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Sports in Kentucky

Football moves into ‘donut hole’ across Kentucky

Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

The Bluegrass State’s three D-I affiliates suffered losses last weekend, and Kentucky, Louisville and Western Kentucky face the likelihood of more to come on the road this week.

GOOD. Kentucky arrived home from Baton Rouge long after 570 tents were gone from Memorial Coliseum. Tickets for Big Blue Madness sold out in 59 minutes.

BAD. Louisville’s bulldozer win at Kentucky, an open date to fly high and a home date with Marshall to fine tune for two-game road trip was scuttled when the Thundering Herd shot down the Cards and took Big Mo home to Huntington.

UGLY. Western Kentucky came from 22-19 ahead with less than two minutes on the clock to cough up a 26-22 loss to Arkansas State.

GOOD. Kentucky has No. 1 LSU in the rearview mirror and doesn’t play No. 2 Alabama.

BAD. Kentucky plays at South Carolina this week. Louisville is at North Carolina and Western visits Middle Tennessee.

UGLY. By the time the three teams arrive home Saturday night, the media will have recycled an old headline: Kentucky is a basketball state.

GOOD. (For Louisville) North Carolina (4-1) has surrendered 20.8 points a game.

BAD. The Tar Heels score 31.4 points a game.

UGLY. Will Louisville find it necessary to limit its season highlight film on 60 minutes in Lexington? See schedule.

BAD. (For Kentucky) South Carolina is fresh from a killer loss to Auburn. Last Wildcat win in Columbia happened in another century (1999).

UGLY. October weather starts to roll in from the northwest. Fans waver and wonder if they will get $46 worth at Commonwealth Stadium.

GOOD. (For Western) Middle Tennessee is only 1-3. Blue Raiders are fresh off a win over Memphis.

BAD. Promising in September, Toppers are 0-4 into October.

UGLY. Officiating. With 2:39 on the clock Hilltopper had a lead, the football, a first down and Arkansas State had no time outs. A review official in the press box cancelled the first down, Tops tried again on fourth down, didn’t make it, and the visiting Red Wolves drove 66 yards and scored with 43 second left.

Notes on UK offense

Items for offensive side of Kentucky’s football team.

• Calm down.

• Savvy up. Until a team demonstrates it can play within three touchdowns of Florida and LSU, it can expect no border line calls from officials.

• Coaches and offensive linemen go find an Arkansas-Texas A& M game film and see How-to Protect a quarterback 101. Razorback Tyler Wilson had time and focus to complete 30 of 51 passes for 510 yards.

• Fans. Give Joker Phillips a pat-on-the-back and stop whining.ble over who gets a bigger bite of a billion bucks.

Meanwhile, better news: To signal that a real basketball season is about to break out, tickets for Big Blue Madness tickets sold out quicker than a Marquis Teague cross-over last Friday. Following, was takedown of a record 570 tents around Memorial Coliseum.

Bad economy, joblessness and another political season become background noise behind one constant in our galaxy — love of and optimism for Kentucky basketball.

The excitement level and expectations this October are matched only by the promise of three established starters – Darius Miller, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones — and a fistful of skilled rookies.

Brings to mind preseasons past. From UK archives, these two.

• 1996. With a pair of All-Americans returning from a 34-2 NCAA title team – Ron Mercer and Antoine Walker, fans were at a fever pitch from the start. Rick Pitino’s last team at Kentucky opened ranked No. 1.

• 1966. Three starters returned from a 27-2 season, including All-Americans Louie Dampier and Pat Riley. Kentucky opened the season ranked No. 1.

And so it goes.

You may reach Bob Watkins at Sprtsinky@ao.com.

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