Fortunately, the gauntlet is complete. Kentucky has run out of SEC opponents to smack it around for the 38th consecutive non-winning season in league play. The Cats get a much-needed opportunity to lick their wounds and recover next week against a Charlotte team that makes UK look like the '85 Bears, even if it might be played in a half-empty Commonwealth Stadium with Big Blue Nation struggling not to go full-hoops mode at this point. There's one last incentive, though, not to throw in the towel on football season. You Know Who comes to town for the season finale with a bowl trip hanging in the balance. When the Governor's Cup game moved to the end of the schedule, aka "Rivalry Week," many suggested how much more spirited the game would become if it had bowl ramifications for the Cats and Cards. It certainly will this season. UK will need a win to salvage a season and restore faith in its suddenly embattled head coach, Mark Stoops. UofL will be looking to improve the quality of its postseason destination.
Unlike some recent matchups with Vanderbilt, when James Franklin had that program strutting a bit and puffing out its proverbial chest, Kentucky wasn't simply beaten by a good Commodores team. That would have been much easier for BBN to swallow. Vandy has a nice defensive unit, but really struggles to put points on the board. Going into the game, one had to think 17 points might be enough to win it. But it wasn't because the Cats gave this game away in just about every way imaginable. They dropped touchdown passes. Two, actually, on the first drive of the game. Omen, anyone? They got stuffed four plays in a row after picking up a 1st-and-goal at the 1. They threw an interception in the end zone after picking up a 1st-and-goal at the 3. They gave the Commodores the ball on their own 4-yard line via a fumble that turned into a touchdown. They were intercepted for a touchdown. They, mind-bogglingly, gave Vandy an extra possession at midfield with a minute left in the first half after choosing to go for it on 4th-and-1. They compounded that miscue by leaving a receiver uncovered on what proved to be the game-winning score a few moments later. They had a punt blocked. They missed a 37-yard field goal after, fittingly, taking a delay of game penalty for not having enough players on the field for the kick. Think about this: if Kentucky doesn't bungle HALF of those plays -- if it plays only poorly instead of preposterously -- it still probably finds a way to win with some level of comfort.
In five weeks of utter futility, Kentucky has taken a once-promising season and pushed it to the brink of disaster. For the first time since Stoops arrived in Lexington, some fans are starting to question whether he's the man who can turn the program into a winner. Six weeks ago, that was unthinkable. Kentucky was 4-1 with a pair of solid SEC wins against South Carolina and Missouri, as well as a highly-competitive game against eventual SEC East champion Florida. How did it go so wrong from that point forward? Why has UK watched its season spiral out of control in back to back years? And why, with three years of impressive recruiting classes, are the Cats not in a better position to capitalize on that talent? Tough questions abound. They'll get even tougher if UK doesn't find a way to reach six wins.