The Jury is Still Out

Reggie Bonnafon scored on a 8-yard run in the second quarter during the Louisville/Murray State game.

Reggie Bonnafon scored on a 8-yard run in the second quarter during the Louisville/Murray State game.

Tony Vanetti: As I correctly predicted, Louisville and Kentucky are combined 4-0. Kentucky takes care of business last week against Ohio. The big slow down in the second half – what happened to the Cats?

Matt Jones: Well, it was raining. That’s part of it. But you know, I thought Kentucky actually played well. First of all, I think Ohio is a decent beat. And I think Kentucky maybe rested on their laurels a little bit – but they left 14 points on the board. The had two times inside the five-yard line where they came away with no points. You’ve got to assume that won’t continue to happen all year. So I think Kentucky fans should still be happy with how they played and be excited.

Vanetti: Patrick Towles decided to get out and run a little bit. As a little advice – I’m sure everyone’s said this as a coach and a fan – you don’t want him running around the SEC field with some of those big defenses.

Jones: It was too many minutes. He ran 21 times. That’s too much. Some of those were sacks and stuff, so you don’t want him running as much. And I think what happens sometimes is you see young quarterbacks especially, that they kind of give up too quickly in terms of deciding “Well, this isn’t what I want to, so I’m going to run.” You know, that might get you five or six yards, but it might also get you hurt. And I think that’s what the coaches are trying to tell him. I don’t think he’ll be running like that against Florida.

Vanetti: Ok, so let’s deal with Kentucky real quick. You go down to the swamp. Now I said preseason that I thought you would have a chance to upset them. I’m not going to back off that. The point spread is 17 points. I’m going to say that you guys are going to be in this ballgame in the fourth quarter. A lot of people think that I’m psycho with this, but I think that Florida’s players do not like their coach. I think that will end up showing sometime during the season, and it could show up this Saturday.

Jones: Well, I think you’re insane if you think Kentucky is going to win. But I do think Kentucky can keep it competitive. I would say if Kentucky keeps it competitive, that’s a win for this team. They’re on the road in their first SEC game. Here’s the thing to remember about UK, Tony: at the end of the season, besides Za’Darious Smith and Bud Dupree, two very good players, basically everyone else on the team is back. And that’s pretty amazing in football, to only lose two players. They’ll basically have the same team. But this is the first game for a lot of these guys that has mattered. So I think they’re a ways away. My guess is they lose by 17-21. They’re in it, but never really threaten to win. Maybe 38-21 – something like that.

Vanetti: See, that’s your problem in Kentucky and Lexington, baby. You gotta believe. These are new players. The guys that are playing this year are all Stoops’ guys.

Jones: But that’s just it – they are new players, and they’re playing Florida’s experienced players. In two years, I’m not going to have this prediction. But Kentucky is playing almost exclusively freshman and sophomores, and in football, that just doesn’t work. If they were at home, I would give them a better chance of winning. But on the road, I just don’t see it. My hope is that they stay competitive.

Vanetti: OK, again, for the record, I believe it will be closer than 17-20 points. All right: Louisville obviously rolled over Murray State. That was not anything surprising. What was surprising was the play of their backup quarterback, which puts them in a little bit of a quarterback controversy. I love it as a sports show host. The fans love it. Just having a guy that can play effectively behind the starter is nice.

Jones: Let me see if they can play when they play someone decent. I mean, Murray State is bad, but also, they’re awful. Remember UT-Martin, that team Kentucky beat 59-14, last year beat Murray State by 35. Okay? So we’re talking just a terrible team. With that said, he did look good, I think it gives them a good backup option. I’m not sold on Gardner as starter. I think he’s been OK, but I don’t think he’s been great. I think Virginia will be a decent test on the road. If he plays well there, then you go with him. But if he struggles at Virginia, then I do think that there could be some pressure to try to get the young kid to play. With that said, you’re not beating Florida State, Clemson and Notre Dame with Reggie Bonnafon. If you’re going to beat them, it’s going to have to be with Will Gardner.

Vanetti: Well, that jury is still out. First of all, the biggest surprise of the season is that the defense has played so well. I mean, everyone thought it was going to be the opposite. “Offense was going to roll, all of these weapons, Bobby Petrino…” And Todd Grantham comes in from Georgia and he takes Charlie Strong’s talent and a lot of replaced talent and is just flying all over the field. I can’t wait to see them this Saturday against Virginia, a real opponent I think, on their field. So you go on the road. Now, the quarterback situation: Will Gardner has yet to score on the opening drive. Two games, three-and-out to start the drive. Some people say that’s not a big deal. Well, it kind of is when you’re Bobby Petrino, because his calling card is “We go down the field to start the game and crush you with my design plays because that’s what I’ve been doing all week.” So again, they are winning, and when you’re winning, you don’t have a quarterback controversy. When you start to slow down, maybe lose one, then you do.

Jones: And they don’t play anybody. Again, in classic Louisville form, even when their schedule is good, it sucks. So they go play at Florida International, maybe the worst team in football, after Virgina. You know, it’s tough to grade Louisville because they’re going to play three really good teams that will probably all beat them. And they’ll play nine kind of not-good teams that they’ll probably all beat, and I still won’t know if they’re any good, which is really bizarre. I will say this: the moment of this season so far for me, has been Tom Jurich telling me that at Louisville it’s all about family. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s all about family. And that’s why they hired Bobby Petrino. There may never have been in my lifetime a time I’ve wanted to throw up more than when I saw him giving that speech against Miami.

Vanetti: Well, I know you’re not a big Bobby Petrino fan, and a lot of people weren’t. Again, they were different situations. But you all took a gamble on John Calipari.

Jones: Stop it. It’s not the same thing. There’s a difference between a guy who’s had minor issues with the NCAA and a guy who, everywhere he’s been, when he’s left, they have run him out and been thankful that he’s gone. Now I’m not saying that Bobby Petrino is a bad person. I’m just saying that every single person who’s ever met him seems to hate him.

Vanetti: Because John Calipari is the most popular person in NCAA basketball. Really?

Jones: I’ll put it like this. I don’t know with the exception of the coach in Louisville, a coach that doesn’t like John. I really don’t. He has three rivals: Jim Calhoun, who’s retired, Bruce Pearl, who is now at Auburn, and Calipari.

Vanetti: Every other article they talk about least-popular people in the NCAA, its John Calipari. He’s always at the top of the list.

Jones: But they’re not interviewing coaches. They’re interviewing the media. The media hates John Calipari.

Vanetti: The point of the statement was you gambled with John Calipari, you didn’t know what you were going to get, regardless of whatever you believe he was doing at Memphis and UMass, and we can go over that a million times. That’s fine. They still got files full. It was a gamble.

Jones: At least Bobby Petrino caddied for his daughters. Because really, that’s how you know who’s a good person. You go out and you see who is caddying for their children. That’s how I judge moral character. I’ll be honest with you.

Vanetti: Well, when you figure out if you even have a child or not, I hope you caddy for them. And I’ll say on the radio, “At least we know Matt Jones is a good person, because he caddied for his daughter.”

Jones: Well, that’s beautiful. Let me just say, at least at UofL, it’s all about family. And that’s what we’ve learned over the past couple of weeks. I wish them luck against Virginia. My hope is that the final game, Kentucky goes in with at least five wins, we beat Louisville, go to a bowl game and make you cry.

Vanetti: Good luck with that, we’ll see you in a couple weeks.