UofL Outdone and Outrebounded

TONY VANETTI: My favorite story of the weekend, Matthew, is the male UK cheerleader on the sidelines at Mizzou yelling at your football coaches that the play calling is awful. And then, your athletic director having to hold the male cheerleader back. Tell me about it.

MATT JONES: Well, from what I understand, the coaches were walking off the field and they were in the tunnel, and a cheerleader, who I guess had been talking to someone else, sort of in the direction of the coaches, sort of criticizing the play calling. Mitch Barnhart then went and told him basically, “Why don’t you shut up and go cheer?” I mean the whole notion of being a cheerleader, I believe, is to lead cheers. And I don’t know when cheerleaders got the notion that they are critics of the football program. And if I had been Mitch Barnhart, I might have kicked him off the team at that moment. So, whatever reaction he had, I wish he’d had a bigger one. Because I would like to have seen him say that to Bud Dupree and just see what happened at that moment. That would’ve been my favorite thing.

VANETTI: Well I think it just reflects your fan base, no matter who it is, they have an opinion about something all the time. You have based a career on it.

JONES: But there are times and places for those opinions. And one of them isn’t with the coaches walking back after losing. And you’re wearing a cheerleading uniform. No offense, but know your role and shut your mouth, cheerleader.

VANETTI: Well, as bad as you all played, and let me tell you, at times it looked awful, you still had a chance at the end to win the game.

JONES: Yeah, the defense actually, I thought, played pretty well. They started out slowly, but I think they played well for the last three quarters. The offense was just brutal; they were just terrible. And it’s because of two things. One, the offense had an awful game. And understandably people are upset about that. But second, I think Kentucky fans got a little ahead of themselves. I didn’t, I must say. Because I thought they could lose the last six games. But I think once they beat South Carolina, we had this notion that we were a contender, and we’re not yet. I’ve said all along, next year is the year for Kentucky to make a move. The South Carolina win, Tony, could end up being something that was the worst thing ever. Just because it made people change their expectations, which was probably wrong to do.

VANETTI: Never dismiss a win over Steve Spurrier, that can carry you for years. You get a win against that guy, everyone hates him. But okay, if they do end up losing out until they get to the Louisville game, at least that builds some momentum towards the Governor’s Cup.

JONES: Well, there’s no doubt about that, that’s the good thing about having it at the end of the year. But Kentucky needs to get into a bowl game. It would be good for the program; it would be good in terms of getting practice the extra months, I think it’d be good for morale. If they can find a way to win one of these last three, Georgia, Tennessee or Louisville, then I think all will be forgiven. People will forget about the Missouri game. So it’s all about finishing with a win, just one of them. If they can find one, everything will be good. If they don’t, we’ll see. What did you think of the Mark Stoops contract extension and a $1 million raise a year?

VANETTI: Oh, it’s absolutely brilliant. That’s exactly what Tom did with Charlie and that’s exactly what you have to do with coaches these days. Show them love even though they’re not exactly setting the world on fire to people on the outside looking in, they understand what’s going on. You’re changing the culture of UK football. He knows that, he’s a guy you want to keep, you want to show him love when things aren’t going exactly the way you want them to. In a loss, it’s absolutely what you have to do these days. It seems insane, but that’s what you have to do.

JONES: And I think the most important part about it is that they now have the sixth-highest paid coach in the SEC. And that sends a signal that Kentucky’s going to try to compete in this league by giving. So I do think there’s a secondary part of that. Since the last time we were here, Louisville lost to Florida State. I liked it because it might have been the most painful loss possible for Louisville. They got up big, you thought you were going to win, and then they had their heart ripped out, which I always enjoy. What did you make of the game?

VANETTI: I know you enjoyed it, and I never thought of you during the entire game. At the end I said “Hmm, I bet you Matt’s enjoying an extra cold beer right now.” But if you wrote a script on how you wanted the first half to go, except for the last two minutes, you had it. Michael Dyer ran all over their defense, Parker’s unstoppable, Will Gardner is playing better than he has all season. The defense was just lighting Florida State up, making picks all over the field. It was like, if you wrote a movie script, that’s the way you would want it to go. And then it all came crashing down. Florida State just out-played Louisville. In the third quarter is really where it all fell apart. I did respect how Louisville lost the lead for the first time in the fourth quarter, and them came back down and scored on them to take the lead back, and then it all fell apart. Matt, they just ran out of gas at the end against a really good team.

