A Week of Losing

Photo by MICHELLE HUTCHINS | UofL Athletics Louisville LB Lorenzo Mauldin made his 15th career sack against Virginia. The UofL defense limited UVA to 285 yards, the third time their opponent scored below 300 yards of offense this season.

Photo by MICHELLE HUTCHINS | UofL Athletics
Louisville LB Lorenzo Mauldin made his 15th career sack against Virginia. The UofL defense limited UVA to 285 yards, the third time their opponent scored below 300 yards of offense this season.

Tony Vanetti:  Hey, Matt, you all have to be excited about almost winning a football game. Good job.

Matt Jones: You know, it’s interesting this week. Both teams lost. Both teams lost games that were kind of difficult losses, and both teams lost games at the end. But it’s interesting: I think the two fan bases feel completely different about it. For Kentucky fans, obviously it hurt to lose. We’re used to that. But they’re actually unbelievably positive about it – whereas I feel like you guys have a sort of sense of bigger negativity about it. Would you agree with that?

Vanetti: Oh, absolutely. I think the last thing that UofL expected was that they were going to have a quarterback problem with Bobby Petrino coaching the team. It certainly exposed some of the faults that Will Gardner has at quarterback. And then the heir apparent, or the guy that they wanted to bring in and sort of be the guy, is Reggie Bonnafon. And he totaled, I believe, four yards in the third quarter where he got his action. So they brought Will back. Yes, Louisville fans were disappointed with the loss at Virginia, but they’re on the road. You take what you can get with young quarterbacks.

Jones: Yeah, it’s on the road, playing a team that hasn’t won in two years. That’s a game you have no chance to win. But you know, I watched all of the Louisville game. I love misery as much as the next person. And I was amazed, and I continue to be amazed, by how good Louisville’s defense is – and just how terrible their offense is. I don’t understand why it’s so bad, to be honest with you. They’ve got playmakers. Will Gardner: he’s so tall, yet he throws it almost directly into the linemen. It’s like he has a beacon that tries to hit the other team’s helmets.

Vanetti: What I think he’s trying to do is get the football stuck in the facemask of the defensive player. But those are passing lanes. And he needs to obviously learn when he’s being attacked from the edge like he was. He starts to look down instead of downfield. And he gets the Happy Feet. He’s not setting his feet. He’s throwing the ball right into a defender, which can be frustrating, being 6’5”. But he’s got a long way to go. I think Louisville fan’s expectations are a little different today than they were just two weeks ago.

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer Kentucky finished with 369 passing yards against Florida, marking the most yards passing allowed by the Gators since 2007.

Photo by VICTORIA GRAFF | Contributing Photographer
Kentucky finished with 369 passing yards against Florida, marking the most yards passing allowed by the Gators since 2007.

Jones: And they should be. We looked at their schedule and said “OK, there’s nine games they’re definitely doing to win, and three they’re definitely going to lose.” Now I think there’s a lot more stuff open. They’ll beat Florida International. But you look at Syracuse in a couple of weeks, and that becomes a game that is much more back on the table that they could potentially lose. As far as Kentucky, I couldn’t be happier with how they played. The story of a Kentucky fan’s life is “We Almost” whatever. But we did almost. They had three plays that, if it goes differently, they win: the interception that bounced off the guy’s chest and wound up being a touchdown, Ryan Timmons has the ball in his hands and it falls off and they get an interception, and then fourth-and-seven with the clock and all that. That’s as close as you can come to winning without winning. But in The Swamp, 27 years, all that – I think the fans are excited. I had Mark Stoops on today, and he took the loss hard, but you can just hear that they’re farther along than he thought they’d be.

Vanetti: He was so intense during that game, I thought he was going to have a heart attack before the game was over, and so did the fans. But again, last week in this article I said you’ve got to believe in your freshmen and your sophomores, and they delivered. They walked into The Swamp. They were not intimidated by who Florida is, and they punched them straight in the face. And that’s who I told you I thought could win this game. I thought they would cover. I didn’t know that they would be in there that close at the end, with a possibility to win. I think what that says is that game tells me that Kentucky football is better. Not by a wide margin, but they’re pretty darn good. Better than last year, and Florida is about the same as they were last year. They’ve got some problems to fix. I don’t know what it says about Muschamp down there in Florida, but I know that their fan base isn’t happy with triple-overtime against Kentucky.

Jones: Usually when we play teams like Florida, even when teams like Florida aren’t as good as they normally are – and I don’t think Florida is as good as they normally are – usually just the athleticism difference alone ensures that we lose. That’s one of the things about Florida, why we lost to Florida 27 years in a row. It’s not just that they’re a better program. It’s their athletes. They’ve got the second-most four star and five-star athletes in the country behind Alabama. It’s always just “We can’t match their athletes.” But we now kind of can match their athletes a little bit. I don’t think we can go too deep like Florida can. But that starting group, those athletes are big time athletes, and we just haven’t normally seen that at Kentucky, Tony.

Vanetti: OK, speaking of athletes: why does Coach Calipari have to swoop in and steal one of Rick Pitino’s top recruits? You can smell Calipari all over this.

Jones: I love it. I love the fact that if Louisville takes a guy that Kentucky likes, I think it makes Kentucky want him even more. If you’re a kid out there who wants a scholarship offer from Kentucky, commit to Louisville. I think that will guarantee you the best chance. I think he takes pride in saying “We can take him if we need to.” Antonio Blankeney is a great player. He can score in big numbers. I don’t know how great you’ll be in college, you know. You have to wait and see. But I know he’ll score in college. Kind of reminds me a little bit of Russ in terms of the way he plays. I think he would have been good at Louisville. I think he’ll be good wherever he goes. But the fact that he decommitted? I’m not going to say it didn’t make me smile, Tony. I don’t know if Calipari will get him. I don’t know, but it is a funny take.

Vanetti: What was it like? Eight days after he committed, we all celebrated. And then just a couple of days later, he decides he wants to reopen his involvement. Now the other two schools are LSU and Oregon. Really, LSU, Oregon and Kentucky. Now is there one that stands out in that group? I mean, do you really think he’s going to Oregon?

Jones: Tony, I don’t know where he’s going. I will leave him to make that choice. I’m sure he’ll consider all of the schools and pick the one that is the best for him. But I sort of agree with the notion of the kid doesn’t pick Kentucky. That’s when I would suggest that there’s something going on.

Vanetti: I just threw up in my mouth. That is ridiculous.

Jones: But why wouldn’t you pick Kentucky? If you want to play in the NBA. Here, let’s do this. Let’s say Antonio Blakeney wants to play in the NBA, who is the last great NBA player to go to Louisville?

Vanetti: What I care about is the University of Louisville.

Jones: I know that’s what you care about. But that’s not what kids care about. And that’s my point. I am amazed, I’ll give Rick credit for this: I’m amazed that he recruits as well as he does, considering the fact that he doesn’t really put anyone in the NBA.

Vanetti: You’re not going to bait me into getting into an argument over recruitment, OK? You win that hands-down. Can’t argue about it. Calipari is not just beating Rick Pitino’s brains in. He’s beating everyone’s brains in by a wide margin.

Jones: Well, I think we all can agree, we all want Antonio Blakeney to go to whatever school is best for him, and it looks like it’s not going to be Louisville. And honestly, that makes me quite sad.

Vanetti: I hate you.