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1st and Goal Part 2: Can you guide Kentucky to the College Football Playoff?

Make decisive choices in crucial moments of games to lead UK to a championship!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Citrus Bowl - Kentucky v Penn State Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Have you ever watched your favorite team run a play that fails miserably and shouted at the TV, “Why on earth did you run that play?! It never works!” and proceeded to see them lose? Or have you ever urged your team to go for two to win it all at once rather than kick the PAT to force overtime? If you were coaching and calling those plays, there’s no way your team would’ve lost those games, right?

Well here’s your chance to find out as head coach of the 2040 Kentucky Wildcats, calling those very plays when victory lies ever so close!

The game is simple. You are the head coach of a Kentucky squad 20 years in the future, and you answer one question for each game of your season. In Part 1, you played the first half of the season; in this article you will do the second half. Some, like the one for when you play Eastern Michigan, are very easy. Others, like your season finale against #5 South Carolina, are incredibly hard. The most important thing to remember, though, is your choice will be remembered by your fans for a long time, and that may not be a good thing.

“But how do I know which choice is right?” you might be asking. “It’s impossible to know before running a two-point conversion whether it will work or not.” While that is true, each question has roots in Kentucky’s football history.

Some are more obvious than others, but, for example, if you notice that in a big game in 2017 that a Wildcats opponent tried one choice and failed, or UK tried one choice and it worked, or vice-versa, then the same will happen here. The play UK tried to best so-and-so in the big game that worked will also work here, and the big play so-and-so tried against UK that worked will also work here, or if it failed it will fail here, etc. The key is to figure out which matchup is being referenced. Vast stores of UK nerd-knowledge you’ve been aching to use will be put to the test as you try to take Kentucky to the CFP. Most games alluded to are also recent (2000-2019).

So, no pressure! You’re facing Vanderbilt on October 27th, 2040 at Kroger Field, renamed Stoops Stadium. Answers to Part 2 will come in Part 3.

Answers to Part 1:

1. Indiana: Go for the 32-yard field goal: You send out the kicking team and watch the ball sail cleanly through the uprights. But the IU offense chews the clock with runs that just get past the 1st down marker. By the time you finally get a stop, there’s only time for one play with 75-yards to go. The desperation lateral passes don’t work. No Bluegrass Miracle today as your Cats begin the season 0-1. (Implied hint: 2019 vs. Penn St. in Citrus Bowl)

Indiana: Go for it on 4th & 7: Jim McDonold’s been hot all day and comes up clutch once again as your pass hits a receiver in the end zone. After the PAT, IU can’t answer and you come away with a 28-27 victory to start off 1-0! (Implied hint: 2019 vs. Penn St. in Citrus Bowl)

2. Eastern Michigan: Defend the deep ball: The Eagles need to reach the end zone and a pass is the only way to do it. Carefully covering all their receivers, you wait for the QB to launch the ball. Green jerseys try to snag it, but blue coverage keeps them away. You pick the Eagles off and come away with the win! (Implied hint: 2017 vs. Eastern Michigan)

Eastern Michigan: Defend the run: The Eagles QB is fast, but not fast enough to grab 47 yards in one play. Just as your defense is about to sack him, he hurls the football towards the end zone where to your horror a wide-open receiver is waiting for the pass to gracefully fall in his arms. It does, and your fans leave angrily shouting at why he was left uncovered. It’s a question you don’t want them to have to ask again. (Implied hint: 2017 vs. Eastern Michigan)

3. Ole Miss: Kick the PAT: The kick sails through without a doubt as the game heads to OT. The Rebels receive the ball first and fire at the end zone, but your defenders pick them off! A 4th-down Tortellini Ethelburt field goal later, your team is partying in the locker room as you escape Oxford with a thrilling 27-24 win! (Implied hint: 2017 vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl)

Ole Miss: Go for the two-point conversion: You put your chips all in as your team assembles for one last shot at the end zone. Jim McDonold, your stud quarterback, drops back for the pass. Finding a receiver, he fires, but the coverage is two tight. Incomplete. The Ole Miss crowd erupts. Tough break to begin SEC play. (Implied hint: 2017 vs. Northwestern in Music City Bowl)

4. Florida: Do a short passing play: With Florida, you never know what will work and what won’t. Sometimes it seems nothing will. While your team is talented enough to find a way to win any game, this isn’t the way for today’s. The pass never gets in the air as the Florida D-line smashes through the trenches and sacks your QB to force 4th down. To make things worse, your long field goal attempt misses by a hair. It doesn’t matter a few plays later as the Gators punch it in to deal your team an agonizing defeat. (Implied hint: 2018 @ Texas A&M)

Florida: Do a short running play: Riding a rock-solid, SEC running back, you seize the two yards and reach the pylon two plays later. Florida answers with a TD of their own to bring about another overtime, but a scoop-and-score brings about their downfall as your fans storm the field and party till sunrise. Celebrate, coach! You’re in rare company! (Implied hint: 2018 @ Texas A&M)

