SEC EASTERN DIVISION FOOTBALL STANDINGS
Florida 7-1, 9-1
Kentucky 4-3, 6-4
Tennessee 3-3, 7-3
Georgia 4-4, 7-4
S. Carolina 3-5, 5-5
Vanderbilt 1-6, 4-7
Yes, dear reader, you read it correctly. It is the middle of November, and Rich Brooks’ Kentucky Wildcats sit second in the SEC East. Putting aside for the moment the obvious implication that the apocalypse may well be upon us, I couldn’t be any happier with the surprising fortunes of our beloved football Cats. Of course, I am sure that the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce is also pleased that Florida has clinched the division, as one could only imagine the swathe of destruction that would descend upon Atlanta if Kentucky actually made it to the SEC Championship game. Actually, it would probably have much the same outcome as the last march of a blue clad army from the north to the city. (Shout out to my fellow history majors. Holla.) Anyway, a couple of thoughts on the heels of a glorious Kentucky — Vandy game which saw Kentucky almost outscore the high temperature, and the teams accumulate one total yard per fan in attendance.
Rafael Little, the man
Rafael Little made his triumphant return to the field against the ‘Dores. Little had missed the last several weeks with a knee injury. With that, and with the depth Kentucky had developed during his absence with Smith and Dixon, it seemed obvious that Kentucky would work Little slowly and conservatively back into the game plan. Naturally, this being the football season that logic forgot, he ran the ball twenty times and caught it another eight. Of course, when he caps the hundred yard mark in both rushing and receiving, it is a little tough to limit his touches. In thinking about Kentucky’s bowl prospects, I kind of hope, for Little’s sake, that the Cats do not end up in the Music City Bowl. I am not sure Rafael will be welcomed warmly in Nashville due to how he has treated Vandy over the last two years. In the last two meetings, Little has run, caught and returned for 621 yards and four touchdowns. If my math skills are correct, that means that Rafael has toted the football for just over a third of a mile against Vandy the last two seasons. I think this also works out to approximately three megajoules, though I was never that good at the metric system. Anyway, the bottom line is, Rafael Little is a poor man’s Reggie Bush, and we are lucky to have the chance to see him play. This brings me to my next point.
Is there an Arby’s roast beef sale going on?
There were impressive numbers everywhere Saturday. Woodson threw for 450 yards and 4 touchdowns. (Named Offensive player of the week in the Conference.) Burton had nearly 200 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. We have already discussed Little’s heroics above. With all that said, there was one equally distressing number. 52,235. That was the total head count in Commonwealth on Saturday. With that paltry showing, Kentucky is now averaging 57, 974 per home game this season. Assuming this number stays about where it is, Kentucky will have its worst home attendance average since 1997. The real question is why attendance is lagging to this degree. For the first time since 1999, Kentucky has a competitive team that is going to go to a bowl game. You want offense? Look no further. Kentucky is fourth in the Conference in total offense, averaging 26.5 points per game. You want to see the ball in the air? Come on down. Kentucky is second in the Conference in passing offense at 264.7 yards per game. You want to see stars? We got 'em. Andre Woodson leads the Conference in passing yards per game. Keenan Burton leads the conference in all purpose yards per game, and has, along with Rafael Little, helped put the Cats at first in the Conference in punt returns and second in kickoff returns. Burton also leads one of the best receiving duos in the SEC, as he and Dickie Lyons, Jr. have combined for 18 touchdowns. Still, every Saturday, the corners of the stadium are vacant.
No rant from me, or any other guy out there with access to some form of media, is going to persuade people to show up at a game if they don’t want to. However, I will rant on nonetheless. These guys deserve more. The UK players, through no fault of their own, have had the misfortune of exhausting their eligibility during a dark time for the program, even by UK standards. The Cats have been hammered by scholarship reductions and the cloud of probation. They have been decimated by freak injury after freak injury. They have been led by a man who has been considered a punch line to almost everyone outside the walls of their locker room. With all of this, they persevered. Taking beating after beating in the toughest conference in America, they never quit, and they have never shamed their University or their state. Now, after doggedly trudging through this deep water, at the point of their reward, it seems that a portion of their fans have quit on them. Matt McCutchan, a senior who can barely walk throughout the season, but who patches it together to get on the field every Saturday, deserves more. Lamar Mills, who has battled back from a devastating knee injury to be an anchor at defensive tackle, deserves more. Rich Brooks, the straight shooting, no nonsense head coach, will never admit that it bothers him, but deserves more as well. More credit, more support, more fans. The Kentucky faithful have long bragged about the loyalty of its fan base. How Commonwealth could draw fans no matter what. It is time to prove it. The Cats have gotten better. The fans need to show that they have noticed.