Yes, it was disappointing. Worse, in fact, than disappointing. All that progress. All those hopes.
Other programs hit the occasional bad game and shake it off. Nobody checks the obituary page. Either theyâ€™re confidently strong (cf. Alabama) or theyâ€™re woefully used to it (cf. Kentucky, 2011, 2012, 2013).
This Kentucky team â€“ certainly its fan base â€“ is in therapy. It handles reversals very poorly, reaches for the medicine chest, calls the suicide hotline, tries to get through to see the doctor, paces the floor.
I applaud Stoops, Towles, et al., for pronouncing â€œno panic … weâ€™ll continue to give 100 percent.â€ (Which is better than, â€œYou can give up on us for this year. See you in 2016.â€)
However, the reality is that suddenly, the reach for seven wins and bowl eligibility seems, perhaps, out of reach.
Whoâ€™s ahead for UK? On Saturday, I TV-junkied Tennessee almost beating Alabama and Vanderbilt beating Missouri. Also, Louisville beat Boston College.
And Georgia is Georgia. Which means two things: Itâ€™s annually the power of the SEC West, and the power seems to seep away in late-season games like a loose tire valve.
Nonetheless, until Tennessee shows up on Saturday, with those pukey colors and that annoying song, weâ€™re going to have to talk about the Mississippi State game.
And it all looked so promising on that opening drive. Textbook offense. Crisp, clean, well-executed.
And then the Mississippi State offense took the field. No disgrace in not completely stopping Dak Prescott. Nobody completely stops Dak Prescott. But Kentucky seemed to have no particular scheme for trying to contain him. They never put much pressure on him yet werenâ€™t in a position to tackle him when he put the ball under his arm. And he was 26 of 36 when he threw.
I like what Dan Mullen said when asked what he said to his QB about the interception that ended Prescottâ€™s streak of 288 passes. He shrugged. â€œDidnâ€™t mean anything. We were discussing our next set of progressions.â€ We all get distracted by the bright shiny objects. They play football.
This is one loss you canâ€™t put on Patrick Towles. When he was good, he was very very good. He completed 23 of 42, which is only fair, but he was poised and decisive. Heâ€™s gained much from his two years of experience.
But once again, so many drops. Even Garrett Johnson. And such a porous offensive line. The best blockers out there were Boom Williams, who consistently picked up the blitzes, and C.J. Conrad, who could become the best tight end the program has ever had.
At one point, in the fourth quarter, I noticed that George Asafo-Adjei was in the game. Remember how high everyone was on him back in early September? Remember how high everyone was on Matt Elam two years ago?
Bright spots? Chris Westry keeps making big plays in the corner. Both kickers are back. Though itâ€™s too bad Stoops took away Austin MacGinnisâ€™ 48-yarder with a time-out and a nationally televised rant. It looked a little childish, Stoops covering his mouth to conceal â€“ what? Swear words? And it really took the air out of Kentuckyâ€™s momentum.
And Boom Williams looked great, especially in the early going. His extemporaneous freelance running style allows him to see how holes are developing and â€œboomâ€ through them. After which, his speed takes him to the sidelines where he turns upfield for big gains.
At least, that was the Boom of the first half.
The Boom of the second half was more Bust. He often seemed hesitant and lost. Or maybe the Mississippi State defense just figured out how to trap him. Like Kentucky never figured out how to trap Dak Prescott.
Oh, yeah, speaking of sidelines (see two paragraphs ago), can you tell me what the replay judges saw to rule that Garrett Johnson stepped out of bounds in the first quarter? If they were looking at the same replays we were seeing on TV, there was absolutely nothing â€œinconclusive.â€ But officiating is so unpredictable anymore. So many calls on the field are overturned.
Makes you wonder how different the whole history of the sport would be if a video camera were around to review every fumble, every ball placement, every catch in the end zone, every goal line stand.
Do you think the legends of Bear Bryant, Johnny Vaught, Shug Jordan would have been tainted by a video review that the player didnâ€™t make a football move or the ball didnâ€™t cross the plane?
After further review, probably not. VT