Jameis Winston.

Jameis Winston.

JONES: And you’ve got to give credit to Jameis Winston. Whether people like him or not, he is a superstar college player. I always thought he could come back, and they did. I thought it was very impressive. My favorite part of the game was the crowd shots. The sad Louisville fans. It was just one after another of people with their faces painted in various states of agony, and they were all dressed ridiculously. I loved that, and ESPN just kept panning on more and more down-trodden UofL fans.

VANETTI: It was the same look UK fans had in response to the onside kick against Mississippi State that got ran back.

JONES: The difference is, you all were already celebrating your victory, partying with Pauly D as the DJ on Fourth Street. That’s partially why I think it was the most fun. Now, both basketball teams have played their first preseason games. Kentucky to start with, looked pretty awesome, winning by almost 50 points against Pikeville. I know it’s Pikeville, but it’s still 50 points. We got to see the platoon system, and they looked mighty good, Tony.

VANETTI: They did, and let’s get this straight, it’s spelled Pikeville, but if you’re in Kentucky it is ‘Pike-vul’. And Pikeville did have two of their big guys out the entire game.

JONES: Yeah, they were missing a couple guys. If they had their full roster it’s probably 35, instead of 50. But what I was interested in was getting to see the platoon system. To get to see for forty minutes it’s non-stop pressure, from start to finish. And I think that is what everybody was excited for. The two leading scorers were freshmen, Karl Towns and Devin Booker. It’s going to be fascinating to watch this year as people try to pick holes in a team that’s just going to be crazy awesome.

VANETTI: Well, you guys will be really good. You’re not paying attention if you don’t realize what Kentucky has. Karl Towns is going to be the guy that’s introduced to the country. You know Willie Cauley-Stein, you know Dakari Johnson. Here’s example one, Dakari Johnson’s not starting. That right there will tell you what they have up there if Dakari Johnson is not the starting center.

JONES: How about Trey Lyles? Trey Lyles is projected to be a top ten pick, and he’s going to be the team’s eighth man.

VANETTI: It’s so bizarre. But it’s also a pressure year. You’re always under pressure at Kentucky. But we’re talking about if you don’t win it all, what went wrong?

JONES: You’ve heard me for years, I don’t believe that. The pressure to me would be if they had a season like last year, then that would be a failure. Even though they went to the championship game. Because you can get beat in the tournament, that happens. But this team needs to roll this year. They should not lose more than two, three games at the most. They should beat teams down, and I’m looking forward to watching that. Now, I watched the Louisville game, they were okay. Montrezl Harrell is a beast. How in the world did you get out-rebounded by a Division II team?

VANETTI: Double digits. Out-rebounded by 12, to Barry. I’m not sure how that happened. There are two things that give me pause and concern. That is free throws for the three games: the two scrimmages and the Barry game, three games in a row, UofL was 50% from the free throw line. And again, out-rebounded by 12 when the other team’s tallest player is 6’8” and you have a first-team AP All-American at the four, I’m not sure how that happened. That has to improve, and it will. The rebounding will improve. I’m just scared about those free throws. People are dismissing that. But in the middle of your conference schedule, if you’re missing your free throws, you’re losing a bunch of games.

JONES: Well your 21 feet of suck is going to be 28 feet if Mangok doesn’t play better.

VANETTI: Now listen, I know a lot of people got a kick out of your 21 feet of suck, I saw some tweets on that one. But again, those kids are just freshmen.

JONES: Kentucky has a few freshmen, they seem to be doing okay. Maybe I’ve watched the wrong game. But I feel like Kentucky’s got some freshmen that can play a little.

VANETTI: Oh please, it’s two different systems.

JONES: You’re right, two different systems. There’s the system where the players succeed, and then the system where the players are able to stay around for a while and then vanish into obscurity.

VANETTI: No, they go off to live normal lives and be productive citizens of the United States.

JONES: I hope everyone voted, and it’s going to be fun for another year of this back and forth.