Will the Goalposts Come Down?
I had the Rolling Stones’ song When the Whip Come Down rattling around in my head all Thanksgiving Day. I think I know why – it started to morph into Will the ‘Posts Come Down?
Kentucky (7-4/3-4) is due to break their losing streak of 24 against the Vols (6-5/3-4).
During the period 1985-2008, the ‘Cats are 0-24 by a total score of 911-400 and an average score per game of 38-17. The Vols shutout the ‘Cats four times and held them to under 10 points an additional four times. Tennessee scored over 50 points seven times. Five of those seven 50-plus games were in consecutive seasons (1996-2000).
But, all good things come to an end. The streak will be broken sooner or later. I’m just not ready. I’d rather see 2009 anointed as the silver anniversary of the last Kentucky win of the Beer Barrel (where in the hell is that thing now anyway?).
After getting the 2009 season off to a 2-0 start against weak neighbors Miami (Ohio) and Louisville, Kentucky lost three straight SEC games to Florida, Alabama, and a very close one to South Carolina, and suffered several key injuries doing so, including QB Mike Hartline (knee/season) and All-SEC CB Trevard Lindlay. But they followed that with a shock 21-14 win at Auburn to pull even at 3-3 and give the ‘Cats some momentum heading into the second half. Kentucky handedly defeated minions Louisiana-Monroe and Eastern Kentucky, lost to a below-average Mississippi State, defeated a poor Vanderbilt team wracked by injuries, and last week came from behind on the road and beat Georgia who is perhaps worse than anyone imagines besides their own fans.
Statistically, the Wildcats run the ball well, but provide little in the way of a consistent aerial attack; defend the pass pretty well, but can’t stop a decent running attack. They are pretty average in total yards gained per game, total points scored per game, total yards allowed per game, and better than average in points allowed per game. Their kicking game is decent.
So why worry besides (1) this is an away game (2) played against our longest rival (3) who is playing for a rare shot at a quality bowl (4) and desperately wants the 24-game winless streak monkey off its back?
The Playmaker Extraordinaire: Randall Cobb, (#18) WR/QB (Wildcat Fm.)/Punt Returner, 5’11’’ 188 lb Sophomore from Alcoa, Tennessee. Probably the most underrated player in the SEC, Cobb has nine rushing TDs, four receiving touchdowns, and one punt returned for a score. He will also return kickoffs and be the holder for the placekicker. When the ‘Cats need a play, Cobb is the man. He just might be able to beat the Vols single-handed because of his multi-faceted role in Kentucky’s offense.
He’s dangerous doing most everything. And it’s no secret around Knoxville and Lexington that what the Vols have the most trouble with is “unconventional” offensive schemes such as the single-wing, direct-snap style offense termed the Wildcat, and Cobb excels when taking the direct snap in that formation. Alabama had it, and if they’d used it more, they would have beaten us by more than two points. Florida has it. Auburn gave us fits with their unconventional offensive schemes. Even Ohio gave the Vols problems with their motion-heavy offense and mobile QB.
Cobb isn’t the only playmaker wearing blue. Junior RB Derrick Locke (#20), 5’9” 190 lbs from Hugo, Oklahoma is a threat on the ground (821 net rushing yards / 5 TDs) and returning kickoffs (17 returns / 518 yards / 1 TD). Freshman QB Morgan Newton (#12), 6’4” 217 lbs from Carmel, Indiana did not play until starter Mike Hartline was injured for the year mid-season (at South Carolina). His best game of the season was probably last week in the victory over Georgia when Newton was 9-17/137 yds, 3 TDs, 0 INTs. He just might be too young to get nervous Saturday night.
On the other side of the ball, watch for Senior LB #50 Sam Maxwell. He’s ranked 2nd in the SEC (11th nationally) with 5 INTs. Senior LB #4 Micah Johnson leads the Wildcats in tackles (36 solo/48 assisted). DeQuin Evans and Cory Peters are the main men up front on the ‘Cats DL, teaming for eight sacks.
Well, back to the original question: Will the posts come down? I think basically if Cobb has his way with the Vols, then yes. If not, then no. Tennessee was riding high going into the Ole Miss game just two short weeks ago. But, on-field injuries and off-field stupidity combined to allow Dexter McCluster and the Rebs to flatten a flat Vol outfit. Follow that with a spirited but underwhelming performance in a Senior Day win over the pretty much hapless Vandy ‘Dores, and you’ve got me worried sick about Saturday.
My mind tells me that Kentucky wins this game. They play that kind of offense that Tennessee just doesn’t seem to have an answer for. And even with Janzen Jackson coming back after a three-week layoff due to well-chronicled issues, this Vol defense is way past its prime, perhaps too far past to save the streak.
In my pre-game prediction for the Ole Miss game (a solid Tennessee win), my mind told me Ole Miss and I went with my emotions and got burned. I stayed with my brain with my Vandy pick (a narrow UT win) and did well (because who the hell knew a senior DL with no knees would intercept a pass with no time left and ramble 20 yards, dragging a poor Commie RB for the last 10 into the end zone?).
Mind, heart, mind, heart, mind, heart…
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe…
Oh, what the hell, it’s the last game of the scheduled season, I relish the Kentucky series, and we’ll do it. There, I said it. The ‘posts will just have to wait.