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Kentucky Wildcat Football: Frustrating Fans From Pikeville to Paducah

Any Kentucky football fan watching Saturday's 42-35 loss to the fortuitous Ole Miss Rebels came away from the debacle shaking their head at the incredible generosity shown by the Cats to their hosts.  It's not a new sensation for Wildcat football fans, for every year Kentucky finds a way lose at least one game it should have won. 

I can think of no better word than "frustrating" when describing how Kentucky fans must have felt while watching big blue's Saturday afternoon self-destruction, but a game with so many unforced UK errors is certainly deserving of being described as "frustrating 2.0."  Taking fan frustration to the next level, that's what these Cats have accomplished.  Frustration at the offensive rally-killing turnovers, the defensive rally-sustaining penalties, and the rally-starting field position Kentucky's special teams seems more than willing to supply opponents. 

For frustration redux, follow me after the jump:

The Wildcat day of frustration started early:

After scoring a touchdown on the initial drive of the game, UK then holds Ole Miss to minus-one yard on the Rebels first possession.  After once again forcing a punt on the second Rebel possession, the Cats commit a holding penalty on a punt kicked through the end zone by Ole Miss.  So instead of getting the ball on their own 20 yard line, UK starts from their own 10:

  • Point of Frustration --  With Kentucky up 7-0, the Cats, not satisfied with a penalty which places the ball precariously close to the UM end zone, then fumbles the ball courtesy of Randall Cobb, "forcing" the Rebels to go a whole 11 yards to tie the ball game.

Kentucky then scores on an 80 yard drive to regain the lead 14-7.  UK's defense holds the Rebs to a 21-yard drive, forcing yet another punt: 

  • Point of Frustration -- On the first play of Kentucky's ensuing drive, Mike Hartline throws a pick to the underneath coverage.  The interception is returned to the UK 9-yard line.  Making the Rebels go an entire 9-yards to tie the score.

With the score inexplicably tied at 14, the Cats self-destruct again:

  • Point of Frustration -- This time a Chris Matthews fumble after a 10-yard completion gives the ball to Ole Miss at the UK 43 yard line.  The Kentucky defense, not wanting to break precedent, doesn't force a field goal, but allows another Rebel touchdown making the score 21-14.

And that, my friends, quite succinctly describes the first half of the game -- Well, let's not forget Craig McIntosh's epic 50-yard field goal making the score 21-17 at the half (I think UK has found the kicker they so desperately need).  A half that saw the UK offense gain a very respectable 235 yards, and a UK defense hold Ole Miss to only 122 total yards.  Twenty-one points and 122 yards of total offense ... Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt must have thought he was in Eden.

Entering the second half, the Cats had to feel good about their chances.  The Wildcat defense had held the Rebels to 122 total yards, and the UK offense, when not turning the ball over, moved the football almost at will.

The Cats kicked off to open the second stanza (and lined up offside?) and immediately made even the most "iron-stomached" Kentucky fans reach for the Tums:

  • Point of frustration -- On Ole Miss' first play from scrimmage, the UK defense stuffed Brandon Bolden for a 4-yard loss, but, a personal foul penalty of UK defensive end DeQuin Evans offset the defensive effort.  The result, instead of the Rebels looking at a 2nd & 14 from their own 21 yard line, they had a 1st & 10 from their own 36 yard line.
  • Point of frustration -- Later in the same drive and from the UK 42 yard line, Jeremiah Masoli turns in a nice 17-yard gain, taking the ball to the UK 25 ... but wait, a personal foul (late hit) penalty on UK's Mychal Bailey moves the ball to the UK 12 yard line.  Of course the Rebels find the end zone, making the score 28-17 -- The two UK penalties accounted for 28 of the 75 yards gained by Ole Miss on the drive.

After a 42-yard Kentucky drive, Craig McIntosh makes good, this time on a 42-yard field goal, bringing the Cats closer to the Rebs, 28-20.  But, on the UK kickoff ...

  • ... kicker Joe Mansour kicks the ball out-of-bounds.  This mistake costs UK 20 more yards by placing the ball on the UM 40 yard line instead of the UM 20.  The Rebels once again capitalize on the UK mistake and take it in for six, making the score 35-20.

UK then goes three and out and is forced to punt.  Ryan Tydlacka booms a 55-yard bomb into the Mississippi sky ...

