Shellacking in the Swamp. Fiasco in Florida. Gator chomped. Some days, you wake up with potential headlines running through your brain.
After replaying the important parts of the game in my head, it seems to me that my first observation was even more correct than I thought -- that the 'Cats came into the Florida game unprepared mentally, physically or emotionally. To Florida's credit, they had two weeks to prepare for Kentucky, and Urban Meyer did a spectacular job. He told his Gators, "If we make a couple of big plays on special teams and get a quick lead, this game can be over at halftime." How do I know he said that? Because some plans are as obvious as the nose on your face, and it worked better, I expect, than he had hoped.
To me, the tale of UK's lack of preparedness was obvious after the first blocked kick. Masthay had a look of shock on his face. Why? Blocked punts happen all the time in college football. Steve Ortmayer appeared as if his best friend had just died, looking around for confirmation that it really happened. Even Rich Brooks looked baffled and seemed not to know what to say.
That is a microcosm of the failure of the coaching staff in preparing this team. A microcosm of the failure of the players to be ready was the offensive lineman on the first blocked kick who casually stood up to block, expecting a punt return, only to have a Florida lineman knock him, I kid you not, right on his backside, then plant a foot in his chest on the way to an easy block. The lineman got run completely over like he was trying to block a semi-tractor instead of a rushing lineman.
One of the great bits of dialog from the movie "A Few Good Men" was Tom Cruise's character talking about what his father, a famous lawyer, said about murder trials. "Murder trials are about assigning blame," he said. "Somebody's dead, and they shouldn't be. Someone needs to be blamed for that." To their credit, Brooks, Phillips, Ortmayer, Brown and the entire Kentucky team are all stumbling all over themselves trying to take the blame for the failure at Florida. "It's my fault." "No, it's mine!" Chinese fricking fire drill.
Forget blame. This was a football game, not a murder trial. The team failed, top to bottom, and the coaches are as much a part of the team as anyone else. The fans failed -- the abject meltdown we have seen in the Big Blue Nation calling for everything from Ortmayer's head on a silver platter to the firing of the whole staff right now is nothing less than an angry mob mentality -- for what?
I'm sorry, did I miss the part where UK was supposed to contend for the BCS championship this year? Yeah, so Brooks was lamenting Kentucky being ignored in the bottom of the polls earlier in the season, words I'll bet he wishes he could take back right about now even though in the context of the time they were appropriate and reasonable. UK fans are three years removed from futility, and we act as though the world is about to end because UK failed to prepare well for a game, the breaks all went the opponent's way and the game got ugly?
Think about it for a minute -- how much more of a right do LSU fans, one season removed from the BCS championship, have to be mad about the ruination of their highly ranked team at the hands of the Gators two weeks ago? LSU was nearly as uncompetitive in that game as we were yesterday in the sense that they were never a threat to win from the first quarter on. There ought to be no comparison since LSU is surely a much better team than UK this year, yet Wildcat fans have managed to convince themselves that blowouts should no longer be possible for Kentucky after only a couple of years since the last one (at the hands, ironically, of LSU)!
I will remind everyone reading this that, "I told you so." I told you what would happen if we failed to bring our "A" game, and I guess a good many simply didn't agree -- they figured our "B" or "C" game was good enough to avoid embarrassment. I have news for those who think that -- it isn't. The SEC isn't considered the toughest football league top to bottom for nothing, and may I remind you that I still consider Brooks' ambitious enterprise to take Kentucky from doormat to a top-flight SEC program mission impossible, or at least mission improbable.
The only good that can come of this self-immolation is that a number of bandwagon fans ought to fall off the wagon, and I hope it leaves a bruise when they hit the ground. I have no love for fair weather fans, because they are wont to post profane, unethical nonsense attacking the coach and players on UK message boards and blogs. Poor Jeff Drummond over at The 'Cats Pause almost lost his religion yesterday over online fan behavior. That is a sad commentary on the state of our fans, a situation that has been the subject of much recent lament.
A bit later today, I will have a more meaningful post on what lessons can be learned from this catastrophe, and there are quite a good number. In college sports, like in life, calamitous events often produce the most long-term benefit in terms of learning ways not to repeat them and significant improvement, and my guess is that this situation is no different. But more on that later.
For now, context is the key. If you have forgotten Kentucky football history (or never knew it), now would be a good time for you to refresh yourself. This isn't the end of the world, it is just an embarrassing loss, something UK football watchers of any significant length of time know well. They happen to every team, including better teams than Kentucky, and they don't go away even when you actually do become a quality team. So get a grip, if you need one, and let's move forward.