It is a fragile thing,optimism with regards to University of Kentucky football. Yet I remain cautiously optimistic as the Wildcats head into the next two of a brutal stretch of games against ranked opponents. This is especially true when considering that UK visits South Carolina minus Trevard Lindley and Paul Warford, its starting cornerbacks and offensive tackle, Justin Jeffries.
That said, if the Wildcats must endure injuries, those are two positions at which they can take the hits without suffering a huge drop off. Yes, you read that rightly. And you rightly ask: how can there NOT be a huge drop off with Trevard Lindley sitting out? The answer is: Martavious Neloms. He is a true freshman, granted, but so was Lindley when he started. And I believe that with a bit of time, Neloms will prove to be the equal of his predecessor. Granted, it is no more than gut feeling or instinct that leads me to expect great things of this young man, but I expect that in and around an occasional freshman mistake, he will produce an equal number of plays in the category of: did you see THAT???
Meanwhile I have found other positive signs upon which the Wildcats can and should build. I found two such in their most recent game. A gentleman by the name of Nick Saban observed that UK ran the ball against the Crimson Tide better than had any of their previous opponents. Better still, despite suffering a number of self-inflicted wounds along the way, those old bugaboos of turnovers and penalties, the Wildcats held Alabama's offense well below its average.
So what must UK do to end its streak of futility against South Carolina's Gamecocks and the Ol' Ball Coach, Steve Spurrier? Number One is clearly to reduce or eliminate mistakes, especially penalties. In the past three games, I cannot count the number of decent gains that have been lost due to penalties. In the same vein, I would hope the coaches have stressed ball security. Hang onto the ball, establish the running game, and get the ball to Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke as much as possible. Keep faith in Chris Matthews. Maybe bring in Larod King (remember him?) Bring heat up front on defense.
No grand solutions there, just common sense. And I believe Rich Brooks and company possess an abundance of that. I believe they can and will fix the problems revealed thus far even as they seek to exploit the strengths shown.
It would be easy to join the naysayers and fair weather fans who are already saying, "same old Kentucky." Instead, I submit that the 'Cats are closer to breaking out than to falling back. And my hope is that this time next week, the coaches will have faced the task of getting their players focused on Auburn after a resounding triumph on the road over a ranked opponent.