That was one exciting game, but the Wildcats once again come away as champions of the Music City Bowl. But it sure was a lot closer than it had to be.
Why was the game so close? Well, it pretty much came down to UK doing some foolish things near the end of the game, probably more because of the fact that as successful as the Cats have been, we still have a long way to go to match the bowl and big-game experience of some of the better teams. Micah Johnson could have simply taken a knee after he picked Weatherford late in the 4th quarter and sealed the victory. Instead, Micah tried to show us he could be a ball-carrier too, and ultimately fumbled away the hard-won turnover (one of 4 UK turnovers) a few seconds after he achieved it, giving the Seminoles a chance to tie or even win the game.
I have to admit, visions of the Bluegrass Miracle were dancing in my head at that point. It was really scary to think that as hard as we played and as well as we were able to do, we could almost give the game away like that. I'm sure that an earlier version of UK would have found a way to lose this game in the same situation. But apparently, those years are firmly in the rear view mirror, where I'm sure we all hope they will stay.
I have to give a shout out at this point to the Florida State Seminoles. Given the problems they were facing, they could have easily mailed this one in and nobody would have noticed. But not only did they not do that, they demonstrated to Kentucky and anyone else paying attention that even the dire circumstances the 'Noles faced with the academic suspensions is not enough to keep them out of a ball game with a lesser program. Make no mistake, folks, UK has a very long way to go indeed to have the kind of program the Seminoles enjoy. Kudos to them for playing their hearts out under very unfortunate circumstances, and for playing a very clean, classy game overall. To see what they thought about the game, visit fellow SB Nation site Tomahawk Nation.
The officiating in this game was very poor, but fortunately, at least in my opinion, it all pretty much evened out. That's all I'll say about that.
What a great job by our seniors and our defense. Woodyard was again the leading tackler, Woodson wound up breaking the UK passing TD record of Tim Couch and the SEC mark set by Florida Gator Danny Wuerffel. Raphael Little rushed for 152 yards, but that stellar performance was tarnished slightly by a rare fumble. Jacob Tamme had two huge plays, one of them a recovery of a UK fumble and the other the first touchdown of the game.
All in all, the seniors acquitted themselves with the excellence they have shown all season. The secondary held Weatherford to 45% passing, while Woodson completed a robust 64% of his passes for a whopping 358 yards. Once again, as he has all season, Stevie Johnson showed us the big play, and scored the final touchdown for the Cats.
Now, it's time to give Rich Brooks some props. How far has he brought the Wildcats since early in 2006, when virtually everyone had decided it was time for him to go? The turnaround this program has made is truly spectacular, and it shows no real signs of abating. Even though we lose some huge skill players this year and the heart of our linebacking corps on defense, we have some great players waiting in the wings to step up and help us compete again with the best of the SEC. Our talent level is up, and even though "up" does not mean it has reached the level of the SEC elite, Brooks has done a very good job of picking up talented players that nobody knows that much about. That is an amazing skill set in itself, but hopefully, a year or two more of this kind of success, and we should start being able to compete on a higher level in recruiting.
I cannot say enough about what Rich Brooks has done. Nothing short of probation could wipe away his legacy as one of the best Kentucky coaches in memory, and the man who has taken this program from the depth of probation to undreamed-of heights for a Kentucky team. Brooks has the entire Big Blue Nation behind him now, as it should be.
Some congratulations are also in order for the long-suffering UK football fans. I do not qualify, I am only recently converted to a fan of the football program, but I am happy to be one now. The football team has brought great credit on the school, not just by their deeds on the field, but by largely staying out of trouble and performing reasonably well in the classroom.
So now, it is time to farewell the football Wildcats, and turn our full and undivided attention to basketball, something I am sure at least a few readers will be glad to hear. Well done, Gridiron Felines -- you have done Kentucky very proud, and we are just as proud of all of you.