By Ira D. Combs
Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.
Rarely do college football games play out to the expectations of players and coaches. As for us folks in the media, well, our record of accurate predictions isn’t very sterling, either.
However, regardless of the final score and missed scoring opportunities, Kentucky football finally has that ugly SEC monkey off its back after last Saturday’s 17-7 win over Vanderbilt at CWS in front of 56,976, the largest home crowd for the up and coming 3-1 Wildcats in almost three years. While the final score didn’t indicate a dominate win, the Wildcat defense may have had its finest game under Mark Stoops in holding the Commodores to only 139 yards of offense for the entire game and no scores of any type against the UK defense. Vandy’s only score of the day came on an interception of a Patrick Towles pass in the second quarter.
Offensively, it was a tale of two halves for the Wildcats and their sophomore QB Patrick Towles. The initial drive of the game for Towles was for 99 yards and produced a stat line of 10 completions in 10 attempts for 99 yards with seven different receivers catching the balls. The final pass being completed to sophomore Ryan Timmons for 20 yards and a touchdown. At the half, Towles was 17-20 and the Cats held a 17-7 lead with a couple of missed opportunities that could have extended the lead. The second half was a different matter with three of the four UK drives stalling after they crossed midfield into Vandy territory by holding penalties and a mysterious unsportsmanlike penalty immediately after a UK first down inside the Vandy 40-yard line.
Now comes the game that everyone has had circled for the first half of the season since last spring’s Blue-White game. That would be South Carolina and the “Old Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier. UK and SEC television officials have set the kickoff for 7:30 and the game will be televised nationally on the new SEC TV Network.
Even though this game has been circled for awhile, I don’t think anyone thought the two teams would be 3-1 and 3-2 with the Gamecocks ranked solidly in the Top 25 until this week. So why does a few football prognosticators across college football think the Cats can pull off the upset. Mainly because the Gamecocks got hit hard by graduation and early NFL draftees at the end of 2013, and they have given up 52, 35, and 34 points in three of their five games this season and another big reason is Kentucky’s history of playing at home at night with the Keeneland crowd giving a little extra support.
With Missouri’s mild 21-20 upset of South Carolina last Saturday giving them their second SEC loss of the early season, one would think this is a desperation game for Carolina to stay in the SEC East race while UK is in the proverbial nothing to lose frame of mind. The early betting line out of Las Vegas had UK as a 10-point underdog.
So what type of game sequence should we expect for Saturday night between the Cats and the Gamecocks. Actually I have no idea. Personally, it’s just a simple gut feeling based on following UK and SEC football for the past 40 years. I can tell you this. All you “Football Freddie’s” that are brothers of Cal’s “Basketball Bennies” can drop these game and team comparisons between common opponents they both have played, it never plays out to where it’s understandable after the game is over.
As I’ve said before, that old-time honored sports saying of “they say the book says this” always turns out to be a myth. I’ve never been able to uncover who they are nor have I ever been able to find a copy of “The Book” to refer to as a fan, coach, or media member in my 62 years.
As always in college football when the whistle is blown ready for play by the official and kickoff starts play, every game will take on its own course and players as well as coaches will make in-game adjustments all the way through four quarters of play until a winner is established and then everybody involved will play that old woulda, shouda, coulda game for several days afterward until they kickoff another game. Just let it all play out and fill in the blanks after the fact.
With all that being said above and factoring in what looked to appear to be a much improved Carolina defense against a good Missouri offense last Saturday night, my educated guess is the Cats will pull off their first upset of the Stoops era 24 -20.
Press Box Tidbits
Listed below is my second installment of the new added feature for this syndicated column referred to as “Press Box Tidbits.” I will have at least one per month thru football and basketball season:
1) The NFL scouts have finally started showing up in CWS press box to evaluate perspective draftees. The New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers were looking at Bud Dupree and ZaDarius Smith duing Vandy game and according to a San Francisco 49ers scout he was looking at same two players plus getting an early peek at what they think may be best sophomre QB in nation Patrick Towles. Vandy also had a couple players being looked at with one lineman being very highly rated by all three NFL scouts.
2) Lot of talk in press box among media about the new SEC eight-member officiating crews, especially the new eighth official who is in the offensive back field and occasionally runs up to center and holds up snap procedure to get ready for play started. Some calling it the Nick Saban effect.
3) Under the mild surprise department It’s very hard to get media scribes to show any type of soft emotion anywhere especially at sporting events but when little Marla Vanhoose of Paintsville , Ky. (blind with ALS) sang one of the most spiritual renditions of the national anthem ever heard in CWS. I noticed several tears coming down the face of some veteran old school media folks.
4) Under the major surprise department with the South Carolina game coming up this week the talk around the chow line turned to the Old Ball Coach and the 30 for 30 series that ESPN did on him. Seems as though several media members have taken on a more humble and understanding opinion of Steve Spurrier after watching the ESPN special . Have to admit it mellowed yours truly a little bit as well.
5) If you can’t wait till Saturday at 7:30 to vent some language at Carolina, you can turn on ESPN Classic at 1:00 P.M. this Wednesday, Oct. 1 and watch Joker Phillips' biggest win at UK when he upset Spurrier in 2010, and yes that game was an October night game at CWS.
You can go online at www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK football and basketball as well as KHSAA football and basketball. You can also follow me on twitter at @combsbrothers5 or e-mail me at Icombs14@windstream.net.