[Editor's note: This should have been promoted a while back, but some small changes had to be made. If you haven't read it, you really must.]
Well, here it is, the 2012 edition of Irrational Exuberance. Actually, I’d like to fast forward to 2013, but we simply can’t break tradition. We need a game by game trip through dreamland and with such a young team nobody really knows how this year will turn out. After all, in preseason anything is possible and it’s a great time to be a fan. The team hasn’t lost a game, no passes have been dropped, no blocking assignments have been missed and no opponent has run through a tackle.Those that have been on ASOB a few years might recall my past delusions for 2009, 2010 and 2011 which were penned after liberal ingestion of Blue Koolaid. Obviously, this year posed an extra high hurdle so I spent the last week in the hospital getting direct blood transfusions of the sera Bludicus Bludicus (same spellings, different pronunciations). So we continue that honored tradition of ignoring all reason, quashing all negative thoughts and throwing logic to the wind. (In any rebuttal to this flight of fancy, please do not offer facts and reason; they have no place here.)
A couple of quick notes before we trip the light fantastic. Only three opponents have weekly games both before and after playing Kentucky - WKU, USC and Vandy. Four teams have byes before playing UK and five have no game the week after we play. The scheduling gods obviously know we are to be feared and considered!
As usual this journey through utopia assumes unbridled passion from the Cats, stellar referees, Kentucky coaching perfection, damn near flawless player execution, huge freshmen contributions and opponent mishaps and injuries. (Yes, even dreams have conditions.)
And so we begin:
Kentucky at Louisville - After returning to its rightful place at the beginning of the schedule the Cats and Cards go at it in a special ESPN Sunday afternoon game. Only pro teams play on Sunday so NFL viewers nationwide are wearing out their Pro Football Weekly trying to figure out in what division these teams play. Those UK and UL fans in the know witness a game to remember. Bridgewater comes out firing the ball all over the field and build a 17 - 0 halftime lead for the Cards while Kentucky sputters on offense and back-peddles on defense. But....just before halftime, Bridgwater drops back and gets rocked into another dimension by Dupree, that’s MR. Dupree. Bridgewater manages to get to his feet and staggers to the sideline singing the UK fight song and isn’t seen the rest of the day. Second half highlights are all UK, you name the player - they’re in the highlight reel. Papa John takes their name off the stadium, Charley Strong vows to intensify his recruitment of players from Louisville (and nowhere else) and Joker Phillips is seen walking 10 feet off the ground. Final Score: UK 28, UL 17
Kent State at Kentucky - Once again, Kentucky lines up against a formidable(?) foe from the MAC. This time from the outskirts of Akron, Ohio comes The Golden Flashes (see picture?) that last year finished 5-7, with their outside the conference games being Temple (34-16L), South Alabama (33-25W), Kansas State (37-0L) and Alabama (48-7L). This one quickly turns into a cakewalk; Kent State will forever be known more for a CSN&Y song than football. Kentucky exorcises its demons and takes it out on an overmatched opponent. The offense shows flashes of "WOW" with a Matt Smith setting a Kentucky single game passing record while making the Kent State secondary look like a Keystone Kops movie. Defensively, Kentucky attacks like their pants are on fire. Even Kent State’s biggest receiving threat, Eric Adeyemi (remember him?) cannot reproduce a trace of his Liberty Bowl performance when he played for the boys in blue. Final Score: UK 37 - Kent State 3
(via JD Hancock)
WKU at Kentucky - WKU enters the game physically ailing after being taken to the woodshed the previous week by Alabama (thanks, St Nick!). SEC redux is at the hand of a Cats team coming off the utterly satisfying opening two weeks and are not going to be denied starting the season at 3 - 0. Joker doesn’t show any new wrinkles in the offense, and doesn’t need to - the running backs rotate out every 100 yards of rushing while Smith plays keep-away with the receivers against an overly porous WKU defense. At games end, the WKU student body burns the AD in effigy for scheduling the SEC one-two punch, all of the money made during these "money games" is spent on doctor bills. Final UK 42 - WKU 7
Kentucky at Florida - The Streak of 3,527 consecutive football victories against Kentucky gets a scare........for about 5 minutes. It only takes that long for UK to have its patented Florida meltdown. Ugly doesn’t describe it, please don’t let your children watch this one. Final UK 3, UF 48
South Carolina at Kentucky - Our favorite coaching opponent brings a full bag of clubs back to Commonwealth seeking retribution for the stunning loss two years ago at the hands of Joker’s first team (although the 54 - 3 thrashing last year should have sufficed). Lattimore makes it through the whole game but is just not himself. Later it is revealed that he went out with Steven Garcia the night before - ‘nuff said. USC strikes first which bodes well since the first to score has lost the game since 2008. The game stays close the whole way and UK ties the game as the clock expires on a trick play that makes Spurrier choke. Four overtimes later UK scores a TD, makes the extra point then USC can’t get into the endzone - UK WINS!!! Final UK 52 - USC 45.
