Some things are ... worth living for. From agony to ecstasy in eight short minutes. This is truly something that I have not experienced since the LSU game of last year. Like the stalwarts of last year who found a way to tie and ultimately win the football game against the Bayou Bengals, this offensively-challenged Kentucky football team did it in a way you would least expect -- with offense.
Congratulations to the Arkansas Razorbacks for a hard-fought game. It will be no consolation to them that they outplayed Kentucky for 85% of the game. Losses like that truly hurt the worst, because you know you snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with untimely penalties and turnovers. But the Razorbacks can hold their heads high -- they are a very young team who are getting better day by day. This may not be their year, but it will get better.
First off, I think many of us owe Rich Brooks & Co. and apology. I know all of you wanted Randall Cobb as quarterback (and, let's be honest, me also), and we got some of that. But what ultimately won the football game was Randall Cobb at wide receiver, the position Brooks wanted him at all along, and Mike Hartline at quarterback. Two perfectly thrown footballs by Hartline after a horror of a game which saw him picked twice and be repeatedly ineffective in even the most limited sense, Derrick Locke fumble twice (losing one) and subsequently injured, and Kentucky looking like a team on the brink of epic failure -- a complete collapse into senseless, hopeless despair and a return to 2002. The Wildcats today reminded me of a starship sling-shotting around a neutron star, battling the hyper-massive gravity well with speed and hope against the sound of 70,000 fans scraping their fingernails over a chalkboard in a SCREEEEEE#EEEEEEEE!~~^^
Well, now that I got that out, I feel much better. I think I am just regaining consciousness, like a fighter who has eaten too many right hands -- battered and bloody, like the Kentucky Wildcats after this wild affair. As I settle behind my keyboard with at least 4 oz. of Makers Mark over a few cubes of ice to numb me for the rest of the night (nobody could see a game like that and remain completely sober), I can rarely recall a time when a UK team has come from behind like that to win such a meaningful game by such a razor thin margin. It was something extraordinary.
Second, I think we have to say the defense was in "bend, but don't break" mode tonight. Michael Smith ran up and down the field like a waterbug, sliding past Kentucky defenders like a greased Hog. Tackling him was like trying to tackle the Invisible Man -- you only new where he was by the void he created. Elusive does not begin to describe his technique -- a combination of the downhill style of Knowshon Moreno and speed and daring of Darren McFadden.
But in the end, the Kentucky defense found a way to limit Arkansas despite turnovers in the red zone, untimely penalties and spending an inordinate amount of time on the field. I saw a lot of the men in Blue and White limping to the sideline tonight. I only pray the limps are minor.
But in the end, Kentucky won the only way it could have, with Hartline stepping up to the plate and finding Kentucky's best receiver wide open twice, and hitting him perfectly in stride both times. It's hard to reconcile the Hartline we saw in the latter half of the fourth quarter with the one we saw ever so sparingly for the other 80% of the game, but I guess that's what makes college football such a wonderful spectator sport.
I know a lot of Kentucky fans have, "Yeah, but ..." on thier lips right now. Swallow it. "Yeah, but ..." tomorrow. Right now, join me in celebration of a dramatic comeback, not unlike the Comeback Cats of basketball fame in some small and ... well, OK, rather distorted way. Celebrate the victory, not the manner of it. Next year, nobody will remember how we did it, just that it happened, and Brooks' charges finally snapped a streak of some sort, even if it was only a 4-gamer against Petrino.
By the way, you think the fans that left or turned off their televisions might be a bit red-faced right about now? I'm thinking yes.
I give you the Wildcat football team, victorious! Huzzah! Go Cats!