By Ricky Blair / Lexington, KY – Black out, lights out and clear out………the Kentucky Wildcats experienced all three on Saturday night in a humiliating 52-21 beat down by the Tennessee Volunteers.
First came the black out. Lexington was hoping on Saturday. The Breeders’ Cup Horse racing event was at Keeneland for the first time ever. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah cemented his legacy with a win in the classic race. It was also a great evening for Halloween, with city streets full of young children dressed in their favorite character costumes for the traditional Trick-or-Treat festivities. Then, of course, there was the football game. School officials had asked everyone coming to the game to dress out in black. The fans did not disappoint. The stadium was full of black-clad patrons, mixed with Tennessee fans who were wearing orange. The perfect compliment of colors for Halloween.
Next came lights out. The Wildcats actually made several plays early in the game. First was a 77-yard fumble return for touchdown by senior defensive tackle Cory Johnson. The big fellow picked up the ball after defensive back Marcus McWilson knocked it out of UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ hands and rambled untouched down the right side-line to give UK an early 7-0 lead. After falling behind 10-7, the Wildcats drove 75 yards on 14 plays, which was capped by a fourth and one Patrick Towles quarterback bootleg for the touchdown that temporarily gave UK a 14-10 lead. It was very temporary, as Tennessee launched an onslaught of big plays, starting with a 75-yard touchdown pass on their very next play. On UT’s next possession, a 64-yard run by tailback Alvin Kamara set up another touchdown to give the Volunteers a 24-14 lead at the half. The second half was no different. A UT 37-yard pass, a 100-yard kickoff return and a 84-yard punt return all for touchdowns turned the black out into a KO against Kentucky.
Then, clear out. I have attended a ton of UK football games over the last 40+ years, but I don’t remember a time when the fan base cleared out the stadium faster than they did Saturday night. Of course, that has included several blow out losses for the Wildcats, so that is not the total reason for the mass exodus. It may have been all the other activities on the day. Or it may have been the fact that many folks were going to a late night Halloween party. But mainly, I think it’s due to a loss of hope on a promising season, plus the fact that Kentucky has now lost to Tennessee 30 times in the last 31 years. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the stadium was empty except for a few die-hard fans and the group of Tennessee fans who had made the two and a half hour trip north for the game. The season it not over, but back-to-back blow out losses have a way of frustrating a fan base. Six wins and the Wildcats can make a bowl game. Seven wins and momentum can be carried over to next season. With a 4-4 record, Kentucky can still obtain their goals, but the clock is ticking and time is running out.