1. LOU CAN DO
The next time someone says coaching doesnt matter much, do two things: (1) Help them remove their foot from their mouth, and (2) Direct them to Columbia, S.C. Bad for years, the Gamecocks are flying high now thanks to Lou Holtz, who just a few years ago was coaching on the sacred ground (yes, its sarcasm) of Notre Dame. What Holtz has done at Carolina surely ranks one of the great turnarounds in college football history. South Carolina ended last season by thumping Ohio State in the Outback Bowl, and now it is 4-0 this year, with three conference wins, and has designs on the SEC East championship. And who is to doubt them? Kentucky can look at South Carolina tomorrow as a model of what can happen, that the chains of the past can be broken. If you order this game on pay-per-view, watch the Gamecocks and note the toughness, discipline and swagger.
2. HERE WE GO AGAIN
Yet another UK football game will be played with the quarterback situation unsettled. In all likelihood, coach Guy Morriss and his staff have decided that this is a year of evaluation and rebuilding. Not that the Cats dont want to win games, but this coaching staff clearly is doing things with an eye on the future. Fake punts, on-side kicks, 60 passes per game and treating defense like an afterthought are not what this crew is all about. So until either Shane Boyd or Jared Lorenzen steps up (this weeks cliché brought to you by Kentucky Fried Chicken), expect no end to the madness. In a sense, the 2001 season can be viewed as an extension of spring practice as Morriss waits for someone to win the job. Since tomorrow is UKs first road game of the year, Boyd and Lorenzen have prime opportunities to assume control. Its one thing to move a team in your home stadium. Its another thing to do it in front of 80,000 people rooting against you.
3. ISNT THAT SPECIAL
Hats off to the UK special teams and coordinator Mark Nelson. Granted, UKs special teams play in recent years was deplorable and had nowhere to go but up. Still, its been refreshing to be at Commonwealth Stadium and watch the home team actually driving kickoffs into the end zone, providing solid punt and kickoff coverage and getting consistency all around. And how about the excitement that return man Derek Abney offers? If the Cats can hang with the Gamecocks tomorrow, score a few points and play some defense, special teams could be a major factor. And in that area, who cant applaud what Kentucky has done in 2001?
4. NOT SO FAST
Despite fourth quarter meltdowns against Louisville and Florida, the Wildcat defense had played well and deserved some respect for showing some improvement. Until last week, that is. Ole Miss converted one third down opportunity after another. And when it mattered most, when the Cats pulled back within striking distance, the Rebels rolled right back down the field for the back-breaking touchdown. Furthermore, the UK secondary doesnt yet have an interception. Third-down efficiency and creating turnovers loom large if the UK defense wants to improve even more. Cornerback Derrick Tatum and company talk a lot about being good. Lets see somebody get an interception and swing the momentum of a game in Kentuckys favor. And lets see some stops on third down tomorrow against South Carolina. Then we can truly start talking about a good defense.
5. THINGS WED LIKE TO SEE
Based on what weve seen through four games, here are some things wed like to see, starting in tomorrows game: Artose Pinner with the football in his hands more often Passes thrown down the field, regardless of who is at quarterback Passes thrown past the first-down marker on third-down plays Punter Glenn Pakulak looking to hit somebody after kicking the ball, as he has done all year UK receivers beating defenders off the line and getting open A UK defensive back make an interception (start walking the walk, Tatum!) Dewayne Robertson being blocked by one man.
Prediction: South Carolina 27, Kentucky 14
EDITOR'S NOTE: The "Friday Five" is a weekly feature written by Brett Hait, a veteran UK sports reporter and BBD contributing writer.