are a long time UK fan, it would not shock you that UK was down 3-0.

But then UK got their gift turnover as DeVante Parker fumbled at the Kentucky 41. Max Smith hit Jeff  Badet and Ryan Timmons for 10 and 25 yards gained, bur Raymond Sanders dropped a 3rd and 6 pass from the UL 20 and UK had to settle for a Joe Mansour FG. You had to consider it a huge UK victory as the first quarter ended in a 3-3 tie.

UK’s defense played solid stopping two UL possessions in the second quarter but UK’s offense was equally inept. Michael Dyer started the game for Louisville but did not have an impact. It was Dominique Brown that finally got the UL offense going as he carried the ball seven out of eight plays as UL got moving on the ground. Teddy Bridgewater then found Parker on a high loft on a 3rd and 10 play. Parker came down with the ball in the endzone between two UK defenders and UL had their first touchdown and led 10-3 with 2:36 left.

Kentucky’s dormant offense appeared to respond when Max Smith hit Jeff Badet for a 27 yard pickup to the Louisville 14. THere was a bad handoff between Smith and Sanders though and UK fumbled and the Cardinals stifled the threat. And despite being down just 10-3 in half, you could tell it was a deflated UK team at half as they had literally shot themselves in the foot with dropped passes and turnovers.

It took a whole half before Louisville actually looked like a ranked team. Bridgewater came out of half with a fire and completed five straight passes. Senorise Perry ripped off a 27 yard run and a couple of plays later, UL was in the endzone on another Perry run. UK got another drive started and Smith drove the ball to the Louisville 29 but he went out of the game with an apparent shoulder injury. Then on third down, Whitlow threw an interception that was picked off at the UL two yard line.

UL gouged the Kentucky defense as Bridgewater hit Damian Copeland and Gerald Christianson for 47 and 24 yard gains on back to back plays. The 10 play, 94 yard drive stalled though and UL was forced to kick a FG. The hopes of a UK upset went out the window with the score 20-3, but UK still had a lot to play for and wanted to prevent this from being a true blowout. JoJo Kemp ripped off a 47 yard run and Kentucky kept the ball on the ground with Whitlow and Kemp and drove to the UL 14, but a holding penalty killed the drive and Mansour booted another FG.

UL responded with another shocking easy TD drive to make the score 27-6 but Whitlow answered with another impressive drive where his mixed his running and passing. He found Alex Montgomery in the end zone and it was 27-13. Kentucky had another drive that stalled out on the Louisville 18 with a fourth down sack.

Even though the score was disappointing, this UK team never gave up, but the frustration was apparent. UK had two starters, Max Smith and Donte Rumph, get knocked out of the game. They had three turnovers. And they had at least eight dropped passes. While this looks like the “Same Old Kentucky”, it most definitely was not.

It’s becoming apparent that the players brought to Lexington are the best offensive players on the team. JoJo Kemp led UK with 80 yards on 5 carries. Ryan Timmons had 72 yards on three receptions. Javess Blue had six grabs and Jeff Badet three. And the thing that has me happy? Most of these guys are going to be around four years.

And you have to credit the way the UK defense played. For a half they had “solved” Louisville, but in the end had not enough depth or talent to keep up with a top 10 team. So while I could dwell on the loss to Louisville, I won’t. The best team they will ever have is just 14 points better than what is left of a 2010 football team.

And while I hate that we shot ourselves in the foot with three turnovers and 8-10 dropped passes, even a blind person can see that things are going to change in Lexington.

And maybe sooner than expected.