By Kevin Faris

This is an actual phone call received during the Kentucky/Florida football game…

Caller A: How are we doing?

Caller B: Terrible. It’s awful. They are carting Dustin Williams off the field, the offense has reverted back to Louisville form, it’s over, the game’s over.

Caller A: What’s the score?

Caller B: 10-3. But don’t let that fool you, we have no chance to win this game.

Three games into the University of Kentucky’s 2004 football campaign, no one has any idea what type of offense the Wildcats actually have. Is it the miserable failure that fans saw during the shutout at Louisville? Is it the “clicking on all cylinders” juggernaut that rolled over the Indiana Hoosiers? Or, is it the ineffective unit that took the field in The Swamp last Saturday, a unit so lacking in firepower that UK fans looked at a 10-3 deficit and saw no chance for victory? No one knows, and unfortunately, that probably includes the players and the coaching staff.

Any discussion of an offense’s capabilities always begins with the quarterback, be it good or bad. In the case of the Wildcats, this is bad. Senior Shane Boyd flopped in the 2004 debut, mixing runs for no yardage with passes thrown no where near receivers, all the time running for his life from a Louisville defense that is much, much better than any of us ever thought. In the Indiana game, he turned into Michael Vick, or at the very least Pookie Jones, as he rushed for over 100 yards, threw for over 200, and hung 51 points on the hapless Hoosiers. Expecting the best on Saturday, UK fans received the former. Boyd had more time than he did in Louisville, but proved once again that as far as passing goes, his strength is running. Or so you might believe. Against a Gator defense that had obviously watched tape of the IU game, Boyd had 14 carries for 28 yards, repeatedly misunderstanding how exactly the “option” works. “Option” implies that there is a choice to be made, and as Boyd slammed repeatedly into Gator defenders, it became obvious he was making the wrong one.

“I just think Shane had so much success keeping it against Indiana that he thought he’d do it all over again,” UK Head Coach Rich Brooks commented. “But when your pitch key says pitch, that’s what you do. Sometimes I don’t think he even looked at his key, he just decided he was going to run it. He just made some bad decisions in the option game.”

Tony Dixon and Rafael Little, two freshman stars from the IU game, had 3 carries each which added up to 10 yards for Dixon and 18 yards for Little. Now, if you are an educated football fan you might think that perhaps Brooks could have communicated this to his quarterback at some point during the game. Instead, he apparently decided to wait until Monday afternoon while Boyd was receiving treatment for his injured shoulder.

So, where does the offense go from here? The Wildcats enter a stretch starting this Saturday that features three home games in a row: Ohio University, Alabama, and then South Carolina. At the beginning of the season, this was the stretch where UK fans thought, more accurately wished, that a three-game win streak could catapult them into a bowl game. That of course was predicated on beating Louisville and Indiana, of which Kentucky went one for two. Looking at these games now it appears more likely they will go 0-3 instead of 3-0. Ohio had a stout defense that held Pittsburgh, a far better offensive team than Kentucky, to 225 yards of total offense and rank 25th in the nation in team defense. Alabama is sitting at 3-1 after losing to Arkansas. And South Carolina has God on their side, via Lou Holtz, but they are 3-1 with a close game against a Top 10 Georgia game. Can the offense score enough points to beat any of these teams?

The offense, despite its obvious shortcomings, appears to have a least a glimmer of hope. Dixon and Little are talented running backs, and hopefully the coaching staff and the quarterback can find some more carries for them. Despite injuries to Keenan Burton and Tommy Cook, the receiving corps does have talent. Glenn Holt Jr. led the Cats at Florida with 7 catches for 52 yards, Lonell Dewalt has blocked a few kicks, and Gerard Parker is finally becoming healthy enough to contribute on the field. (But seriously, someone needs to put an ABP out for John Logan. Wasn’t this guy recruited by a lot of big name schools? Doesn’t he run a 4.3 40? How many more people have to be injured before he gets in the game?) And in a move sure to make call-in show participants across the state happy, Brooks has stated that redshirt freshman Andre Woodson will definitely play against Ohio? Most people do not want to see Woodson. Though they think he is the key to turning the season around, the shear purpose is finding out if he could possibly do any worse.

An inconsistent offense is going to have three Saturdays in a row to convince the fans that this season is not a lost cause. That a 10-3 deficit can be overcome. That it is possible to have a couple of “actual” victories as opposed to the “at least we hung in there” moral victories that are slowly becoming the hallmark of the Brooks era. If they fail to convince anyone after this homestand, there may not be a lot of people around for a second one.

They were very conscious of not letting Shane cut back, which worked against Indiana,” Brooks said. “And they weren’t going to allow him to keep the ball on the option. You ought to be able to figure that out and pitch the ball.” n