Where's the Hail Mary?
It still hurts. Even now, more than 48 hours after the end of the University of Kentucky lost 33-30 to Louisiana State University on a last second Hail Mary it still hurts. UK Football now has a game to rival UK Basketball's 1992 Duke game. 66,262 was the listed attendance, but when this game is talked about 20 years from now, at least 100,000 will claim to have been there to witness the most gut-wrenching loss in the history of UK Football.
Words can't describe the kind of hurt this game brings. Imagine being on the losing end of a round of "Roshambo" and you might have an idea of what this feels like. Despite what you may have seen during mayoral candidate concession speeches, there are only a few moments in life when a grown man can cry in public. When your Mom dies, when your dog dies, when your team loses a game like this, and the end of Rudy. Despite the horrible ending, there are many things that actually went really well in this game. Before we talk about what went wrong, let's try and look past the hurt and focus on the positives.
Although Jared Lorenzen is often criticized, we want him to do well, and this past Saturday he may have had his most complete game this season. LSU had the number 1 ranked defense in the SEC and one of the top defenses in the nation. Instead of faltering, however, UK's offense excelled. The usual second half swoon was not there and J-Lo finished the game 12-26 for 210 yards with four touchdowns. He had great tosses to Aaron Boone as well as a pretty play-action pass that ended up in the hands of Chase Harp for a score. He also showed some nimbleness in the pocket and finished the game with 11 yards rushing. Artose Pinner continued on one of the best seasons in UK history for a running back, making this number 1 defense look silly. He finished with 143 yards rushing, something that is unheard of against the Bayou Bengals. The defense played solid and the special teams blocked two kicks. The most impressive moment for the offense occurred right before the LSU Miracle when freshman Taylor Begley of Danville kicked what should have been the game-winning field goal, a clutch kick for a young kid. This had all the makings of the most complete game UK has played all year. Everything except the last 15 seconds.
What went wrong? Well the best place to start is the clock management. A second-year head coach, such as Guy Morris, should not commit these sort of mistakes. We know he did not call the timeout, and actually instructed the offense not to call a timeout if they made the first down, but the buck stops with the head coach. It is common-sense football to let the clock run down as much as possible at the end of the game. After Begley's kick sailed through the uprights, there should have been zero seconds on the clock. No one is talking about who actually called the timeout, but that's irrelevant. A better-coached team does not make this sort of mistake. The blame goes to a head coach who's strong enough to take it. Although, Guy Morris will never make this mistake again.
The actual Hail Mary play deserves the name. There's no possible way the game should have ended this way. The defense was smart enough to attempt to knock it down, but they were out of position. Why was Devery Henderson allowed to get behind UK's defense? They were only rushing three men, so eight men were out there attempting to stop this pass. Even after the deflections, there should have been someone between Henderson and the end zone. Once again, a better-coached team does not make this mistake.
What was the most embarrassing part of the defeat? Well, that would have to be the behavior of the UK fans. When you consider all of the heartbreaking defeats in UK's history: the Chris Doering Florida Game, the Marty Moore Peach Bowl, and all the others, then you know that you CANNOT celebrate until the game is over. Premature Celebration is not looked upon kindly by the sports gods. Also, despite the fact that LSU is a ranked team, this was not a goal-post game. LSU is a team that we beat every now and then, at least once every three years. There were not undefeated and they were not a Top 5 team. This is not like the Alabama game where we had not won in 75 years or even the Georgia game from two weeks ago. It's understood that "goal-post fever" was sweeping the Bluegrass during the week of the Georgia game, but that does not mean that they have to come down. What looked even worse was when the people started to take them down AFTER LSU SCORED! For Christ's sake, if you are going to go to the game, pay attention. For the record, unless the team is undefeated or ranked in the Top 5, there are only two goal-post games on UK's schedule. Tennessee and Florida. And right now, the way Ron Zook is coaching down in Tallahassee, it may only be Tennessee. LSU, Louisville, Arkansas, and Mississippi State are all good teams, but they are not goal-post worthy. If UK fans want to be recognized as intelligent football fans, they need to understand that not every upset is a goal-post game, only the special ones.
This team has come back from a lot of adversity. The bowl ban and the South Carolina game are two bitter pills the Wildcats have swallowed and then fought back the next week tougher than ever. There is no reason to believe the resiliency they have shown all season will disappear now. The mistakes made will be fixed. The final home game is against Vanderbilt, and this is a game UK should win. A sellout crowd cheering this group of guys on would, after last week's tough loss, be much appreciated. If you go, though, remember: 1. Stay until the end. 2. Please, leave the goal posts alone.
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