Kentucky Wildcats Football: How beer changed my season outlook


Sep 13, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Patrick Towles (14) throws the ball as Florida Gators defensive lineman Dante Fowler Jr. (6) defends during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I have a confession:

I like beer.

My friends and family would be unlikely to call me an alcoholic or anything, and some might even call me a “beer snob.” I am probably going to take a pass on a bud light or miller even if they’re free as I much prefer the more off-the-wall options. Typically, I’ll go for a local Country Boy or west Sixth option, but on Saturday my wife and I elected to get the sampler pack offered by Magic Hat brewery.

For those who are wondering how this pertains to UK football, stick with me.

So if you have never had a Magic Hat beer, they all come in bottles with a little quote on the bottom of the cap, similar to a snapple product, a dove chocolate, or more commonly, a fortune cookie. Sometimes it’s just a random quote and sometimes it’s a crazy fact or something of the like and I never give them a second glance. When I popped the first of my brews on Saturday, the announcers were lauding Florida and my bottle cap read: “Sometimes the universe has other plans.”

I’ll divulge here that I am also not a big believer in “signs.” I thought this bottle cap was amusing and paid little thought to it as Kentucky battled Florida in a tough first half and I sipped my beer.

After halftime, I reached for another one and popped the cap off.  As I looked down, I couldn’t believe what I read.  Here, Kentucky is going toe to toe with the Gators in Gainesville and my next hoppy fortune read: “My grass is blue.”

At this point, I’m just sure that it’s Kentucky’s day and my beloved Wildcats are going to knock off the exalted Florida Gators for the first time since I was 9 months old.

As we saw, my bottle cap was a little bit of a tease and Kentucky came up just short in a game that featured freshmen and sophomores playing like seasoned veterans.  The team had a swagger that has seldom been seen from such a young group of players competing against such a good opponent in such a hostile stadium.  That swagger was almost enough too.

I series of mistakes made by offensive players, defensive players, special teams players, coaches and even referees was enough to undo the attempted upset, and many of those mistakes have been the talking points for UK fans this week. Realistically though, we should be focusing on the much larger sampling of good plays and calls that we saw, as they were far more plentiful than even the most optimistic of Kentucky fans could expected.

The offense struggled early against a stellar Florida defense but found its sync heading into halftime and carried that over into the second half and overtime.  While the run game never truly took off, the passing game was vastly improved over anything we saw last season.  Freshmen Blake Bone, Dorian Baker, and Garrett Johnson are all serious weapons and each of them played extensively despite their youth. Patrick Towles made some bad throws, but he made far more good ones and lead the offense like a player in his 30th start instead of his third. The offensive line was stout against a relentless Florida pass-rush despite playing the third string left tackle for portions of the game and the backs made plays were they could.

If the goal on offense this season was to show progress, then Neal Brown is sitting at a “Distinguished” grade for the Florida game.

Defensively, we were worried.  It’s not that there was a lack of faith in the unit or coaches, but more that Florida’s stable of running backs are as good as anyone in, the country’s. A huge offensively line mixed with the previously mentioned talent in the backfield was imposing. Adding in an improved Jeff Driskel and uber-athletic receivers just made it seem worse.  Instead, the Kentucky defensive front put pressure on the quarterback and limited the effects of the run game. The defensive backfield stymied receivers and forced contested completions all night. As a unit, the defense showed the country that they are ready to compete against SEC offenses anywhere.

Losing to Florida for the 28 straight year sucks, but if there’s a such thing as a loss that isn’t a loss, this game qualified. The country has a new-found respect for Kentucky football and the team has two weeks to fix some of the mistakes that kept Florida in the game. I won’t go as far as saying that the Wildcats are instant contenders in the SEC, but this season suddenly looks a whole lot brighter than it did a week ago.