5. Missouri: Defend the run: These Tigers are tricky, but you’re prepared for their quarterback’s slippery legs. Keeping it himself, the Heisman-hopeful tries to find a hole and sees nothing but blue jerseys going for the pounce. He tries to scramble away but is clobbered by multiple defenders, when your D knocks the ball loose! Fumble! You steal the pigskin and march down the field with what little time remains. It’s just enough for your star kicker, Tortellini Ethelburt, to nail a deep field goal from 47-yards out. The fans erupt as time expires and begin celebrating the wild 41-38 victory. (Implied hint: 2016 @ Louisville)

Missouri: Defend the pass: Mizzou’s craftiness kicks in and their lightning-fast QB whizzes past the scant amount of defenders near him and races for the end zone almost untouched. You try to answer but get picked off. “Oof,” says one fan, speaking for everyone. An Oof indeed, as you swallow the 45-38 loss. (Implied hint: 2016 @ Louisville)

6. Georgia: Throw a short pass to the end zone: It’s only two yards, but the UGA D-line is quite formidable. Tricking them into guessing “run”, you drop back and fire a bullet to star receiver Burtilak Bertlesman. Touchdown! Ballgame! 90,000 fans stand stone-silent, mouths open wide in shock as they watch you celebrate. You might want to crowd-surf after this one. (Implied hint: 2018 @ Missouri)

Georgia: Hand it off to the RB for a short run to the end zone: On paper, the odds of your play working are very good. But Georgia is a team that likes to beat the odds. Your RB is swallowed up in a mountain of blue and red jerseys right along the edge of the pylon. After initially declaring touchdown, the referees turn to the video monitor and discover the ball came up an inch short. One inch. One loss. (Implied hint: 2018 @ Missouri)

Week 7: Bye

1st half SEC standings (excluding games where they faced you; add those wins and losses in yourself):

East: South Carolina (4-0), Vanderbilt (3-1), Florida (3-0), Georgia (2-1), Tennessee (2-2), Missouri (1-2), Kentucky (?-?)

West: Alabama (4-0), Texas A&M (4-0), Arkansas (3-1), Ole Miss (2-1), LSU (2-2), Auburn (1-3), Mississippi State (0-4)

Week 8: Kentucky (?-?) vs #18 Vanderbilt (5-1)

This is your toughest test yet of the 2040 season, in a rare year where Vanderbilt isn’t horrible. They come out of the gate ready to remind you of that, taking a 13-7 lead during the third quarter. A 36-yard TD pass ties things up (thanks to a missed PAT) at 13-all going into the final period, but then things get really ugly as the Commodores reach the end zone twice to take a whopping 14-point lead with seven minutes to go.

Your team has come a long way this year and doesn’t want to take a home loss today. Driving down the field they make it Vandy 27, UK 20, and after getting the ball back, they march deep into Commodore territory. With a mere 0:57 remaining, your team faces 4th & 3 on the Vandy 5. Fail to convert here and the game’s over. Score and you might have a shot in overtime. What will you choose?

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Throw a pass to the end zone
    (32 votes)
  • 34%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (17 votes)
49 votes total Vote Now

Week 9: Kentucky (?-?) @ #10 Texas A&M (6-1)

If you thought Vanderbilt was a tough opponent, guess what! Texas A&M is twice the challenge! Your team will need to give it everything they’ve got in College Station to stay relevant in the SEC East race. The first quarter is all Aggies as they jump out to a 14-0 lead. QB Jim McDonold makes it 14-7 a few minutes later, but A&M answers with another pair of TDs as you muster up just one field goal. Halftime score: A&M 28, UK 10. Not so good on the road against a Top-10 team.

Then, McDonold goes wild. Hitting a receiver late in the third quarter he cuts it to 11, then with a 38-yard dime he cuts it to five. The Aggies crowd is silent with fear as you march down the field one last time, looking for the lead and the win with 1:15 remaining. It’s 4th & 7 on the Aggie 24. You have several options here, but only one will seal the statement win in the Lone Star State.

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Throw a pass to the end zone to your star receiver
    (11 votes)
  • 70%
    Throw a short pass to the 1st down marker to your star receiver
    (34 votes)
  • 2%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (1 vote)
  • 4%
    Kick a field goal
    (2 votes)
48 votes total Vote Now

Week 10: Kentucky (?-?) vs LSU (4-4)

Finally, an easy game: at home against a mediocre Tigers team (a rarity in an SEC schedule). You might even be able to rest some starters; at least, that’s what you think. LSU soon shows they have other ideas in game nine of the craziest Kentucky football season ever. The Tigers immediately take off for a 74-yard TD run to make it 7-0, and tack on a pair of 2nd-quarter field goals to make it 13-zip. You manage to squeeze in a score before halftime to cut it to six, and Tortellini Ethelburt nails a 50-yard field goal to shrink the LSU lead to three. At last a 10-yard pass puts you up 17-13 for your first lead of the game, but a 4th-quarter score by the Tigers makes it 20-17 with 10 minutes and change remaining.

