Hold your horses; Kentucky football is still good


Three young Kentucky Wildcats fans yell and wave to the cheerleaders at Cat Walk before the game against South Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Well, that was something. As Trayveon Williams dove into the end zone in overtime at Kyle Field, the questions almost immediately erupted. Is Kentucky football legitimate? Is their success, the success of a team so often the laughingstock of the strongest football conference in the nation, for real?

As is the case with many postgame overreactions, every fan, media member and casual football follower should take this game in context.

For the first time since 2007, the Cats won their first five games of the season. All of their wins so far have been by double digits and have been against teams that are showing more and more that they are forces to be reckoned with. Mississippi State, who lost 28-7 against Kentucky, beat No. 8 Auburn for its first SEC win Saturday night. Florida, a team the Cats knocked off in Week 2, just took down No. 5 LSU at home.

The manner in which the Cats stayed in the game is also very telling about their legitimacy as a talented team. Without a starting linebacker, and two strings of left tackles, the Cats played gritty defense and scooped up a fumble for a touchdown in the only way UK could seem to get one. At that point in the second half, the UK defense had gained more yards after halftime than the offense.

The game showcases that even at their worst, the Cats are still very, very good. Star running back Benny Snell Jr. didn’t get anywhere near 100 rushing yards for the first time this year, Terry Wilson seemed to be in danger of getting sacked on nearly every second-half play and Kash Daniel blew coverages left and right out of halftime. Still, though, the Cats were in a position to win against a team that fluked a loss to No. 4 Clemson and gave No. 1 Alabama the closest thing to competition they’ve had all year.

The loss also has virtually no effect on UK’s SEC Championship chances. Since Texas A&M is in the SEC West, UK’s record in the East is unchanged while the Cats’ matchup against No. 2 Georgia on Nov. 3 (which is already sold out) is still expected to be the deciding game in that side of the conference.

The Cats now face a bye week, and it’ll be the first time in a while that UK will be this comfortable positioned heading into the break. They’ll get what is normally a tune-up game against Vanderbilt, before heading back on the road to face Drew Lock and the Missouri Tigers in a significantly less daunting environment than Kyle Field.

So to everyone that’s overreacting, don’t. On either side.

The Cats are not awful, or illegitimate. This game showed, however, that they’re very far from invincible.