Third Time's the Charm?

Bad things happen in threes.

Three strikes will sit a batter down, and three outs that will end the inning.

Three's the number of leaves on a poison ivy stem.

And that's how many sheets one is to the wind after drinking too many adult beverages.

Three Die Hard movies. Or Scream movies. Or those Kevin Bacon vs. the giant worms Tremors movies. (That's right, the third one's due out mid-2001!)

The battle of Gettysburg lasted three days, from July 1-3, 1863. After the third lick, the fruit-flavored shell of a Tootsie Pop disappears. Three people on hand: crowd-especially bad if one is claustrophobic.

Now the 2000 edition of Kentucky football can be added to this notorious list.

Yes, technically the team is on a four game skid.

But what's sad is that the Wildcats have now bowed out to three very-beatable and very-necessary-to-beat-in-order-to-go-to-a-bowl-game opponents (Mississippi, South Carolina, LSU) three weeks running.

And what's shocking is that the traditionally well-oiled engines of the Wildcat offense have sputtered. Against LSU last Saturday, the Air Raid couldn't even clear the hangar, blanked 34-0 by the Tigers.

Of course, Kentucky was cursed by threes.

LSU was the third SEC foe that UK has played on the road this year. That's bad enough. But to add insult to injury (literally), Chad Scott, the Cats' quick-as-a-hiccup halfback, has been limited lately, thanks to a troubled ankle. And Saturday, for the first time all season, Kentucky was completely without the services of Scott, probably the offense's best player. Coincidence? I think not, that being the third week after Scott sustained the injury and all.

Yet to say that a single athlete would have made enough of a difference to measurably alter the outcome in Baton Rouge would be to lie.

And there's no need for lying-the game stats do enough of that on their own, which, if you are a Benjamin Disraeli buff, makes perfect sense. Disraeli, the two-time British Prime Minister, lastly from 1874-1880, wrote in his autobiography, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

A quick glance at the stat line shows that the Wildcats gained 397 yards net offense, and the Tigers amassed 339. Kentucky rushed for 117 yards and LSU rushed for 114; both teams made 7 first downs on the ground. Through the air, UK made 15 first downs while LSU garnered 13. And after Kentucky's 77 plays on offense and LSU's 79, both teams totaled 23 first downs.

By these numbers alone, the game appears reasonably close. And indeed the game was close-ahem, save for LSU collecting 34 bones and UK posting a big fat zero.

Delve deeper, and you'll find the devil. Read between the lies, and you'll see how the UK laid an (goose) egg.

You'll see that these threes are truly terrorizing.

Kentucky is the third team LSU has faced since benching quarterback Josh Booty following a loss to UAB on September 23. Booty gets the call Saturday, though, and his three completions spearhead a touchdown march that spans the length of field on the Tigers' opening drive. LSU scores on its first possession of the game for the third time this season; the team goes on to win all three times in which it scores on its opening possession. Unpleasant foreshadowing.

Kentucky strings together a decent initial drive but fails to put 3 points on the board as a 46-yard field goal flies wide right.

Kentucky proceeds to muff three punt returns, losing two of them. The Cats also fumble the ball away another time on offense, giving-and they really were gifts-giving LSU a trifecta of takeaways on the ground.

Off those turnovers, LSU scores three times.

More turnovers-on downs. Kentucky goes for it on fourth down three different times inside the LSU 35 yard-line during the game. All three attempts falter.

More giving-Kentucky permits LSU three first downs via penalty.

More Booty-the quarterback who has never previously earned a victory as a starter in an SEC game throws three touchdown passes in the game. The third goes to a third-string tight end.

In essence, the Cats squandered their chance to defeat the Tigers for the third consecutive year. But this is not surprising since the Cats have never ever defeated the Tigers three consecutive times.

Stop the madness.

Ah, but madness won't stop. Evil triplets will persist in hoisting their hoary heads-namely Georgia, Mississippi State, and Tennessee.

Celebrities will continue to die in threes. Three-legged horses will always be shot. And "Fish and visitors," as Ben Franklin said, will never cease to "smell in three days."

Here's hoping the Kentucky offense stops its three-game stink this weekend against the Bulldogs, which, unfortunately, are of late playing mean ball-like they are direct descendants of Cerberus, the mythological three-headed hound of Hades. Gulp.

At the least, here's hoping against a shutout.

Because although bad things happen in threes, worse things happen in zeroes.