Kentucky’s Biggest Game of the Year Is Saturday
The Wildcats were embarrassed last weekend against Mississippi State and need a bounce back performance on Saturday against Tennessee. A victory gets Kentucky to six wins and bowl eligibility for a second straight season. A loss against a down Volunteers squad makes Mark Stoops‘ task for the rest of 2017 even tougher. We are going to take a look at why Kentucky’s Biggest Game of the Year Is Saturday. But first a look back at the debacle in Starkville.
Outplayed In Every Facet of the Game
The Wildcats went down to Mississippi State coming off a bye week sitting at 5-1 on the season. With the upcoming schedule a win against Dan Mullen‘s club could have launched the Cats to a 9-1 record heading to Georgia on November 18th. However in the words of Lee Corso “not so fast my friends.”
Late in the second quarter with Kentucky trailing 10-7 facing a third and one offensive coordinator Eddie Gran tried to mix things up. Instead of a run with Benjamin Snell Jr. the Cats tried a deep ball that fell incomplete. Following a punt Nick Fitzgerald ran 40 yards for a touchdown and the rout was on.
In the 45-7 rout Fitzgerald finished with 270 total yards and three touchdowns. On the other side of the ball Snell and Stephen Johnson had their worst games of the year. The Cats’ leading rusher had 18 yards on seven carries. Johnson threw for 117 yards and two interceptions. Kentucky only crossed mid-field three times the entire game. With the loss the Cats are now 2-3 under Stoops coming off a bye week.
Following the game frustrations boiled over as you could hear assistant coach Vince Marrow lighting into the team during Stoops’ press conference. Wide receiver Blake Bone took to snapchat saying the team “would be unstoppable if we threw the ball.” Even the father of backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak got in on the talk.
Beyond frustrated! Tried of all the excuses! Throw the ball and get it in the damn end zone!
— Frank Hoak (@FHoak) October 21, 2017
Obviously this is not a good look for the team as they head into the homestretch of the season. Stoops took steps to reign in the social media posting.
On players’ social media frustration being so public, Stoops said they met about that yesterday and that it will stop.
— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) October 23, 2017
For all of the talk about passing the ball more there is a very interesting stat about the run game. The Cats are 9-1 in the last ten games when they outrush their opponent. On the other hand they are 3-5 when they don’t.
Butch’s Last Stand?
The problems down in Knoxville have been well documented as no coach in America has a hotter seat than Butch Jones. Tennessee is coming off a 45-7 loss to Alabama last week. Furthermore the Vols have not scored an offensive touchdown since their September 23rd win against Massachusetts.
There were many who thought Jones might be let go after the Alabama game but that was not the case. This poll from a Knoxville radio station this week shows how hot the seat is getting for Jones.
If it means Butch Jones gets fired on Sunday, will you cheer for UK to beat UT?
— Tony Basilio (@TonyBasilio) October 23, 2017
On the other hand there are just as many who think the Vols are on the verge of breaking out and can finish the season 8-4. The news got even worse for Jones on Wednesday. John Kelly, the fourth leading rusher in the SEC, was suspended after an arrest on a marijuana charge. However as any True Blue Fan can tell you backup players always seem to have a career game against the Cats.
The Importance Of Saturday’s Game
Why is Kentucky’s biggest game of the year on Saturday? There are a number of reasons. In 2014 the Cats began the season 5-1 and Stoops got a contract extension. From there the Cats lost the last six finishing 5-7.
The next season UK started 4-1 only to lose six of seven to end the year. After the debacle against the Bulldogs many Kentucky fans are saying “here we go again” and “thank goodness it is almost basketball season.” A win on Saturday gets those fans back on the bandwagon.
Another reason Kentucky’s biggest game of the year is Saturday, “The Streak.” The Wildcats’ losing streak against Tennessee is almost as bad as the one against Florida. Kentucky has only defeated the Vols once since 1984. The 10-7 win in 2011 came when third string receiver Matt Roark started at quarterback and led the team to victory.
The Wildcats come into Saturday as a four point favorite over the Vols. The last time Kentucky was favored in this game is maybe 1984. A win over Tennessee and the Cats continue towards the goal of an eight win season. A loss to a mediocre Vols club sends the season possibly spiraling downward once again. That is why Kentucky’s biggest game of the year is Saturday. It is a game the Cats will win and the Butch Jones’ job speculation continues.
Kentucky 24 Tennessee 14