Now the team just needs to figure out how to do that!
As I turned an entire bar crowd turned toward me as I was screaming "HIT HIM! HIT HIM!"at the top of my lungs last Saturday night, two things stood out in my mind: they were all dressed in orange and blue, and they were shocked that someone was actually watching the Kentucky game.
Oh yeah, I was in Florida last weekend, and it makes me want to win even more. They said "You are watching the Kentucky game? Well, at least you have basketball…." Oh boy. That moment has been sitting in my craw since I left that night. (I do have to say I sat with two Mississippi State fans who allowed me to sit with them so I could see the game in a standing room only bar. They told me that Kentucky fans are the nicest fans that visit Mississippi State all year, and it sure makes you feel proud hearing those things.)
So, here we are, a team that most people discount as if we were a I-AA school. Well, I would like to say that I-AA schools have been giving some Division 1 schools a run for their money this year. It will take some mistake free, smart football to beat Florida, but it can happen.
I have always been a believer that the key to winning games is to have more take-aways than turnovers. In order to step it up for the game this weekend, Kentucky's defense is going to have to stop the shoe-string tackling (that may be harsh, but I am fired up!) and play hard ball.
I kept waiting for the defense to take it up a notch against Mississippi, but it never seemed like the explosive bone crunching hits of big games ever came to be. The first defensive contact has to be a direct and hard hit, which as we saw with Karl Booker's big hit last weekend, can pop a ball loose. Then we need to make sure we get those turnovers, and capitalize on them.
Our defense is going to have to play out of their minds to shut down Florida's strong passing offense. With some wind under their sails from the victory last weekend, and some confidence growing in the secondary, maybe this will be the game that brings our defense to another level. Wesley Woodyard, please light a fire under the defense this weekend and take them to the next level. We believe in you guys!
With the news that Florida has lost starting defensive tackle, Marcus Thomas, for a few games, it does give us a little lift in our spirit. They have lost their best defensive tackle. Then reality has to come in, they have a core of seniors who have playing experience, and Ray McDonald will probably be moved over from defensive end to fill in. Well, guess what, he has experience in the position, because solid teams that have good records have depth. Does it give us any kind of advantage? Well, it certainly doesn't hurt our chances.
Matt McCutchan being hurt, and Raphael Little's ailments do. Last weekend I saw something occur on the field that might tell me otherwise, however. The Wildcats are learning how to win. We are learning how to overcome the injuries, and the balls that don't bounce our way; and still win. We discovered we could win a game despite our own mistakes. We didn't beat ourselves. In fact, we found a way to keep our heads up and keep forging on. We won despite our own mistakes. Now its time to just learn how to win. To become a winning team.
I am going to say that if our defense is able to stop Florida from converting so many third downs, we could see ourselves with some pretty decent field position. Their special team coverage may be improved over last year, but their kicking game seems to be suffering a bit. With pressure mounting on Hetland and Wilbur to both perform better, we could use some big plays on special teams.
Special teams could be the key to finding the way to beat the Gators. Points scored by either the defense or special teams will ease the pressure on our offense. Here's to Ort's boys putting some points on the board this weekend. I believe this can happen.
It will take some special play on the offensive side of the ball to get through the Gators tough rush defense. With spurts of great ball movement, we have seen that it can be done. This game could be the perfect setting for Andre Woodson to put the puzzle pieces together. He has shown a marked improvement on the field as a leader. He has shown us that he can overcome his own mistakes and make great plays. We know he has a great arm. We also know he has some great sidekicks, and maybe this weekend we will be able to put some new names on that list next to our current go to guy, Keenan Burton.
Thank goodness I will be able to watch this game in the privacy of my own hotel room, although I hope that the rooms surrounding mine are empty. I think of all the crazy screaming fans who will be yelling at their televisions, or is it just me? I am not the only person who watches a game on television and loses their voice am I? I have spent almost every waking moment this week with the Gator game in the back of my mind. It is that BIG.
It is the game no one thinks you can win, but you can. You have to believe that you can. With this win, Kentucky fans could say; "We not only have a basketball program, our football team knocked of the # 5 Gators!!!" Oh how sweet it would be. I get goose bumps just thinking of the possibility. If by some stroke of fate the Wildcats were able to pull off this fantastic upset, I would hope that Wildcat fans would be there to greet the team upon its return. That would be the ultimate thank you by the fans for a game well played. When all is said and done, these players lay it on the line every game, and actually deserve recognition for just that.
Does the game this weekend have me completely preoccupied? Yes, absolutely, you bet it does; just as it is in the minds of every Kentucky football player. Every Kentucky football player is asking themselves "Can we really beat the Gators? Bring down a team ranked 5th in the nation?"
Winning this game would change the face on this football team. Winning this game would give Kentucky a completely different outlook on what this team is capable of. From my heart, I believe we can win. My head says it is going to be a tough game, and is a little worried, but it can be done.
2-1 is pretty nice, but 3-1; and 2-0 in the SEC sounds great. In case you haven't noticed, I believe. The coaches believe in the players. The players are starting to believe in themselves. The Wildcat football team has a date with destiny this weekend. The outcome of this game could define the core of this team, and bring the Cats some respect and recognition. We have been so close to that elusive big win the last couple of years, it would be masterful to knock the Gators right down to size on National Television. Load ‘em up Coach, head down to Florida to show the world that Kentucky has a football program.