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UK’s loss to Missouri could have been much worse

It could have, and maybe it should have.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

So, Kentucky lost by 10 points (20-10) to Missouri.

Just be glad it was not a 30-point loss.

It could have, and maybe it should have.

How many times has UK given up 422 yards and gained only 145, with the opposing team possessing the ball nearly 80 per cent of the time and running 56 more offensive plays than UK. Yet, only losing by 10 points.

Inquiring minds need to know.

So, I did some research on UK football. Went waaaay back.

I uncovered many forgettable (perhaps embarrassing would be more appropriate) games.

But in all those games the score accurately reflected the game stats. The 20-10 loss to Missouri did not match up with the stats.

Could not find a game in which UK played so poorly but was not embarrassed on the scoreboard.

Ran across a 2013 Herald-Leader article by Mark Story that discussed several games in which the Cats were embarrassed on the on the stat sheet and on the scoreboard.

Mark wrote:

“When the Kentucky football team last visited South Carolina two seasons ago, the result was an epic example of UK dysfunction. The Wildcats produced six first downs, six turnovers, three points. Out of 18 offensive possessions, UK had seven three-and-outs and the six turnovers.

“Not once, but twice — twice! — Kentucky threw interceptions on back-to-back offensive plays. Not one, not two, but three different Kentucky players — two quarterbacks and a halfback passer — threw interceptions.

“South Carolina ran 91 total plays; Kentucky gained 96 total yards.

“Kentucky lost the game 54-3.”

Mark went on to rank the worst losses in program history, and here’s what he came up with:

“4.) 2008, Florida 63, Kentucky 5. UK got two punts blocked in the first quarter by Urban Meyer’s Gators. They set up Florida’s first two touchdowns and launched UF to a 35-0 lead. Bringing even more special teams ineptitude to The Swamp, Kentucky later had a field goal blocked, too.

“Why it is not the worst UK loss: Kentucky gained 268 yards of offense and did score.

“3.) 1994, Florida 73, Kentucky 7. The Cats were down 31-7 at halftime against Steve Spurrier’s Fun ‘n’ Gun, but things got fully out of hand in the third quarter when Terry Dean hit Reidel Anthony with a 65-yard TD pass, then UK fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Florida returned it for a touchdown.

“Why it isn’t the worst UK loss: The Cats logged a touchdown and gained 198 total yards.

“2. 2011, South Carolina 54, Kentucky 3. Had South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington not fumbled the opening kickoff, which set up UK’s field goal, the Wildcats would have never come close to scoring.

“Why it isn’t the worst UK loss: Kentucky did manage that field goal.

“1.) 1996, Florida 65, Kentucky 0. In a season in which UK fans were pleading for the Wildcats coaching staff to install true freshman Tim Couch as starting quarterback, Bill Curry and offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac threw Couch to the Gators in Gainesville in his first college start.

“Couch completed six of 18 passes for 13 yards. Spurrier’s crew led 41-0 at halftime, then Jacquez Green returned back-to-back punts (66 and 79 yards) for touchdowns in the third period.

“Why it is the worst UK loss: Florida scored 65 points; Kentucky gained 67 total yards.

Stoops has certainly brought respect to UK football in recent years, but this screwed up COVID-19 schedule has caused a blip on the record book. This UK team has been a real topsy-turvy Jekyll and Hyde team. UK smothered Tennessee and Mississippi State but Tennessee smothered Missouri, who just did the same to Kentucky.

The Cats in 2020 still must face Alabama, Georgia and Florida, with home games against Vanderbilt and South Carolina. Sounds like three probable losses and possibly two wins – which would wind up with UK finishing 4-6 (the record I predicted for the Cats months ago). UK will likely get some kind of bowl game, which it could win to finish 5-6 overall.

I have been an avid UK fan for 70 years. My mantra all these decades has been “any time UK beats Tennessee it’s a good year.” So, no matter what happens the rest of this season I always have that UK win in Knoxville to ease my soul.

(Ken Paul Mink is a 55-year journalist/author and former Herald-Leader sportswriter. He grew up in Perry County near Hazard)