Those of you that have been around here any length of time at all know where I stand when it comes to breaking down a game in numbers. My take is strictly as a fan of the Kentucky Wildcats. I don't report stats and I don't break down plays or options or positions. I hope I can describe for you what I see from the players and the fans that make the day memorable for all. I always hope I can bring you the fun side of being a fan for two reasons; a) I don't find it a lot of fun when I write about stats and, b) I don't think I'm very good at writing about stats. My writing of stats are reserved for guesses in the GOG which most always score at less than great. Come along and share the day as I try to bring you the sights and sounds of the spring game in pixels.
I got up bright and early. There was no sleeping in on this Saturday, not that I ever do. I was excited to see the Kentucky Boys of Fall on the field again, it had been far too long, at least for me. I was also very curious to see if the Big Blue Nation would once again fill the lots surrounding Commonwealth again this year. Keep in mind, I have been to several Blue/White games where only a handful of fans came. A fan could easily park in the first rows of the blue lot, five minutes before kick-off and still sit on the 50-yard line, not to mention that tailgating was almost non-existent.
As I drove up Alumni and approached 1540 University Drive my excitement fluttered. The RV lot is the first I see at the top of the rise just past the Arboretum and it wasn't as populated as last year. I took a deep breath but stopped short of a sigh. Then I see the corner of blue lot and it looks practically empty. I reminded myself it is still really early in the day. As I drove alongside the blue lot I realized that most of it was surrounded by construction trailers and a link fence around them, all for the stadium improvements. Understanding that fact allowed my good mood to continue.
I didn't drive to the four-way stop at the corner of Alumni and University. I knew that I could get a better feel of the whole situation if I were actually in the lot and not gauging from the streets. As I approached the red lot there were a few more vehicles scattered around but I could still practically pick my spot to tailgate. It appeared that more people had gathered closer to Cooper Drive and the traffic was becoming steady. That was all I needed to reassure my faith. I felt very confident that the BBN would not fail to show up.
We had friends coming a little later and were prepared with gear to 'save' the spots. We unloaded and set up our outdoor blue den. That's when another group called and said that they were merely a few yards away and thought we should just pack up move over with them. My daughter knew them from the school where she teaches so we decided to pack up and join them. The more the merrier, right? They were a great bunch!
By then it was after the noon hour and the Cat Walk would be fairly soon. I checked the time often to make sure to be there on time. About fifteen minutes before the scheduled 1:45 PM start time, our group made our way to Gate 1 to cheer for our Cats. There was more construction fencing set up in the green lot too, which I didn't mind because I saw it as a promise of a greater fan experience for the future. It felt like the Cat Walk would never start because traffic kept driving through. I worked my way through the sea of blue in order to be where the guys would turn to enter the stadium and knew that I had found the perfect spot.
The fans lining the Cat Walk were loud and excited. The temperature was bordering warm for football, but there was a really nice breeze to cool the air. Several C A T S cheers erupted from those patiently waiting and when the band started to play On, On U of K ,we knew it was time. Who in their right mind would believe that this energy is for a Kentucky football scrimmage?
*a2 waves her hand because she had faith in you all.
We watched the incoming players take their place along the edge of the roped-off Cat Walk and I watched the recruits in attendance take it all in. My first impression of Matt Elam is that he is one monster dude. I hope the opponents know to get out of his way. If they don't, they can't say that no one warned them. The players and coaches make their way though the Cat Walk and I attentively watch each one move down the line, feeding my inner blue.
I heard a roar coming from the crowd that was standing up the street. The cheers get louder and then I hear the "Zeeeeee's". Za'Darius Smith is spreading his mojo down the line. Trust me, this is one dude that has major mojo. I first realized it last fall during Fan Day. From his 'must know it' hand-signed 'Z' symbol to his infectious smile, Zee has plenty of mojo on and off the field.
Every Cat fan cheered, chanted, and clapped until the last Wildcat entered the stadium and then we returned to our dens. A little over an hour later the gates were opened and we make our way to our seats to find that half of the stadium looks very desolate and barren but we realize this too is a sign of new things to come. The stadium improvements are in the making and then we settle in for the game.
The Cats take the field wearing all blues and all whites except the quarterbacks have on their black jerseys. I promised I wouldn't talk plays and options, but a couple of things bear mentioning. Jojo Kemp's little spin move to avoid tackle is one thing that I would love to watch over and over again. I could tell that Patrick Towles has worked hard and means serious business. If he, Drew Barker, and Reese Phillips want to put in hard work to win the nod for the starting spot, I always have loved some starter competition. Why not?
If I had to pick one moment in the game that I think I will forever remember it would be when Za'Darius intercepted a pass from Patrick and then Patrick attempted to tackle the 264-lb number 94. The entire play caused me to dance out of Commonwealth Stadium doing a happy dance with a big ol' smile on my face.
I attended the game with no expectations of spotting real changes this spring. I simply saw it as practice entertainment for the fans, plain and simple. And I absolutely agree with Neal Brown about not giving away a lot of plays for opposing coaches to study this off-season. What I did see was a fan base that is still supportive for the football team and a team that was having fun. That always wins in my book. I think we will see some changes in the team this fall. I think Coach Stoops and Company know how to tweak a team too.