Well, well, well. Back-to-back go the 'Cats for the first time in ten long years, and after suffering embarrassingly at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals for many of those games. I admit a touch of empathy for Louisville, because I know exactly how this feels, and it feels awful. I also admit a touch of empathy for Steve Kragthorpe for having to suffer from the inevitable consequences of the unethical coach who was there before him, who shall remain unnamed. I don't think most Louisville fans will agree with that assessment, but there it is.
This was a huge victory for Kentucky, and a debacle for the Cardinals. Rich Brooks no longer has to worry about his statements (with conviction) that this defense is the Wildcats best since his arrival here -- they proved it beyond reasonable doubt by denying Louisville a score. Only a foolish play by the Kentucky offense denied the defense a shutout, and part of me will forever blame Mike Hartline for that.
But before I am too hard on him, Hartline showed a lot of poise, if not a lot of skill. His arm strength is extremely questionable, but his judgment is overall quite satisfactory, maybe even exemplary. But I do wonder if the lack of a vertical game (and Hartline showed virtually no ability to throw the ball down the field) will make it too tough on our running game. When you have to face eight in the box the whole game, it can be very tough on the ground.
Ah, the defense. The defense scored 14 points and were directly responsible for a third touchdown and a field goal by turning Louisville over. The offense can only claim credit for one lousy field goal. That does not give me much hope for the SEC portion of the season, but we can take comfort in the fact that this is only the first game. Mike Hartline will get better, and so will the offensive line, which was unfortunately inept in the middle today.
While I am handing out criticism, I want to know why the heck we did not run more plays on the edges. Nearly every one we tried was successful. It seems, as was apparent from the first scrimmage, that we don't have issues outside, but we do inside. So I wonder why we did not go out there more. But that is substituting my judgment for that of Phillips and Brooks, and that, as we all know, would not be a recipe for success.
Overall, it was a game that played out exactly as Kentucky fans would have hoped, and almost exactly as Ken outlined. It was an impressive domination by the Kentucky defense, and may have made the Louisville offense look more impotent than it actually is. If our D-line and backfield can continue to remain healthy, a lot of SEC offenses are likely to look a lot worse than they are, also.
Hunter Cantwell had the kind of day every quarterback dreads. He had at least 5 or maybe even 6 balls batted down or deflected by the Kentucky D-line, he had a fumble forced that led to a touchdown, was hurried and knocked down numerous times, had balls dropped all over the field including the end zone, three interceptions and generally struggled to make headway. Kentucky did a great job in managing field position, creating just enough offense to keep Louisville in the hole all day long and frustrating their drives just as they started to get going. Cantwell's release looks like a carbon copy of Andrè Woodson's, and although his arm is very strong, he tends to overthrow his passes making them difficult to catch.
In the end, the Cardinal defense was certainly adequate, but Kentucky's was simply spectacular. It is very unusual for the defense to score 14 points and be directly responsible for 10 more. We'll have to wait and see whether the Kentucky D was really that extraordinary, or the Cardinal O was merely incompetent. This was a statement win for Kentucky, and even though no SEC team will fear our offense after today, the defense is likely to be a headache for everyone. The question, much like the UK basketball team, is can we score enough points to win games? We can't count on the defense to produce 14 points every game against proven SEC offenses, that much is certain. The offense has a lot of work to do.
But for now, join me in celebrating our second straight victory over a bitter foe that has reveled in embarrassing our football program. They were worthy opponents, but this time, it is we who did the embarrassing.