Kentucky began its 120th football season with a coin toss surprise, solid first 30 minutes, a handsome victory, then bused down I-64 with a fistful of reasons for optimism.
Louisville began its Charlie Strong era behind an 8-Ball unnecessarily.
Earth-to-Tom Jurich: Successful director of athletics at Alabama did not open the season against Auburn, nor did Georgia start its schedule with Georgia Tech.
What Kentucky’s 23-16 win at Louisville means:
• Defensive promise, sort of. The Wildcats held the home team to a touchdown. Extraordinary. Allowing UofL 5.2 yards average per rushing play is not.
• Rush and pass, the off ensive line made way for 466 total yards. A sunbeam. Particularly impressive, 230 yards rushing. Of UofL’s 190, 80 came on Bilal Powell’s touchdown run. In this series, team with most rushing yards has won the last 12 games.
• Michael Hartline did not take home a Howard Schnellenberger Trophy, but he clearly was MVP anyway. Precision, efficiency and top of the list, leadership that engineered the win.
• Wow Factor – UK’s 64 off ensive plays in a season opener and no turnovers. Platinum.
• Game film teaching points. Start with coasting after building a 20-6 lead at half, then move to numbskull penalties that could be
killers at Ole Miss.
• At new positions eight Wildcats had never started a college game. They have now.
• First quarterback sack of the season — surprise starter Luke McDermott, a walk-on from Louisville, earned a cats paw.
• Stratagem. Visiting team wins coin toss and coach puts off ense on the field first. Two plays later, touchdown! Momentum for a game, potentially for a season.
• Road win against arch-rival with seven home games to come is large leap forward into pigskin conversation, national ranking buzz and bowl talk . . . by midseason. And, nobody’s laughing.
What Louisville’s 16-23 win at home means:
• After 12.44 mark of the second quarter, Cards’ defense stopped Kentucky cold. Held visitors to a field goal and won the second half, 10-3.
• Charlie Strong’s sideline style did more than calm his team early. He showed the Cardinals what can be done despite being behind by 14 at half when the opponent starts to coast.
• Game film is rich in coaching points beginning with how to create more off ense.
• Strong is going to be a special college coach. Too bad director of athletics Tom Jurich’s stubborn insistence that UofL open its season with Kentucky prevented Strong’s first game being a momentumcreating win.
• Following a visit to Oregon State Sept. 18, watch Louisville get on a roll.
Tribute To S.T Roach
An heroic Kentuckian. S.T. Roach.
Never met the man, but I knew him. I heard the drumbeat of his soul, cadence of his good heart, and gained a sense of what is precious and what isn’t by witnessing what Roach’s actions stood for in Kentucky.
Beyond the lament of this man’s passing last week at 94 years, and the appropriate testimonials, Roach’s legacy stands like a Sequoia over Kentucky. He understood how to take on racist meanness with dignity and how to manage more than 610 winning ball games.
The word GREAT is too quickly tossed around today, too frequently bestowed on those not worthy, but Roach was a great Kentuckian. He recognized early his life assignment was work with young people. We ought be grateful Roach was not called to coach at college. It may have been his ruination.
His greatness became so not only for coaching winning basketball for 22 years at Lexington Dunbar despite segregation, but his vision for the value and virtue of taking all-black teams on roads out of Fayette County into eastern Kentucky, build bridges.
That he lobbied then- University of Kentucky president Otis Singletary in 1976 for 200 lower arena tickets in Rupp Arena be available to Lexington’s black community, represents a not-so-stellar moment in UK history.
Singletary and/or Rupp Arena officials missed opportunity to seize high profile media moments with community inclusion as counterweight to racist shadow left hanging over the arena’s namesake. Roach’s telephone should have rung long before Rupp Arena celebrated its opening.
So, Roach invested 22 years to education and making young men better students and basketball players. His teams sent fans home happy 610 times through 1965.
As a community leader, member of University of Kentucky’s athletic board, Roach was not inducted into a hall of fame until 1996. Shameful and puts a tinny ring into some testimonials at his passing.
S.T. Roach is statue worthy. A reminder to all of us how far we’ve come, yet how far we have to go in Kentucky.
And so it goes.