Kentucky Football

UK Football: The Culmination of a Generation of Pain

November 1, 2018
2,677

As the Wildcats prepare to play Georgia tomorrow with a trip to Atlanta on the line, it is important to remember the suffering and frustration that has lead up to this moment. 

Whether Kentucky wins the game or not, a new precedent for Kentucky Football has been set. The 'old Kentucky' is gone, the "that's so Kentucky football" barbs have no place here anymore.

An entire generation (and then some) of Kentucky fans have endured the equivalent of the cruelest version of "Groundhogs Day" that can be bestowed upon a college football fan. However, a new day has dawned.

For the first time in at least 41 years, UK is nationally relevant and a very legitimately good SEC Football program. This Saturday's opportunity to play for an SEC Championship represents the culmination of a generation of fans who have continuously run up to kick the ball, only to know that Lucy is about to pull it away. If Charlie Brown were not a fictional character, I am sure he would have felt bad for UK Football Fans.

Oh, there has been promise for Big Blue Nation, there is no doubt about that...

BILL CURRY

First, there was Bill Curry, a coach who was pulled away from football royalty Alabama. A Coach who many thought was largely responsible for assembling Alabama's 1992 National Championship team. 

All of Big Blue Nation, or as Curry would come to coin it: the Fellowship of the miserable, would hope, nay... *expect* a similar arc. However, you know how that story went. Similar to a highly anticipated movie that turns into a bomb you should have walked out of the theatre on. After 78 games (52 of them losses) the cord was mercifully pulled.

AIR RAID

Who could forget the revolutionary offense that turned Tim Couch into a bona fide Heisman Candidate and created a chain of coaches that would take Hal Mumme's version of the offense to great success all over the nation? We are even seeing it in action still today with fellow College Football Playoff contender Washington State.

Well, Big Blue Nation would like to forget a lot of it. Do not get me wrong, there is a lot of good. Couch embarrassing the Cards to open the Pizza Pit. The Outback Bowl. Offense galore and a gambling, me against the world mentality of the head coach that was infection across the Commonwealth.

However, as well all know, Hal and the boys were not on the up and up with their methods. Then just like that, almost as quickly as Mumme took the conference by storm, sort of, he was gone in a ball of shame and set a program back a decade.

GUY MORRISS TO SAVE THE DAY?

With Mumme slithering out the back door, Guy Morriss took over the program and wouldn't you know it, the year Kentucky has a bowl ban he would take the Cats to a 7-5 record. But, surely this would give BBN hope... right? Nah, Morriss bolted for Baylor following that season... a Baylor program that was as bad on the field at that time as they are off the field today. Morriss would go on to an 18-40 coaching record at Baylor.

PAPAW BROOKS

Kentucky Fans were frustrated immediately upon the hiring of Rich Brooks. There was a legitimate discussion of Bill Parcells coming to Lexington and Big Blue Nation wanted that big name to come in and own the program and make it his. This meant hiring a 'retread' with a losing record at Oregon, who had not coach College Football in a decade was less than optimal to fans.

It is only fitting that the man the fans did not know and did not want would be UK's best coach since the early 80s, and be the man to give Big Blue Nation TRUE hope.

We all know what Brooks did, given time he was able to take UK to 4 consecutive bowls and put Kentucky on the map as a respectable program. Kentucky was becoming a team you could set your watch to for 7-8 wins and a solid bowl game.

Of course, as Coach Brooks wanted to elevate the UK Football Brand to be a real national power; the administration would not buy into Brooks' desires to grow and invest into the program, ultimately leading to Brooks leaving UK. However, Brooks had turned Kentucky from a pinto into a sports car and handed the keys to the born and raised Kentuckian and former UK Football Player Joker Phillips to turn the sports car into a Ferrari.

JOKER TURNS UK BACK INTO A JOKE

There really is not much to say here, plain and simply put; Joker Phillips took the keys to a sports car from Rich Brooks and turned it back into a pinto while wrecking the car and lighting it on fire. Every single member of Big Blue Nation wanted so badly for Joker to be the coach who turned UK into a national power. Alas, a comedy of errors ensued and the ball was once again pulled away from BBN, but this time it felt like your family that pulled the ball away as you tried to kick it.

By the time Mark Stoops took over, the talent levels were arguably the most depleted of any P5 school in America. The program was set back decades with seemingly no light at the end of the tunnel.

THE MOMENTS

The aforementioned timeline is the equivalent of death by a thousand cuts for Kentucky Fans. A slow, long burn of frustration, sadness, and mental torture.

Having said that, Kentucky fans have also had their singular moments that only took an instant to happen, but have lasted a lifetime.

