The Monday Morning Quarterback took a bit different direction in print this morning, handing out mid-term grades from the film room of the Big Three local programs. But here, you get a blog bonus — the Monday Morning Quarterback, original recipe . . .
BLUE 18: The number of years since UK played a football game in which it did not commit a penalty. The Cats’ also were turnover free in Saturday’s win at Auburn.
RED 27.5: Average margin of defeat for U of L in its past four Big East Conference games. The Cards have now lost eight straight in the Big East.
BLUE 13: UK’s national ranking in pass defense. The Wildcats are giving up just 163.3 yards per game in the air. But maybe that’s glass-half-full stat. They’re giving up 184.8 per game on the ground (102nd nationally). Maybe there’s little need to pass.
HIKE, HIKE! UK’s chances of making a bowl game and keeping some program momentum after Saturday’s 21-14 win at Auburn, the Wildcats’ first win in Auburn since 1961.
PREGAME TALK: Big East Network (or whatever it’s called) sideline reporter Quint Kessenich described a “lengthy” conversation with U of L athletic director Tom Jurich during the telecast of U of L’s loss Saturday at Connecticut. Among the items Kessenich reported Jurich as saying were that coach Steve Kragthorpe is “still his guy,” and that Jurich likes the progress he is seeing.
Since we don’t know Jurich’s exact words (there was no on-camera interview), I’m not making too much of this. From a public standpoint, there are only two things he can do — support his coach, or fire his ass (that’s a Bible word). That he would support him is consistent with how Jurich operates. But trying to sell the current state of the program as progress?
Progress is SmartPhones, hybrid cars, cures for diseases — not losing to UConn three years in a row.
FIRST AND 10: Florida and Alabama are 1-2 in the first BCS Standings, and some projections say that they could be setting up for a national championship rematch if both reach the SEC title game unbeaten. They might well be the best two teams, but it should be remembered, when his one-loss team had a chance of missing the title game because Ohio State and Michigan appeared headed for a championship rematch two years ago, these were Florida coach Urban Myers’ words said a rematch . . .
“Would be unfair to Ohio State and unfair to the country. . . . I don’t believe that is the right thing to do. Tell a team they have to go beat the same team twice, which is extremely difficult. (Michigan) had their chance. Someone else should have a chance to go get No. 1.”
SECOND AND LONG: In a Sunday blog, I nominated Saturday’s win by UK as the second-biggest of Rich Brooks’ UK tenure, behind the 2007 win over No. 1-ranked LSU. I caught some argument from that among readers — both UK and U of L fans. So here’s my list, and my thinking . . .
1. LSU, 2007 — Brooks’ signature win, not only did it come against the No. 1 team in the nation, but it drew ESPN’s College GameDay to campus and ushered in a new era of UK respectability.
2. Auburn, 2009 — Because of the obstacles UK faced (quarterback hurt, true freshman starting at QB, three-game losing streak, a banged-up team, on the road, a field-goal try blocked and returned for a TD to fall behind 7-0), and because of the consequences if it had lost (presumption that momentum was lost and the program was slipping), this one was huge. If the bowl streak is a big part of Brooks’ legacy, this win could play a big part in keeping that in tact.
3. Mississippi State, 2006 — Coming off a 49-0 loss to LSU, this was a line-in-the sand game for the program. It was one of those moments where the program was either going to take a step forward, or sink back into the malaise of the past. It took the step.
4. Georgia, 2006 — After the MSU win, the victory over Georgia signaled that things had changed for the Wildcats, and built momentum for the most successful run in Brooks’ tenure.
5. Louisville, 2007 — not because the Cardinals were ranked No. 8 in the nation, but because Brooks had moved the game, and because UK needed to end its skid in this series to move on to bigger things — which it soon did.
6. The Music City Bowl wins — beating Clemson and Florida State, and bringing huge crowds while doing it, established the program as one that can deliver in the postseason.
EXTRA POINT: Kragthorpe again ran afoul of conventional wisdom on conversion strategy Saturday, when he went for two after the Cardinals had cut their deficit to 31-19 with just over 11 minutes to play in the game. The conversion failed, meaning that U of L no longer could tie with a touchdown and a field goal.
The chart that almost all coaches carry with them to sort out such situations calls for going for one when down by 12. It’s precisely that kind of thing — beyond the losing — that has eroded fan confidence in Kragthorpe.
TASMANIAN DEVIL? Why the Cartoon character at the top of this blog post? Well, first off, cartoon characters increase blog hits. It’s a fact. Second, for some reason I was getting the same piece of spam with the subject line “Perform like the Tasmanian Devil in bed,” all week last week. I’ve got to say, it wasn’t a big selling point for me. After talking to several female friends familiar with the character, they imagined all the spinning and strange guttural noises would be offputting. And third, I put him there because he is rumored to be up for defensive coordinator should the right coaching change take place at U of L.
CONDOLENCES: Jasper Howard, a starting cornerback for UConn, played his heart out against U of L on Saturday. He made 11 tackles and forced a fumble that he then recovered. Later that night, at a school sponsored dance, he was stabbed and later died of his wounds. It’s a heartbreaking story. Howard’s girlfriend was expecting their first child. UConn coach Randy Edsall had the grim task of identifying the body. Our thoughts are with the Huskies and Howard’s family.