  • ... only to have it returned 73-yards to the UK 2-yard line.  A penalty on UM brought the ball back to the UK 7, but the Wildcat defense is unable to hold the Rebs.  The resulting Ole Miss score makes the score 42-20 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Entering the fourth quarter down 22 points will cause many teams to mail-in the final quarter and get outta Dixie, but the Cats showed some grit and determination.  And after three & outs by both teams, the Cats scored six on a five play, 45 yard drive.  Wanting to get within 14 points of Mississippi, UK sets up for a 2-point conversion, and in one of the prettiest plays of the day, Hartline tosses a pass only his receiver can catch, and Randall Cobb did just that with a beautiful grab, making the score 42-28.

On the ensuing kick off, Joe Mansour once again kicks the ball out-of-bounds.  Luckily for Mansour's psyche and future job security, the Cats defense holds the Rebels to two-yards on three plays.

On UK's next possession the Cats travel 38 yards to the UM 23 yard line.  And on 4th & 4 (from the 23), instead of kicking a 40-yard field goal (which by now we know McIntosh can make), UK goes for the first down and is stopped short (which is not to be confused with "stopping short" ala Frank Constanza).  But, the Cats defense puts the kibosh on the Rebels' charge to put the game out of reach, forcing UM to punt.

The UK drive starts with just over three-minutes remaining, and the Cats needing two scores to tie. 

UK takes possession of the ball on the UM 40 yard line, and drives 60 yards, culminating in a Hartline to Matthews 13-yard touchdown pass making the score 42-35 with 1:35 remaining.  But the drive wasn't without its problems, mainly ...

  • ... a delay of game penalty on the Cats.  Read that again, A DELAY OF GAME PENALTY ON THE CATS.  How it is possible -- when a team should be in some form of a hurry-up offense -- for a team to receive a delay of game penalty at this juncture in the contest is mind-boggling, frustrating, and can lead to big blue bricks being thrown through blameless big screens around the Commonwealth.

With only 1:35 remaining in the game, Kentucky followed-up their touchdown drive with an onside kick.  For those not schooled in the intricacies of the onside kick -- The kicking team attempts to kick the ball into the ground, making it bounce, and hopefully give the "hands team" a chance to, after the ball has traveled at least 10 yards, gain control of the ball.

Folks, it was perfect execution.  Craig McIntosh, who took over the kick off duties from Mansour, bounced the ball high into the air, the ball traveled the necessary yardage, and the Kentucky player (linebacker Danny Trevathan) had the ball in his grasp, but lost control.  How, one might ask, did Trevathan lose the ball when he so clearly had a bead on it?  Oh, that's right, he has a CAST ON HIS HAND, which most folks assume would automatically disqualify him from being on the "good hands" team.

But not at Kentucky.  At Kentucky, the ball is kicked toward the side of the field occupied by the man with a CAST ON HIS HAND.  In a game UK clearly should have won, why not end it with as boneheaded a decision as I've recently witnessed in a college football game (that didn't include LSU coach Les Miles).

If you're not yet nauseous, take a look at the game stats:

  • Total offense: Kentucky 424 yards; Ole Miss 301 yards.
  • Average yards per rush: Kentucky 4.1; Ole Miss 4.1
  • Passing yards: Kentucky 300; Ole Miss 90
  • Third down conversions: Kentucky 6-16 (37.5%); Ole Miss 5-13 (38.5%)
  • Randall Cobb turns in a personal best 267 all-purpose yards, and Derrick Locke accounts for 214 all-purpose yardage.

But on this Saturday, those numbers were not enough to win ... because of these numbers:

  • Penalties: Kentucky 7 for 68 yards; Ole Miss 6 for 46 yards.
  • First downs gained by penalty: Kentucky 1; Ole Miss 3.
  • Turnovers: Kentucky 3; Ole Miss 0.
  • Points off turnovers: Kentucky 0; Ole Miss 21.

This Kentucky team has the talent to win every remaining game on their schedule, but if they don't control the penalties by showing discipline, and the turnovers by being fundamentally sound, and the questionable coaching decisions by being better prepared, then the Cats are certainly capable of losing every game remaining on their schedule.

Which will it be Cats? 

We begin the find out the answer to that question this Saturday as the Auburn Tigers invade Commonwealth Stadium.

Thanks for reading and Go Cats!