Mississippi State at Kentucky - Bulldogs, schmullogs. Mullen is still trying to figure out his starting line up and one of the team buses doesn’t show up until halftime after having decided to take a horse farm tour and getting a little enamored with "livestock". Even the extra week of practice does nothing to prepare the Dogs for the aggressive, inspired team protecting their home turf. The munchkin quarterback (Lewis) ducks and dodges the UK defense for a while but the game takes its toll and Lewis eventually takes himself out of the game. The MSU running backs give the UK defense a new nick name "sons a’ bitches!" when all efforts to advance the ball prove fruitless. Offensively, the UK running again looks like a 4 X 100 relay. Everybody gets a bunch as the halftime lead put up by the receivers lets UK run the whole second half. Final UK 28 - MSU 10
Kentucky at Arkansas - Arkansas comes into the game absolutely on fire after having started a perfect season including a win against the visiting Crimson Tide and a road romp at Auburn. Looking toward a bye the following week, the Razorback’s defense forgets to show up for the game. Joker pulls every trick out of the book with no huddle, unbalanced line, umpteen different offensive sets, reverses, misdirection, fake punts, on-sides kicks and more; an offensive display never seen by a Kentucky team. Unfortunately, Kentucky’s defense is unable to stop the Arkansas aerial attack. Three secondary players are treated for whiplash from watching the UA receivers go streaking by in some of their best renditions of last year’s olé defense. Although the Cats built a 10 point lead, the deeper roster of the Razorbacks provide the energy for a comeback to go ahead by 6. With under a minute in the game and no timeouts, Smith is "ON" with perfect passes to King, Boyd (!), Sweat and Cunningham. For the last play with :03 seconds left on the 2 yard line, Arkansas plays tight to the line looking for the dive play and UK lines up in the I-formation. At the snap, the receivers break wide open and Smith drops back to pass. With the absolutely worst luck in the world, Smith collides with Sanders faking the dive play, his helmet comes off and he has to stop (new NCAA rule). Play over, game over. &*#%@*#(@$@(*#$@*!!!!!!!!! Final UK 41, UA 47
(via Brett L.)
Georgia at Kentucky - The two biggest rivalries of the Bulldogs are Florida and Georgia Tech. For the fourth year in a row Kentucky is the warm up to one of these games (UF) and Georgia comes off a bye week after being taken to the limit by USC two weeks ago and playing a rapidly declining Vandy team prior to the Gamecocks (UT was a no-show). Murray plays up to the hype and proves himself to be NFL material. His command of the game is impressive for three quarters. In the first half he quiets the sell-out (!) crowd of Commonwealth with pin-point passes and some nifty running but it’s not enough to put the Cats away. At halftime, Minter scrambles up the defense, challenges their manhood and unleashes a variety of blitzes that would make Rex Ryan blush. Late in the third quarter Murray gets rocked by Wyndham then Murray reverts to our favorite Georgia quarterback of recent history, Joe Cox, in a late game melt down. Kentucky’s steady offensive play has Georgia confused after studying the film of the Arkansas game. While they’re looking for surprises Kentucky continues to methodically move the ball. Overall, an ugly game but the defense redeems themselves and the Cats pull out a victory over a Georgia team that always seems to overlook Kentucky. NAH-NA-NA-NAA-NAA. Final UK 17, UGA 10
