Big Blue Links for Saturday:
Coach Joker Phillips conceded this week that it’s possible for his team to keep making strides, to keep improving on both sides of the ball, but still lose to an impressive, unbeaten sixth-ranked South Carolina team on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. “Definitely,” he said. “I mean this is a grown man’s league. We can improve, but everybody else is improving also. The thing we have to do is continue to see how much we can improve and continue to get this football team better. They’re trying to do the same thing. We’ve just got to try to match them.”
Both teams, then, have a sour taste lingering that they’d like to cleanse tonight when Kentucky (1-3, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts the No. 6 Gamecocks (4-0, 2-0). Last year, the Cats allowed 639 yards and gained just 96. They had as many turnovers (six) as first downs. They punted for four times as many yards as their offense produced. It was ugly and lopsided, and Spurrier rubbed UK’s nose in it.
The problem with the Bobby Petrino Bandwagon is not just its baggage, but its blinders. Its outlook is too narrow, its tunnel vision too confining. It assumes that the University of Kentucky’s floundering football program is so far gone that it can be salvaged only by a scalawag other schools wouldn’t touch in a hazmat suit. It smacks of desperation and defeatism, of due diligence undone and imagination untapped.
Kentucky’s best hope might be to pray that South Carolina is more concerned about the coming weeks than a date with an SEC cellar dweller. The Gamecocks face Georgia next week in a game that could decide the SEC East, followed by road trips to LSU and Florida. That’s a brutal three-game stretch. If the Gamecocks are looking ahead, Kentucky just might be able to jump out early and hold on for dear life in the second half.
Obviously, that 31-28 loss (in 2010) stung. USC built a 28-10 halftime lead behind over 200 total yards from Lattimore, who rolled an ankle in the third quarter and missed the rest of the game. UK stormed back behind three Mike Hartline TD passes in the second half, including the go-ahead score to Randall Cobb with 1:15 left in the game. The Wildcats celebrated in a way the Gamecocks didn’t appreciate at the time.