COLUMN: Cats write same script (but this scene had cowbells)


August 20, 2010 – Lexington, Kentucky, USA – Chandler Howard, Sports Editor of the Kentucky Kernel. (Credit image: © David Stephenson)

STARKVILLE, Miss. — No … more … cowbell. Seriously, Davis Wade Stadium is unreasonably obnoxious, and I think even Christopher Walken would agree it is too much cowbell. The UK football team probably feels similarly. With another crushing loss to a Southeastern Conference opponent, this football season is becoming all too familiar for UK and its fans.

On a side note, the tan I soaked up from the radiating glow of the enormous screen at Mississippi State’s stadium was worth the drive there (it’s huge, I tell you!).

But while the intricacies of the team’s defeats are growing inconsistent, the big picture remains the same — UK falls early, attempts to mount a late-game comeback, and then fails in the end.

“I don’t want to be known as the football team that falls behind and continues to fight to get themselves back into the game, and then comes up short in the end,” UK head coach Joker Phillips said. “I want to be known as the football team that fought for 60 minutes, and we haven’t done that yet. We haven’t fought for 60 minutes.”

This week’s story had different details, though. The Cats’ offense, which still ranks in the top tier of the SEC, looked inferior to a Mississippi State defense that showed UK unusual packages. Quarterback Mike Hartline was faced with numerous looks he had not previously seen, thus the statistics (23 of 41, 258 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions) that don’t match the success he has found this season.

The UK defense stepped up in place of the lacking offense, especially late in the first half through the end of the game. It made crucial defensive stands in the final two drives of the first half and a majority of stops on MSU drives in the second half. But even an improved defense could not stop MSU’s rushing attack, which racked up 209 yards collectively.

Phillips and the coaching staff cannot pinpoint what exactly the team is struggling with at this point in the season.

A 4-4 record did not look so bad on paper, but I can’t say the same about 4-5. With a weak schedule in front of it, UK is expected to win its final three games, despite finding its final foe in Tennessee, a team UK hasn’t defeated in its last 25 meetings. But the Volunteers are down this year, now 0-5 in the SEC. With Charleston Southern and Vanderbilt upcoming, UK needs to stop its skid if it wants to add one more highlight to its season over Thanksgiving weekend.

It is clear turnovers are the Cats’ weak link, as is the case with many football teams. UK now has 14 turnovers in its five losses, but it has zero in its four wins. Simply put, if UK turns the ball over, it loses, at least that has been the scenario so far. So, the formula is there, now it is on the team to act.

“I still say we have a good football team, but this team needs to realize that themselves. I do like the fight … Hopefully we aren’t pressing too hard, too early, but our guys are fighting hard.”

As for now, the team must fight off the headaches from all of that cowbell, and move forward.

Chandler is a journalism sophomore. E-mail [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @KernelHoward.