53 weeks ago, Kentucky endured a sports weekend from hell. The basketball team lost to VMI in a season opener of circus ball. The next day, the football team lost a must-win game against Vanderbilt in some of the worst weather conditions in Commonwealth Stadium history. That game featured a slow start, then when the UK players woke up, special teams mistakes and terrible officiating made sure Vandy would get their first bowl game since Chester Arthur was President or whatever. I’m a trivia dork, but don’t care enough about Vandy football to look up that stat. This weekend was different. It was so good that the Black Eyed Peas could have written that song “I Got A Feeling” about this entire weekend. I’m starting with Thursday because I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up Sam Houston State.
THURSDAY: UK 102, SAM HOUSTON STATE 92
My mother was actually in attendance for this game, her first in nearly a decade. She must have been good luck. Why would that be good luck? Well, when a team hits 18 threes in a game and said team is never in said game and the outcome is never in doubt, somebody was on the side of the good guys. And the game really was never in doubt. The closest Sam Houston State got in the second half was eight points. Kentucky scored 102 points, the first time we’ve scored 100 in a regular season game since the 2003-04 season, which is incredibly hard to believe. Sure, SHS hit 18 threes, but didn’t UK do a great job defending two-point shots?
I make light of it because the UK offense brought the pain. This game was a far better demonstration of the dribble drive than either of the first two, and I’d still only rate about a 3/10 in terms of pure dribble drive. The outside shooting, especially without Darnell Dodson, was a pleasant surprise. Darius Miller shot the ball with a tenfold increase in confidence and Eric Bledsoe hit more threes in that game than I thought he’d make the entire season. DeMarcus Cousins was so good that he made a 20-point, nine-rebound effort from Patrick Patterson look quiet. I know John Wall has been a human highlight reel so far, but Cousins needs more positive attention than what he’s gotten so far. It doesn’t matter if the other team had a bunch of short guys, 27 points and 18 rebounds is a great night at the office, and nobody played harder in that game than DeMarcus Cousins. He dove on the floor more than Brian Cardinal. This made me happy.
SATURDAY: UK 92, RIDER 63
Now this one really pleased me. It’s about time this team blew somebody out. I might be the only one, but this game had me ultra-nervous because of the ability of Rider to shoot the three. They blitzed Mississippi State from three and pretty much owned that game from beginning to end. Ryan Thompson looked to be a matchup nightmare because he’s a small forward with point guard skills. Why do we worry about these things anyway? John Wall really set the tone for this game by getting to the rack at will, scoring and drawing fouls. Throw in a timely bucket by Bledsoe every now and then and Patterson and Daniel Orton cleaning up inside and it was over after the second TV timeout.
You pretty much know what you’re going to get with Patterson every time. He’ll get the big rebound, he’ll follow up misses and just be generally reliable. The 19 points were to be expected, but the 18 rebounds were not. I was hoping he’d crack the 20-rebound mark, just because I’ve only witnessed one (Jared Prickett vs. Arkansas), and I always associate that with a painful loss. So Patterson was just his consistent self. But with two freshman post players, you don’t know what you’ll get from them. Cousins came out and struggled early – no problem, enter Daniel Orton. He came in, established a strong post presence, rebounded and passed well and even showed a nice outside touch. And if you believe Patterson, Wall and Coach Cal, Cousins was the one who insisted that Orton start the second half because he was playing so well. For a kid whose biggest flaw is supposed to be immaturity, this was an amazingly mature and classy move for a freshman to make.
I want to give extra props to Darius Miller and Ramon Harris for the way they guarded Ryan Thompson yesterday. Sure, he hit all 14 of his free throws, but holding the preseason MAAC player of the year to one bucket is fantastic defense, and those two guys are largely responsible for it.
SATURDAY: UK 34, GEORGIA 27
When this game was over, I went to YouTube and looked up a video that I could put in this column to express my excitement. Here’s what I came up with.
It’s the greatest scream in rock history, it usually follows David Caruso removing his shades and making a witty comment about a dead guy, and now it has a new meaning, that being “WE JUST BEAT GEORGIA IN ATHENS!” The last time that happened, I was –9 years old. Jimmy Carter was president. The Arizona Cardinals were in St. Louis. 99% of the UK football players who have played in this decade were not born. Five Von Erich boys were alive, for you wrestling fans out there. I could go on, but let’s just say it’s been a while.
I don’t like talking about the X’s and O’s of football because I’m not good at it. But here are some things I know.
If Sam Maxwell doesn’t make All-SEC, he should. The SEC is loaded with great linebackers. Sam Maxwell has been one of the most active backers in the conference this season. In my opinion, he’s played better than Micah Johnson has, and Johnson has been no slouch. Not only did he get the game-winning interception, but he flew all over the field to make his 11 tackles.
In a close game situation, if Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb get an adequate number of combined touches, they will not let Kentucky lose the game, end of story. I’m not even sure that the talented bunch of 2007 seniors had the ability to will the team to win like Locke and Cobb do.
Morgan Newton has yet to have a game where he has blown up the stat book the way DeMarcus Cousins does in basketball, but he just wins games. And he makes clutch throws too. LaRod King is turning out to be a heck of a receiver. I can’t wait to see the Newton-King connection for the next three years.
Corey Peters was a terror at the line of scrimmage. How often do you see a defensive tackle blow through his gap and swipe an attempted handoff from the quarterback, especially against a Georgia offensive line? Peters was the best lineman on the field last night.
How the defensive line did it, I have no idea, but Joe Cox had shown all year that if you applied a little bit of pressure, he’d throw picks. The line applied pressure and Cox threw picks.
Matt Roark deserves props for falling on that fumbled kickoff to start the second half. Kentucky always tries to pick that ball up and run with it. It is as consistent as death and taxes. Roark did the right thing and swung the momentum so much in Kentucky’s favor that Georgia didn’t really recover from it.
My favorite part of the game were the shots of the Georgia fans after the Shane McCord interception (another awesome play). Georgia fans don’t think their team should ever lose to Kentucky in football, and why would they? We’ve been playing football for decades and until last night, had only beaten Georgia ten times. They were incredulous, and once the Bulldogs fumbled at the goal line, they filed out of there in droves. Tom Leach said that it was the fastest he’d ever seen a road stadium turn off its scoreboard.
I can only hope to have another sports weekend like this. Maybe if UK plays basketball on Super Bowl Sunday and the Vikings make the Super Bowl I’ll get to do it again.
Thanks for reading. Beat Tennessee and prove me wrong.