Another week of UK football and things are quite interesting in the Bluegrass. Hell, things were interesting all over in college football this weekend (least of which about 150 miles South) but that can be discussed in other blogs. Tonight we need to discuss a little bit of 2008 Kentucky football. In particular, how does a team that everyone was so big on after a soft 4-0 start decide their team isn’t worth sitting in the cold an extra 20 minutes for?
For those not concerned with UK football or weren’t able to take in any part of the game Saturday (consider this guy very close to the second group) I’ll paint you a picture courtesy of Matt Jones over at KSR.
After looking for 54 minutes like they were not only done in the game, but the season was effectively over, the Cats came storming back, and in front of a crowd 1/3 the size of the beginning of the game, they pulled off one of the most improbable wins that I have ever seen in sports.
The key to this statement is “in front of a crowd 1/3 the size of the beginning.” I’ve been there. I’ve seen UK lose a game to Florida that was all but wrapped up. I even Gator chomped at their student section with a friend after Abney ran back a punt return (later to be called back on a phantom call). In my short time as a UK football fan (only about 8 years now, basketball for life though) I’ve seen a lot of bad football and a lot of bad situations in Commonwealth. I don’t recall ever leaving a game when my team was down less than 4 touchdowns though.
On Saturday night UK fans showed their true colors though. Even the first couple of years I followed the team and went to every home game, when they were only winning 2 games a year, I went and stayed for the whole show. Don’t get me wrong, when we were down 20 to Florida and them with the ball with 2 minutes I’d head to the tailgate lot for a night cap. But Saturday wasn’t that situation. This was still a winnable game and our fans gave up.
W and I traded a couple of texts as I wasn’t able to follow the action in Louisville except via updates on ESPN. He sent me one that said “I never thought I’d wish to have Shane Boyd back at quarterback.” I sent one that went something like this “unless Cobb’s arm falls off, there’s no reason to have Hartline back at QB.” Both of those statements are pretty rough on a kid that has only been playing D1 football in the SEC for half a season, but neither was a “give-up” statement. We both thought Cobb should be a QB and guess what? Joker and Rich proved us wrong at the end of that game. But not once in those texts did either of us say “pack the season in, no way we come back in this one.”
It’s always in the back of your head as a UK fan that your team just isn’t as good as you think, but you don’t ever let on to other teams that you’re giving up on your team, and you don’t ever actually GIVE UP. Saturday night thousands upon thousands of “Big Blue” fans did just that. The worst part? They didn’t just give up in spirit or tell their buddies they were watching the game with that they thought we were done. Those fans at Commonwealth Saturday told our TEAM that they were giving up. They might has well marched down on the field and asked for the game to be called. That’s what moving their asses from their seats and homeward bound said to our team on the field. And with 5 minutes to play at that.
Again, I’m not free from guilt. With 5 to go I thought Arkansas had it in the bag. I was hoping we’d make some plays and get the thing close so the guys would have some amount of momentum going into the Florida game. But I never quit checking that little ticker on ESPN. I wouldn’t have left with time on the clock when our boys had a chance. Every fan that did so on Saturday night needs to take a good look in the mirror when they don the Blue and White for the Georgia and Vandy games. They need to tell themselves that this team isn’t a top 10 team, but no matter how they play our fans will support them. If it’s 42-10 with 3 minutes to go and your 10 year old is shivering like he’s got the plague, by all means, pack the family up. But when this team still has a shot at winning the ball game and they lean on their fans for just a shred of confidence your asses better stay put. Hopefully this 2008 team won’t have to go through that again, and hopefully the ones in the future won’t be put to that test again.