Sunday, October 17, 2010

Left for Dead: The Story of UK vs. South Carolina

Mike Hartline has been on fire all season long but the rest of his team have not been able to close the deal. Last night it happened.

I went about my usual Saturday routine of preparing for a Kentucky football game. Picking out the right shirt, making sure I had someone to watch it with and showing up to a bar an hour early to get a decent seat. Monster Mash and I headed to Big Blue Country to watch the Cats take on Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks. The bar was not as packed as usual due to the game being at Lexington. I felt like I was the only person in the world without a ticket to the game.

There was optimism in the air and I got a really cool take home blue Kentucky Bud Light mug, which was nice. This was going to be a good night! The game started and the place erupted with cheers for the Cats. Then all of a sudden it was a Marcus Lattimore 30 yard touchdown run. Damn. Then, after the offense got a first down then punted, it was an Ashlon Jeffery touchdown reception from Stephen Garcia. Double damn. 14-0 after the first quarter.

It looked as if it was going to be one of those nights. The restless BBC crowd was calling for defensive coordinator Steve Brown to be fired, they began pleading to let Randall Cobb play defense, and everyone just wanted the team to show some life. The Cats scored twice in the second, one a touchdown pass from Mike Hartline to La'Rod King and a field goal. But the Gamecocks kept scoring. It was 28-10 and I was spent.

Monster Mash had headed out and I, not wanting to be a lone loser at a table by myself in a bar, decided to go home and watch the rest of the game at home, by myself (I did have two dogs with me) with a beer in hand. I got home not knowing what was going to happen in the second half. Joker Phillips gave an impassioned speech to his team in the locker room. Here is a sample: "We're in a street fight. I'm in a street fight. I want to see who has my back." And then it happened.

The much maligned defense limited the Gamecocks to zero points in the second half. Mike Hartline came out and threw three more touchdown passes. Chris Matthews turned into Randy Moss. And, as always, Randall Cobb was Randall Cobb: Simply Amazing. The play that had me believing that we would win was the fourth and three play with Cobb in the Wildcobb formation. He ran for the first down carrying a few defenders with him. He and his team were not going to be denied.

The final touchdown came from a masterful Mike Hartline to a wide open Randall Cobb. Favre4Ever texted me: "How do you leave that guy wide open? He is a Manchild." But there was still time left on the clock and the entire Big Blue Nation held it's breath as a Steve Spurrier run offense took the field for a game winning drive. We are 0-17 against this guy. Fate usually is not on our side.

The Gamecocks took the field and started driving. Awwww Hell. With 11 seconds left on the clock they were in field goal range to tie it with one timeout remaining. And then the hubris of the Old Ball Coach took over, or maybe he didn't know they had only one time out, or maybe it was meant to be. Spurrier called the final time out on 3rd down. He was going for the touchdown to win it. Stephen Garcia came out, called the play, hiked the ball and threw it into the end zone to Alshon Jeffery. It was intercepted by Anthony Mosley. Game over. Cats 31-Cocks 28. I went nuts, my phone was blowing up, I was calling people and screaming at the top of my lungs.

In the end Hartline was the MVP going 32-42, 349 yards, 4 touchdowns and no turnovers. Matthews broke out with 177 yards and a touchdown while La'Rod King provided two scores and Cobb had the game winner catch.

This is the third week in a row that this team had dug an early hole and fought back. This time they came up on the right side of things. Let's hope a page was turned and this team found out how to win. Joker Phillips did a masterful job and has done a good job all year long. He is cutting his teeth in the SEC, a task that no first year head coach envies.

This Saturday Georgia comes to Lexington and the Cats will see if they have what it takes to have 2 big wins in a row. Even if they get down early I still will watch because these Cats can't be left for dead. Right now the Cats are 4-3, 1-3 in the SEC with 4 conference games left and a midseason gimme against Charleston Southern. 9-3 is not out of the realm of possibility.

Go Cats. Free Enes.

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