It’s 2nd & 13 at the LSU 24. About seven minutes remain. Failing to come away with points here could mean an ugly home loss. That’s the last thing you want to happen. Jim McDonold has been doing it all today. What do you tell him to do next?

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    Throw a pass to the end zone
    (14 votes)
  • 26%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (13 votes)
  • 44%
    Run with it himself
    (22 votes)
49 votes total Vote Now

Week 11: Kentucky (?-?) vs Tennessee (3-6)

No one on your team is overlooking Tennessee, despite their putrid record. They know how much angst these Vols bring BBN every year, and they aren’t going to let it happen again this year, especially not on Senior Day. You strike the scoreboard first with a two-yard TD run, then come back for more to take a 13-0 lead (the second PAT fails). The second and third quarters are a different story, unfortunately, as Rocky Top scores 17 unanswered points. Your offense finally shows signs of life late in the 4th quarter, reaching 1st & Goal with two minutes left. 1st & Goal soon turns to 2nd & Goal, then 3rd, then 4th. You’re down four, so a field goal will not help. Two yards. Last chance. Better make it count.

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 54%
    Tell Jim McDonold to run it himself
    (25 votes)
  • 45%
    Tell Jim McDonold to throw a pass
    (21 votes)
46 votes total Vote Now

Week 12: Kentucky (?-?) @ Louisville (6-4)

You might be wondering right now why you’re playing Louisville in Game 11 rather than Game 12. That’s because Rivalry Week now replaces Cupcake Week, and the final week of the season can be filled with conference-deciding, prime-time matchups. You’ll have your hands full in that game if you’ve been successful in the SEC so far, but first things first: the Governor’s Cup.

The Cards strike first with a field goal, but you answer with a 25-yard TD run. They then score two of their own to take a commanding 17-7 lead. Unfazed, Jim McDonold leads your Cats downfield and makes it 17-14 going into halftime. Receiving the ball to start the 3rd quarter, you tie things up with a 40-yard field goal, but trail once more after a Louisville 43-yard TD run. You manage to tie it once again, but the Cardinals simply will not go away, chipping in a pair of field goals to take a 30-24 lead with 12 minutes and change remaining in the final period.

Grinding away at the determined Louisville defense, you inch closer and closer to the end zone while just barely reaching 1st down markers. It might not be the D-line that defeats you, however. The clock has been steadily running down the entire time and holds only 0:19 seconds for your comeback bid. You’re on the Louisville 13. This might be your last shot. Go get that Governor’s Cup!

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    Throw a pass to the end zone
    (40 votes)
  • 6%
    Run it yourself
    (3 votes)
43 votes total Vote Now

Week 13: Kentucky @ #5 South Carolina (10-2)

This is it, the game your team has been waiting for all season long (Also, surprise! In 2040 the SEC plays nine conference games). Whatever your record to this point might be, this win would be huge for your program. Give the Gamecocks everything you’ve got; this won’t be easy and will likely decide who goes to the SEC Championship game.

Thanks to a perfect 14-yard TD pass and a pair of Tortellini field goals, your Cats race out to a 13-0 lead. Trading big-play TDs throughout the 2nd quarter, you head to halftime up 20-14. A South Carolina field goal cuts it to three, but you promptly drive downfield to extend the lead to 10. Just as you begin to get comfortable, the #5 Gamecocks erase the deficit completely with a TD and field goal to tie the game at 27-all going into the 4th quarter. Then Jim McDonold unleashes a 64-yard bullet to Burtilak Bertlesman to retake the lead, only for the Gamecocks to answer with a 75-yard pass of their own, knotting things up again 34-34.

Somehow, your team knows that the minute they fail to score, it will be curtains for them. It’s 4th & 8 at the South Carolina 35. There’s 9:40 left to play. A 53-yard field goal is a tall order, but possible. Running or passing for the eight yards is also a tall order, but possible. One will work. Two won’t. One will lead to you winning the game and possibly the SEC. Two won’t. No pressure.

Poll

What will you do?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    Attempt the 53-yard field goal
    (16 votes)
  • 5%
    Hand it off to the RB
    (2 votes)
  • 55%
    Throw a pass to Burtilak Bertlesman
    (22 votes)
40 votes total Vote Now

In the third and final part, you will discover whether your team finished undefeated, winless, or somewhere in the middle, as well as what postseason fate awaits you. Can you win the national title and make Kentucky the team to beat in the SEC? You’ll find out next week in Part 3 of “1st and Goal: Can you guide Kentucky to the College Football Playoff?”