Carolina awaits as Cats’ next challenge

Ira D. Combs — Tri State Sports Media

September 30, 2013

Two games down and two games to go for Mark Stoops’ head coaching debut through the mini NFL part of this season’s schedule.

Once again, Stoops’ troops gave that ole tough and gritty college effort, but there was simply too much size, speed, athleticism, and overall pure football talent thrown at them by the Florida Gators.

When you’re outmatched at virtually every position in college football you simply have to play pretty much a perfect game, and that’s even more difficult to do when you have to execute a few trickery type plays to gain some type of equalizer for the underdog team.

UK’s first Hal Mumme special was a fake field goal executed perfectly and produced seven points which tied the Gators on the scoreboard, plus electrified Commonwealth Stadium and set the upset ship sailing late in the first quarter. After a period of about two quarters worth of reality put Florida in a comfortable 21-7 lead, the football Gods struck again when UK’s Josh Forrest broke perfectly on a pass pattern he was defending out in the flat picked it off and headed to pay dirt only to have his teammate Bud Dupree not execute an open field block on the Gator quarterback to spring him into the end zone. Instead, Forrest ended up at the Gator 40-yard line.

Just a few plays later, UK Offensive Coordinator Neal Brown pulled another plum out of his bag of tricks and tried the same throw back play that WKU upset UK with in overtime last year. This time the throw back passer froze and didn’t have the presence of mind to at least throw it out of bounds, taking a sack for what appeared to be a 12- to 15-yard loss. If that didn’t take the air out of the Wildcats’ upset sails, Maxwell Smith’s Hail Mary pass into the end zone did when the Gators picked it off.

More importantly, though, was the obvious fact that for the second week in a row against quality competition, you could plainly see a different UK football team evolving right before your eyes when the final score revealed a very hard earned 24-7 Florida win, much different than previous Gator wins which blew up the scoreboard with 50 to 60 points.

Good news is at the end of the day Saturday, only a few bumps and bruises were reported with no season-ending injuries yet to occur, and the coaches are learning valuable game performance information on personnel to set the stage for a second half run that could produce some wins and send the Cats into the off season with a realistic outlook that the program has weathered the storm of the worst part of the building block seasons used for UK football to get back to bowl winning type years.

Bad news is there is still two more weeks with South Carolina on the road and the Crimson Tide at home. That quite possibly will be more difficult and more physical of an opponent to fight through eight quarters of play and remain relatively injury free for that second half run at some possible fun and gun plays in the air raid offense.

The South Carolina game is set for this Saturday with former UK great Tim Couch serving as the color commentator. Also, for the second week in a row UK will be facing the back-up QB of their opponent. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw injured his shoulder early in last Saturday’s alarmingly close 28-25 win against 2-2 Central Florida, and the school has announced that he will be out of competition at least two to three weeks.

First college football coach bites the dust

The mighty Southern California Trojans have parted ways with former UT head coach Lane Kiffin after Arizona State smacked them 62-41 late Saturday night. The Trojans’ A.D. Pat Haden, along with a USC posse of athletic department officials, actually ran down the team bus as it was en route to the airport after the game and pulled Kiffin off the bus into a parking lot to break the news to him that he was fired as their coach, effectively immediately.

ESPN reported the decision was actually made by Haden in his suite at the game where he was surrounded by USC dignitaries during a third quarter run when Arizona State outscored the Trojans 20-0.

Kiffin’s recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach, Ed Orgeron, was named the Trojans’ interim head coach for the remainder of 2013. Orgeron was the Ole Miss head coach just a few years ago before he was let go by the Johnny Rebs’ brass.

ESPN immediately tabbed Denver Broncos Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio as the leading candidate for the Trojans’ head position. But I’m sure Louisville head coach Charlie Strong will surface as a candidate in the next few days with some national media outlets, along with a few select other high profile college and NFL coaches since the USC job is still considered by some pigskin experts as one of the top 10 jobs in the nation.

Regardless of how the season ends for the Trojans, and who the new coach is, you can be assured of two things come preseason 2014. The Trojans will be ranked in the top 20 if not top 15 right along with the nation’s other over hyped college football program, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. College football is what it is when it comes to the national media.

A UK time honored tradition takes place this week

One of the most time honored traditions for those card-carrying members of Big Blue Nation will take place this week right in front of historic Memorial Coliseum on the Avenue of Champions.

The line-up for spots to obtain those coveted free tickets to UK’s annual Big Blue Madness showcase of their two basketball programs begins bright and early this Wednesday at 5 a.m., though I’m sure the first pup tent will be hoisted much earlier by the time you read this column. After braving three days and nights of very cool and sometimes wet weather, plus swapping many UK stories and a few tales, the ticket office will open at 7 a.m. this coming Saturday and each person will receive four complimentary tickets to the event while supplies last.

With a certain number of tickets set aside for online distribution, the Memorial Coliseum ticket allotment usually is cobbled up within 30 to 45 minutes. The festivities will take place once again at Rupp Arena on Oct. 18 and TV coverage will be provided for those without tickets. Information on TV coverage will be announced by UK officials within the next week or so.

UK officials have also asked those that plan on braving the weather elements for those three days and nights to have family members or friends drop them off instead of trying to find a parking spot for those days because several construction projects are going on in the Coliseum area and their virtually are no parking spots available with classes taking place on campus during this time.