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UK vs. Arkansas: Five good minutes

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One of the truly wonderful things about sports, and being a sports fan, is that every so often something utterly improbable and nearly impossible happens.  When it does, it brings one team to their knee pads and elevates the other to heavenly heights.  One set of fans are "roller coastered" from jubilation to despair, and the other from disappointment to "I can't believe what I just saw!"  

In the first 55 minutes of Saturday nights 21-20 victory, UK discovered and mastered the handbook on 'How to Perfect the Art of Playing Losing Football': 

In the first 55 minutes they committed drive sustaining penalties:

  • On Arkansas's pathetically long 20 play 87 yard drive, UK did their best to prolong the agony with three penalties: On second and 27 a pass interference call gave the Hogs an automatic first down -- Later in the drive Michael Smith ran for one yard on third and three.  The average football fan believes that that would then lead to a punt, but no, UK is called for a face mask, resulting in a 15 yard penalty and another first down -- Finally, on third and 11, Arkansas quarterback Casey Dick throws an incomplete pass, but UK is called for a very questionable roughing the passer penalty, resulting in another automatic first down -- All told, out of Arkansas's 87 yards gained on the drive, UK contributed 34 yards through penalties.

In the first 55 minutes they ran the wrong routes:

  • Early in the game, lo and behold, Hartline chose to throw long, but his intended target (DeMoreo Ford), instead ran a 10 yard slant.  There was no one within 40 yards of the ball as it skipped harmlessly off the turf.

In the first 55 minutes they threw interceptions:

  • Mike Hartline threw two picks, one of which cost the 'Cats seven points; his interception in the first quarter set up a Arkansas 24 yard drive resulting in a Michael Smith two yard TD scamper.

In the first 55 minutes they threw for minus yardage on fourth and two:

  • At the 8:33 mark of the fourth quarter, UK faced a fourth and two.  Down 13 points, and desperate for a first down, Hartline threw a screen to Randall Cobb for a two yard loss ... no, I'm serious.

In the first 55 minutes they fumbled and muffed:

  • Derrick Locke fumbled away a reception, which eventually led to a Michael Smith 22 yard touchdown catch -- DeMoreo Ford didn't vacate the area quickly enough, allowing a Tim Masthay punt to graze his foot, giving Arkansas the ball on UK's seven yard line (the defense held the Hogs to a field goal). 

In the first 55 minutes they missed a 30 yard field goal: 

  • How Ryan Tydlacka missed that kick I"ll never know. 

In the first 55 minutes the defense chased a seemingly lubricated Michael Smith to no avail:

  • The best back UK has faced this year ran for 192 yards on 35 carries.  If he doesn't get hurt, UK doesn't win.

In the first 55 minutes UK inspired more head scratching than the average episode of Jeopardy:

  • Arkansas only had to gain a grand total of 47 yards on their way to their first 17 points, courtesy of UK miscues.

"Old" Kentucky had once again revealed it's ugly head, and the season, like so many others before, seemed in peril.  Getting to six or seven wins now seemed like a naive child's sweet dream.  The sky was most definitely falling.

But, like a Phoenix, rising out of Arizona (Seinfield reference), and with only 4:56 left before a third straight loss, an Ashton Cobb recovery of a De'Anthony Curtis fumble (forced by Johnny Williams) seemed to inspire and motivate the nearly defeated 'Cats.

Suddenly, as if their will-to-win had been re-energized, the 'Cats began executing as if they actually wanted to win: 

  • What before was third and long, now was second and one.  Moncel Allen caught a nine yard pass on first and 10 just before Hartline connected with Cobb for a 32 yard touchdown.  Short yardage situations open up the possibilities.  
  • What before was a Mike Hartline screen pass, now was some semblance of a vertical passing game. 
  • What before were drops, now were touchdown catches.  Both to Randall Cobb, and both as accurate as a laser guide missile.  
  • What before was Michael Smith running roughshod over the UK line and secondary, now was Michael Smith receiving a lesson on life in the SEC, courteous of a monster hit by Sam Maxwell (Smith never returned due to a possible concussion). 
  • What before were dropped interceptions, now was Marcus McClinton hermetically sealing the victory with his pick at the 1:07 mark.
  • What before was UK playing like it was 1999, now was UK playing like we've become accustomed to over the last couple of years; with the confidence that they could do anything they wanted, and then going on the field and executing the victory.

Aaah, "New" Kentucky.  Come on in and stay awhile.

We haven't seen much of "New" Kentucky this year, and even rarer the sightings have been over the last three games or so.  But Saturday night in Lexington, "New" Kentucky made a rousing recovery at Commonwealth Stadium, which by the way, was nearly as empty as Bobby Petrino's ethic's reservoir.  "New" Kentucky saved a thoroughly inept 'Cat squad from sure defeat, and thousands of Kentucky fans from committing crimes against humanity.

The confidence Mike Hartline displayed, and the big-play ability that Randall Cobb unveiled in the final few minutes CAN serve as a building block for the remainder of the season.  But ...    

Will "New" Kentucky hang around long enough for UK to reach it's goals for the season?  I surely don't know, but if Rich Brooks is right, then perhaps the '08 'Cats have reached a "turning point" in the season. 

"Turning point?" ... well, we'll see, but for one five minute period they perfected the art of winning.  In those frenetic five minutes UK recovered a fumble, intercepted a pass, and scored two touchdowns.  Yeah, could be a turning point ...

But for now I'll not ponder such possibilities, I'll simply enjoy the afterglow of unexpected victory, and worry about the future ... later.

Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!