If you are like me, you are still frustrated about last night's loss to Auburn. It is ok to feel this way; it is a sign of progress that we are able to get frustrated over play calling and missing opportunities to beat a traditional SEC power on national TV.
I do want to get one thing out of the way, a huge pet peeve of mine is when somebody says something along the lines of "we should be grateful we are in even in the game, just a few years ago we would be blown out!"
I hate using the past as a crutch for the frustrations of the present, and I will not participate.
While the statement in and of itself is correct, the mindset is not, we have evolved past the embarrassment of the Joker days and we should think accordingly.
The silver lining is that we are 4-2 and we have three games left that we will very likely be favored in and should win. If we can manage to steal one from Mississippi State, Georgia, or Tennessee then we are sitting at 8-4, heading to a warm bowl destination, and giddy about our season.
Even if we finish at 7-5, it will still be better than what most people predicted for this season, as well as a big step forward.
I think the root frustration of the fan base stems from being fans of Kentucky Basketball. We live in a world of instant gratification and ever since John Calipari has been in Lexington, we have gotten instant gratification.
We also have expected nothing short of final fours and championships over the course of our lives, which has been the case with the basketball program's historical results.
Being able to separate those expectations with the proper expectations of building a football program from rubble... in the toughest conference in America... is a near impossible, but necessary paradigm shift.
Having said that, there are very valid reasons for frustration and second-guessing. Coach Dawson is in his first big boy job calling plays and he is learning on the job. I think that has cost us in our only two losses and nearly cost us against Louisiana-Lafayette.
He is talented and a good offensive coordinator. He is an upgrade over Neal Brown and our players seem to love working with him.
However, there are going to be growing pains for the foreseeable future (2nd and 6 draw at midfield with 56 seconds left and no timeouts, following a play where our WR did NOT get out of bounds) as he grows into the role... patience must become a virtue for BBN.
We also have a ridiculously young offense. Only one contributor is a senior (Swindle) and there is plenty of up and coming talent to replace him.
In conclusion, we are ahead of schedule, Mark Stoops is exceeding expectations, and Kentucky has learned how to deal with adversity and overcome it.
UK Football is no longer a program that seems to be cursed by "the Bear", I say seems because we were never cursed. Kentucky Football WAS a program that made its own luck, and that luck was bad. Much as Kentucky Basketball seems to almost always find a way to win, they make their own luck, and that luck is good.
Kentucky Football has gotten past finding new and excruciating ways to lose. However, they are still finding the ability to take advantage of other teams mistakes and steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
In short, we have evolved past the stage of finding ways to lose, but have a ways to go before we should treat a game like last night as more than a 24-48 hour frustration before moving on.
The next step of the learning curve is being able to recognize defining moments and then to DEFINE the moment, as Kevin Costner's Roy McAvoy so eloquently put it in ‘Tin Cup.'
Once Kentucky is able to see the opportunities in front of them and lock onto them the way a bear snatches a salmon, we are going to have games like last night and Florida. Billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, has a great quote regarding winning in business.
"Every NO gets me closer to a YES"
The crux of this quote is sales driven and revolves around getting a ‘NO' prepares you to get a ‘Yes' in future settings. I have faith in the staff that they are learning from these tough losses/situations. While that does not make it any easier for BBN to swallow, I do think it is a truth.
The title of my game recap last night was ‘Not Ready for Primetime,' and being able take advantage of opportunity is exactly what I was referencing. When the other team gives you an opening, are you able to go in and TAKE that opening to control your own destiny?
At this point, UK is simply not that program... YET.
Until UK Football becomes that program, we should all just get real with ourselves and put solace in a few things. We are going to a bowl this year, we are taking a step forward this year, and even better days are ahead.