We have finally reached the last weekend of University of Kentucky football for the 2011 season. Didn’t think it would ever come, but it is upon us. Now we all know what just a couple of playmakers mean to a college football team, especially one fighting for respectability in Americas premier conference.
The question that begs to be asked is even if “Joker’s Boys” do break UK’s ugly 26-game losing streak to Tennessee, will it be enough to quiet down or soften the pulse of a very upset Big Blue Nation? Can a win Saturday result in season ticket sales getting back to normal level for the fall of 2012?
Personally, I don’t think even a sound thrashing of the Volunteers will produce any support at all for this coaching staff from those in the “fellowship of the miserable category,” and there are many in this corner. But don’t fret. I doubt that scenario develops Saturday afternoon when UK sends off another gallant group of senior football players, led this time by possibly the best linebacker in the SEC, Danny Trevathan.
The game will be televised live on the SEC Network at noon (WKYT and WYMT).
With the recent return of Tennessee’s starting quarterback, Tyler Bray, and a bowl bid hanging in the balance for the Vols, I think the best thing we can say about Saturday is that UK football is finally, painfully over. Any rational-thinking UK football fan knew the Wildcats’ streak of five straight bowl games was going to end eventually, especially with the new conference realignment bringing even more competition into the league.
Now that it’s over, let’s look at the future in a more astute manner personnel wise and with some obvious tweaking to the schedule.
Those many true and red shirt freshman (not to mention sophomores) on the offensive side of the ball who were thrown to the wolves this fall now know what to work on this winter to become a productive SEC football player.
Players such as Maxwell Smith, Josh Clemons, Daryl Collins, Demoreo
Robinson, Darrian Miller, Rashad Cunningham, Anthony Kendrick and Zach West will all be much better next fall. There is also quality in the junior class with the likes of Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George.
As inconsistent as junior wide receivers LeRod King and Gene McCaskill were this year, don’t forget how solid they were as number two and three receivers when they were freshmen and sophomores. I’m expecting a lot more from them in 2012, especially with a more catchable ball being thrown to them from the start.
If the coaching staff can recruit one fleet-footed and sure-handed wide receiver and another quality playmaker at any position, I think it will produce many more points for Commonwealth Stadium’s new ribbon boards and Jumbotron in 2012.
The tweaking of the SEC schedule will have an impact as well. Word coming out of the conference office is that Missouri will be placed in the SEC East and UK will only be playing two west opponents, with Mississippi State being the annual permanent opponent. Don’t know about you, but I’ll take a date with Missouri every year instead of rotating between SEC kingpins such as Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Arkansas, or Texas A & M.
The biggest question is whether Joker Phillips will still be around next year to reap the benefits of all the hard knocks he took to lay the foundation in rebuilding the program this year.
I think that decision has already been made and will be announced within a day or so after the Tennessee game, but I don’t think the outcome of Saturday’s contest will matter in the least to the fan base or the guy making the decision, Mitch Barnhart.
Prediction: A Maxwell Smithled Kentucky will break the streak by a score of 24-20 score. Then coaches Tee Martin, Randy Sanders, and Joker Phillips can all raise their mugs and make a toast together that the hard times have been weathered.
Where is that old Beer Barrel anyway?
Columnist Ira Combs lives at Jeff in Perry County, where he operates Tri-State Sports Service.