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IRA COMBS: No. 6 Texas Kicks Off Tough December Slate for Kentucky on Friday on ESPN


By Ira D. Combs

Tri State Sports Media Service Inc.

First, it was No. 5 Kansas on a neutral court that was supposed to put at least a scare into UK, but it didn’t happen. Then it was the undefeated Providence College Friars, recent conquerors of Florida State and Notre Dame, and that was supposed to give UK the shock treatment. While they did put up a gallant effort for the first 25 to 30 minutes and couldn't go any deeper in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena with UK's depth and defensive abilities, the Wildcats still came out on top with the final score of 58-38. Obviously, it's very difficult to win a college basketball game when you can’t average a point a minute.

UK has given up 45 points or less now in five of its first seven games.

Now December kicks in and the big bad boys from Texas come to town carrying an undefeated record and No. 6 ranking. Every weekend in December starting with Texas this Friday will provide UK with a quality NCAA tournament-type opponent. After Texas comes North Carolina in Rupp Arena on Dec. 13. Then on the following Saturday in Chicago on Dec. 20, UK is matched up with UCLA. After Christmas, if Santa doesn’t throw any ugly snow balls at UK, the Cats have a date with their in-state rival, the Louisville Cardinals, down in the Yum Center on Saturday, Dec. 27.

Sandwiched in between the Texas and North Carolina games are a couple pigeons to pluck out of the sky in EKU and Columbia, and that shouldn’t take too much preparation time away from the players as they wind down the semester and work their way through exam week.

Note to NCAA: Unlike North Carolina, the UK players do take and have to pass exams in all their classes or they suffer academic consequences.

Streak Continues Into 2015 As Cards End Cats' Football Season At 5-7

When your arch-rival hand delivers you a 3-0 advantage in turnovers the first three quarters (with two of them resulting in touchdowns) and you put 40 points on the board -- something UK did three times earlier in the season and that total resulted in a win -- you would think the same in that last Saturday's game.

Except there is one fly in the ointment.

Only Kentucky football can make a third-team quarterback look like an All-American.

They did just that when Kyle Bolin, a redshirt freshman from Lexington Catholic High School, just one mile from Cooper Drive, came off the Louisville bench and replaced the Cards starting QB Reggie Bonnafon, who was the second-string QB himself. Bolin entered the game early in the second quarter where UK had dominated Louisville on both sides of the ball until that point and lead the Cards 13-0. In his first series, Bolin was faced with a crucial third-down play around his own 22-yard line at third and 7. Instead of UK blitzing the young QB and forcing him into a possible mistake, they choose to go soft and let him make his own. It didn’t happen and he completed a 15-yard down-and-out pattern for a first down which put some juice in his arm and confidence in his head.

The rest is history. He went on to complete 21 out of 31 attempts for 381 yards and three touchdowns. His only mistake was actually a receiver running the wrong route which resulted a pick six for the Cats.

Now the losing streak is at six and continues on into 2015. Another Fall has come and gone and another losing season has followed for Kentucky football. At the beginning of the season, many would have gladly taken five wins and moved on to 2015. But when those five wins all come in the first half and you end the season on a six-game losing streak, it gives you the feeling those five wins were a classic case of “Fools Gold.” The three victories were against weak non-conference teams, one was against a 6-6 South Carolina team (which went 3-5 its last eight games and two of those three wins were against Furman and South Alabama), and that fifth UK win came against a Vanderbilt team which went winless in SEC play.

In the meantime, while we work our way through another winter and off season, the $110 million renovation of CWS moves forward and the UK athletic administration keeps pumping Big Blue Nation full of hope and promise that UK football is on the cusp of being a consistent winner in the SEC. First up Mark Stoops must hire a new offensive coordinator to replace Neal Brown, who has moved on to Troy State for his first opportunity at being a head coach.

As for the present day, in my opinion, whoever came up with the brainstorm idea of selling 2015 football season tickets for the newly renovated CWS back in October should be the person getting a raise, not a coach who ended the season on a six-game losing streak. However, I still think Mark Stoops was a solid hire for UK football but let the man earn his keep for a couple years before you start giving him raises …….. two now in the last eight months.

Nobody is going to swoop in and steal a coach from UK who has a two-year resume of 2-10 and 5-6 overall, not to mention 2-14 in SEC play.

You can go online to www.combsbrothersonkysports.com for more coverage of UK basketball and football as well as KHSAA football and basketball. We also have a new Twitter account @combsbrothers5.

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