  • Mark Higgs is shut down on 4 straight plays inside the 5-yard line with a bowl game on the line...
  • Marty Moore clinches a Peach Bowl for the 'Cats vs. Clemson but decides to run the INT out of the end zone and fumbles, you know the rest...
  • Florida beating UK even though they had SEVEN, SEVEN!!! interceptions... 
  • Leading #4 UT 31-16 in the second half only to see Manning drop 18 quick points to win...
  • Watching Tim Couch be forced to run the option in the swamp...
  • Any year in the 90's when Steve Spurrier decided to hang 60+ on UK and take subtle jabs at them (in '96 Florida won 65-0, UK had 67 total yards)...
  • Lorenzen and UK lead #6 UT 21-0, only to see UK fumble inside the 30 as they're marching to a likely game-winning field goal...
  • The Bluegrass Miracle...
  • UK Leads Florida 21-3 going to the 4th quarter, Lorenzen essentially just needs to take a sack to end the Florida Streak, but he throws a pick-six, you know the rest...
  • Losing to the Ohio Bobcats with throwback uniforms on...
  • UK leads #19 UT in Knoxville and a TD wins it, Woodson, Little and company are inside the 10, but they cannot score to win it, and take essentially a game ending delay of game...
  • The next year, UT comes to Lexington and beats UK in 5 Overtimes, allowing UT to win the SEC East...
  • Between the hedges in a 4-point game with under a minute and UK on the Georgia 12 yard line with Randal Cobb, but a game-clinching interception...
  • 2009 UK can finish 2nd in the East and have a great bowl, but down three to UT they get inside the 15 and Randall Cobb never touches the ball, UK loses immediately in overtime and finishes 5th in the East...
  • Losing at South Carolina 54-3 and giving up 693 yards of offense... 
  • Losing to Western Kentucky on a trick play 2-point conversion...
  • Losing AGAIN to Western Kentucky and having a Western player on national TV yelling 'They supposed to be SEC'...
  • Losing in the Swamp because the refs miss a delay of game...
  • Losing to Florida because of 2 uncovered WRs and a phantom hold late...
  • Giving up 34 straight points to Southern Miss to lose the home opener...

A RECKONING

I am sure you are wondering why I decided to take you down a Kentucky Football Fan's nightmare memory lane. I reminded you of the pain of the past because the joy of the present and future is what will make a generation of hell turn into a future of bliss.

In addition, when big blue nation walks into Kroger Field Saturday afternoon, they will not just be coming to root on the 'Cats. They will not just be coming to hope for a win.

Big Blue Nation will be coming to former Commonwealth Stadium with the full weight of the past frustration and misery on its shoulders. BBN will come to the stadium with every single one of the aforementioned moments at the forefront of their memory. They will be in attendance along with the ghosts of past demons.

From Paducah to Pikeville, from ages 8 to 80, from black to white, from rich to poor, from born Kentuckian or adopted into the nation. From all of those factions, we will all fit into one group of people this Saturday.

We will all only care about the color Blue, we will all be pulling from the same side of the rope, we will all be ageless, we will all be brother and sister... we will ALL be KENTUCKIANS.

From the moment the gates open until sometime after the final horn sounds, Big Blue Nation will be raining down the energy of the slights of a generation of doormat jokes. BBN will be removing all of those past moments and the years of mental torture and dumping them directly onto that field.

The good guys in blue will feed off that energy like Superman to the sun. They will be able to feel the past transgressions that reside in all of our minds and the pits of our stomach. That enormous collective chip on Kentucky Football fan's shoulder will be gone and now reside on every player in blue.

Much like a pitcher's defense raising their games to another level when a perfect game is on the line, this team will do the same for Big Blue Nation. Benny Snell will run like his life depends on it. Josh Allen will attack the quarterback with reckless abandon as if the sun will not come up tomorrow. Lynn Bowden will twist, turn, contort, and have no regard for his body as he does everything within his breath to get first downs and find the end zone.

The simple truth is that when this team is about to run out of the tunnel, whether it is said aloud or not... because of our past pains and misery, our collective will to see this team win">; this is exactly the kind of team you are going to see:

"Life’s this game of inches. So is football. Because in either game, life or football, the margin for error is so small -- I mean one-half a step too late, or too early, and you don’t quite make it. One-half second too slow, too fast, you don’t quite catch it.

The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch... We claw with our fingernails for that inch... because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the f***ing difference between winning and losing!

I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!!

You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him!

That’s a team, gentlemen!"

Conversely, that weight of misery and frustration... the energy and power of a generation of what-ifs is a two-way street.

Now, to the team that is standing on the train tracks to Atlanta is going to feel it too... only it will not feed them, it will rain down on them like tens of thousands of arrows blotting out the sun.

The Georgia Bulldogs will feel like Curly Bill looking up at Wyatt Earp when the tide turned, and at that moment, all of Big Blue Nation will be Wyatt Earp, telling all the curs to let everyone know we're coming... and hell's coming with us.

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UK Football: The Culmination of a Generation of Pain

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