Kentucky at Missouri - It’s back on the road again, this time to one of our new SEC members that is trying to prove themselves in a real conference (You’re not in Kansas anymore.). Yet another opponent comes into the game after a bye week; however, they’ve already gotten a good taste of the SEC with losses to Georgia, South Carolina, Vandy and Alabama. With games still to go against Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M Mike Slive has them paying their dues in their inaugural season. It’s Homecoming weekend in Columbia and fans are clamoring for an SEC victory, especially against the "lowly" Kentucky Wildcats. Not so fast my friends, you’re going to first have to learn who to schedule for homecoming. Never, I mean NEVER schedule an SEC team for homecoming. (I know, we picked Georgia instead of Samford for homecoming - doh.) Anyway, Kentucky continues the SEC welcome wagon to the Tigers. Missouri features a different type of offense from other SEC teams - think Randall Cobb at QB with half the heart. Make no mistake the Mizzou quarterback, James Franklin, is good but by the time they play us there will be a lot of self doubt and he will continue his 2011 habits; namely of 11 interceptions last year, 10 were at home. Well, enough small talk. The game isn’t particularly exciting, maybe because, ya know, winning just comes so naturally to Kentucky. (Insert "facetious" symbol here.) Kentucky’s defense smothers and covers in a low scoring (by 2012 standards) affair while the offense guns and runs. Final UK 21 UM 13
Vanderbilt at Kentucky - R-E-V-E-N-G-E. Last year the Commodores very unfriendly hosts in Nashville, to the tune of a 38 - 8 smack down. While it was not our worst loss, which in itself tells you how bad 2011 was, it was the hardest to take. Let’s face it, Vandy has been our twin bastard step child of the SEC East taking turns "anchoring" the division. Well....Coach Franklin, your Cinderella season was last year. This year we’re grinding the glass slippers under our cleats, smashing your pumpkin, turning your horses back into mice, your coachmen back into lizards and, yes, pretty much returning things to reality for you. With a secondary thinner than the chances of Vandy getting a real basketball arena, Smith then Newton then Whitlow reenact the bombing of London while the stable of running backs reenact the Blitzkrieg. Vanderbilt doesn’t prove unstoppable but the defense stiffens enough to keep Vandy at bay and the game is never in doubt. By the way, expect a cold front to move in prior to the game because - "Revenge is a dish best served cold". Final UK 30, VU 20
Samford(?) at Kentucky - Kentucky is on an unprecedented roll this year, coming off a bye week and we’re playing the Samford Bulldogs at our house. Yes, yet another Bulldog team, our third of the season and they fare no better than the other two. Much worse actually, but I can’t give details since this is a "family" rated site. Final UK Bunches, SU Very Little
(via Kibbe Museum)
Kentucky at Tennessee - And finally we come to the last game of the regular season against the detested Volunteers adorned in that shade of orange reminiscent of a bad spray-on tan. Offensively, Tennessee enters the game with a roster that is a mere shell of the early season player roster. Tyler Bray left early in the season to film Jackass 4, six players were kicked off for violating team rules (Tennessee has rules?), 4
convicts players transferred to Louisville and eight are currently off the team while their attorneys file appeals. Joker lends Dooley a couple players to fill out his roster to they can proceed with the game in Neyland Echochamber Stadium. (Attendance is later estimated at 1200 - excluding the UK fans). Things get out of hand quickly for the hapless Vols as they return the opening kick-off from deep in the end zone to the......2. The Vols then try to do their best UK impression by starting a non-QB behind center. In Dooley’s effort to "do things differently" he sticks in Daniel McCullers, listed at 6-6 and a whopping 377 pounds. UK goes into punt return formation and lets McCullers run the QB keeper. At about midfield he runs out of gas, loses the ball and Faulkner returns it for a score. While Tennessee continues to misfire on offense and run around yelling at each other on defense UK cruises to a convincing victory. Streak is now at 2. Final UK 35, UT 6
Season Record: 10 - 2!!!
Post Season - I would never be so bold as to predict what bowl Kentucky will be attending ;-) but UK does place 6 freshmen on both sides of the all-SEC freshmen team, Joker gets a contract extension to come back coaching this group of youngsters and the great hunt begins to find fans that were calling for Joker’s head as their silence is deafening.
Now on to the real season and see what this young team can really do.