It's gross outside and I don't have a sporting event to look forward to today, so I'm going to shelve the initial positivity.
With all due respect to Cincinnati - a team that will almost certainly prove itself fully capable of handling Syracuse in two weeks - that was an awful football game. In fact, this has been a season loaded with almost nothing but awful football games. Even in the tight tilts where I've been near completely focused on willing the Cards to victory, there's always been a moment where, "wow, this is pretty bad" has crept into the back of my mind.
Sometimes you need the take of complete outsiders to gain proper perspective, and I found some of that when I read the U of L/UC game thread over at Burnt Orange Nation where a hoard of Texas fans were pulling for the Cards because a Bearcat loss would hurt Oklahoma and help the 'Horns in the computer rankings. I imagine it'd be sort of like us having to pull for UTEP to beat Rice in order to gain a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Have I shared my feelings on college football's postseason before?
Anyway, here are a few of the thoughts of the UT turned U of L fans during the action last night.
It feels like Miami was about 15 years ago.
U of L was given every opportunity to seize complete control of the game early in the second half, but the Cards again refused to do so. Cincy kicks the ball out-of-bounds to start the half, U of L gets one first down and punts. Cincy fumbles on its own nine, U of L gains nothing and kicks a field goal. Cincy misses a field goal after a long drive, U of L goes three and out and gives it right back.
The Cards could never find a big offensive play when they needed it. Take two: The Cards could never find a big offensive play that wasn't negated by a holding penalty when they needed it.
There was a lot to be upset about after the game, but what precipitated the 45-yard field goal attempt made the largest negative stamp on me.
Apparently we have so little faith in our kicker with nothing on the line early in the first quarter that we opt to go for it on 4th and 6 instead of attempting a 25-yard field goal. But then, miraculously, we have so much faith in our kicker down one midway through the 4th quarter that we can run a draw play on 3rd and 16 from just outside the 30. You don't need to try and pick up the first down in that situation, but you do need to put the ball in the air and try to pick up nine or ten yards in order to give the kid a chance.
Ryan Payne was thrown to the wolves, and I found that really upsetting.
So apparently Brian Kelly's blowing off Kragthorpe after the game was the product of Krag making a fuss over the Bearcat players praying around midifeld before the game.
That's awesome. You get the feeling sometimes that the guy goes out of his way to invent stuff to get worked up about with the hope that he can minimize the lack of intensity criticism.
Sometimes the impact Ron English has had on this team becomes undeniably apparent.
Cincinnati tried to run the same middle screen it used to score its first touchdown on two more occasions later in the game. The first time the receiver made the catch and was hit immediately after a gain of two yards. The second time the linebackers were all over both receivers and the Bearcats ended up being penalized for having an ineligible receiver downfield.
This defense might not be as good as it could possibly be, but I think it's pretty damn close.
It's ridiculous how much this team needs Scott Long. There's simply no other legitimate deep threat among the corps.
I keep wanting Brohm to give Chris Vaughn a chance to step up and make some plays downfield - and to his credit, Vaughn played more inspired wearing No. 84 than he ever has while wearing No. 9 over the past three seasons - but when you keep your eye on him for an extended period of time, it becomes apparent why he hasn't been utilized any more in Long's absence: the guy doesn't know any of the plays. There were at least four times when the team broke the huddle and Vaughn had to go over to Cantwell and ask a question, and on two of those occasions he promptly went and lined up on the wrong side of the field.
Even on Doug Beaumont's big catch down the middle of the field, Josh Chichester was five yards directly in front of him, meaning one of them (I'm going to go ahead and guess No. 11) ran the wrong route.
Without Long and Guy for so much of the season, guys who weren't anywhere near ready for the spotlight were thrust into it kicking and screaming, and it's been really noticeable from the opening series against Kentucky up until now.
I feel like Troy Pascley goes deep on every play. It seems like every time a play ends you see Pascley jogging back to the huddle from about 30 yards downfield. He's like the super fast soccer-playing kid who had no hands at recess.
Trying to implement the Wildcat offense for the third-to-last game of the season doesn't make much sense to me. Then again, neither does 3rd grade math.
Cincinnati's offense stalled every time they tried to run no huddle. They'd run a draw for seven yards, then sprint to the line of scrimmage and get stuffed or throw an incompletion. I wish we'd seen more of it in the second half.
I think the highlight of the game was definitely the playing of "Shout" after the announcement of the VMI/Kentucky score. It was the most excited and unified the crowd has been since the '07 Murray State game.
There were a couple of Kentucky fans in the bathroom at halftime - apparently showing your team pride at a game featuring your arch-rival and a school you have no connection with is more important than actually watching your team play - both of whom were promptly greeted with VMI chants and then one guy in the area saying, "don't worry about it man, I'm sure VMI would give Gardner-Webb a hell of a game."
Oh, bathroom shenanigans.
The night was summed up by a message from a friend in the third quarter who said, "We're beating a ranked team on national television and I've gotten four text messages and a voice mail about UK losing to VMI."
Get well, Vic. Please, god, get well.
I expected a half-empty stadium once the rain started, but I was really disappointed in the lack of poncho unification. I'm sure they sell red ponchos somewhere, people. Don't settle for green, yellow or blue and think that's OK.
I don't think we've had a holding penalty on a play that's gone for less than 15 yards all season. Even when Josh Chichester tried, the ball went right to Brock Bolen and he rumbled for 30 yards.
It's not cool, but it's kind of amazing.
The Cincinnati fans were very loud and impressive. I suppose playing for a conference championship tends to have that effect.
It would have been nice if the hooligan who played the Tumbleweed game at halftime had had the decency to put his hat on straight.
The lead official must have told some girl he's trying to impress to watch the game, because he was sure jumping on every possible opportunity to get himself on television.
I made the remark when they went to review the Bolen play that I've never seen a spot challenge overturned in college or the NFL. Spotting the ball is about as much of an inexact science as there is, so finding conclusive evidence to overturn a call should be nearly impossible.
I still haven't seen the broadcast, but a number of people have confirmed that we got hosed, which I guess figures since there's only three weeks left in the season and getting inexplicably reemed by an officiating crew at least once a year was part of the agreement when the Big East offered U of L a spot in the conference.
I love Mike Mickens. I said it.
Cory Goettsche has really improved as the season has gone on, and deserves at least a little love. One of you send him a card.
Jon Dempsey made two straight hellacious plays. The first when he stripped Jacob Ramsey and then made the recovery, and the second when he came from the outside and caught John Goebel from behind right around the line of scrimmage. If he can bring that fire consistently next season then he could have a hell of a senior year.
I really don't understand why we had Travis Norton on an island against Dominick Goodman on 3rd and 4 on UC's last scoring drive. I realize that Goodman had gotten the best of Woodny Turenne for most of the game, but No. 9 is still your best option in that situation.
There was a stretch of about six or seven straight series' where we ran the ball for a short gain on first down and then threw it on second and third down. When we finally mixed it up and ran a reverse and a play-action pass on first down, both plays worked. The offense has to become as unpredictable as it was under Petrino if the coaching staff wants it to be anywhere near as effective as it was under Petrino.
How the play action, roll to the right, 11-yard comeback play continues to work after we've run it at least 750 times is anyone's guess.
I miss the keg.