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  • Joker: We are better than this



    By: LARRY VAUGHT

    LOUISVILLE — If Joker Phillips was not on the hot seat before, he sure is now.

    Kentucky’s defense was mainly non-existent as host Louisville went over, around and through the Wildcats during a 32-14 season-opening victory here Sunday.

    The Cardinals opened the scoring with a 99-yard scoring drive and also had touchdown drives of 85 and 93 yards — all in the first half. In the second half, Louisville added another 71-yard drive.

    Remember, the supposed strength of this Kentucky football team was going to be its experienced defensive front. That front allowed 219 yards rushing on 46 attempts, an average of 4.8 yards per run. Two Cardinals — Jeremy Wright (105 yards, three touchdowns) and Senorise Perry (108 yards, one touchdown) — ran for over 100 yards.

    “Give Louisville it’s due. They just beat our tails today,” said Kentucky defensive coordinator Rick Minter.

    But why?

    “I think maybe we underestimated Louisville a little bit. We were all sure we were going to win,” freshman cornerback Fred Tiller said.

    But not with a defense that couldn’t stop Louisville when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was running the offense. He threw for 232 yards and hit on 19 of 21 passes. That’s right. He was 19-for-21 and most throws he did not have to thread the ball into a tight space.

    “We just didn’t do a very good job containing things,” Minter said.

    Surprisingly, Kentucky’s offense was adequate. Actually, more than adequate. Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith was 35-for-50 for 280 yards and two scores — a 1-yard strike to Tyler Robinson and 5-yard toss to LaRod King. Kentucky had 373 yards of total offense, not exactly a monster number but far better than what the Cats did most games last year.

    Kentucky left points on the field, too. Running backs CoShik Williams and Raymond Sanders both fumbled deep in Louisville territory. Kicker Craig McIntosh missed a field goal when coach Joker Phillips wouldn’t gamble on fourth down at the Louisville 24.

    “Lot of missed opportunities by us,” Phillips said. “You can’t be 2-for-6 inside the (Louisville) 25. Missed field, turnovers. We are better than that offensively.”

    Phillips repeated the “we are better than that” line several times referring to his defensive front, perimeter blocking, tackling and failed fake punt.

    “Our defense can’t have four drives over 76 yards (actually 71). That’s hard (for a team to do). You can’t give up four 76-yard drives for touchdowns,” Phillips said.

    Actually, Kentucky can and did and it might have been more if Bridgewater had even played in the fourth quarter

    — Phillips suggested he was “cramping up because he ran up and down the field on us” — rather than watching from the sideline since the game was safely put away.

    “We are better than that,” Phillips said. “Some might call me crazy, but we are better than that.”

    But is Kentucky better?

    Many UK fans on Twitter during the game were not impressed. Here are a few of the many comments fans sent me:

    — “I think I speak for the majority of the UK fan-base on this, this is embarrassing. Flat out embarrassing football.”

    — “(Louisville coach) Charlie Strong has more respect for Joker than some of our fans. Need to support the team all the time not just some of the time.”

    — “This is absolutely pathetic ... Joker and his staff should be ashamed, no fight no energy .... have they heard of tackling.”

    Even ESPN college basketball guru Dick Vitale had a couple of tweets sent to me that infuriated Kentucky fans.

    During the game, he tweeted, “Let's be serious-how really significant is Louisville - Kentucky in football ? Cats fans r counting the hours to the opening of hoops season.” After the game, he came back with this, “Louisville 32-Kentucky 14 in football - Will this be a magical year 4 Cards vs BBN- Cards will be loaded in hoops baby.”

    Many Kentucky fans probably are now turning their attention to John Calipari’s basketball team. Kentucky season football ticket sales are down dramatically and this performance won’t cause fans to rush and buy tickets to see home games the next two weeks against Kent State and Western Kentucky.

    Senior center Matt Smith knows even the Cats could be demoralized by a second straight loss at a time when Phillips needed a win to show fans he had the program moving forward after consecutive losing seasons.

    "When we get back to practice on Tuesday, we can't let guys walk around with their heads hanging because of what happened,” the senior lineman said. “We’ve heard a lot of talk about our team. We had a chance to prove something today and didn’t. We just have to go back to work and show what we can do.”

    It better be more than it was in this game because the defense was gutted, the Cats were fooled by a two-point conversion play by Louisville after the game’s first score and even when the offense clicked it still had fumbles and a missed field goal. Not exactly the way to build confidence — or help a coach regain the trust of his fan base.

    “We have a tough week ahead. We all wanted to do a lot better than we did, but we just didn’t do enough to win,” Maxwell Smith said. “We have to get a lot better and do it quickly.”

    And there’s nothing crazy about that assessment.
    Comments 39 Comments
    1. KSRBEvans's Avatar
      KSRBEvans -
      Reads like Bill Curry quotes from 1995.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      The kinds of things you hear from coaches who keep doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. There's a name for that, and in sports it's called "unemployed."

      Not happy about it, but them's the facts.
    1. Catonahottinroof's Avatar
      Catonahottinroof -
      Quote Originally Posted by KSRBEvans View Post
      Reads like Bill Curry quotes from 1995.
      Verbatim Curryesque.
    1. MickintheHam's Avatar
      MickintheHam -
      We "underestimated" Louisville??? How do you under estimate your rival who is a 14 pt favorite??? That says an awful lot about our preparation for the game. Isn't that something we have had trouble with in the past? Jeez it is getting old.
    1. Padukacat's Avatar
      Padukacat -
      Yeah I'm not sure we will prove anything Against the comp in the next few games.....blah
    1. Jeeepcat's Avatar
      Jeeepcat -
      you can't fix stu....

      or whatever that was
    1. BigBlueBrock's Avatar
      BigBlueBrock -
      Yeah, and my rental Corolla is actually a good car and not a complete piece of ****.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      Quote Originally Posted by MickintheHam View Post
      We "underestimated" Louisville??? How do you under estimate your rival who is a 14 pt favorite??? That says an awful lot about our preparation for the game. Isn't that something we have had trouble with in the past? Jeez it is getting old.
      Heck of a statement isn't it?
    1. anderwt's Avatar
      anderwt -
      This is not going to be popular, but im in straight Billy G mode, meaning, only way there is a change is if we lose..yup i said it...
    1. dan_bgblue's Avatar
      dan_bgblue -
      Quote Originally Posted by anderwt View Post
      This is not going to be popular, but im in straight Billy G mode, meaning, only way there is a change is if we lose..yup i said it...
      May be more popular than you think and I agree with you and have thought that for the last 2 years. Gonna take a 3 win season to force the hand of the man that will make the call. Maybe he will think it is fair under that circumstance.
    1. blue2ksr's Avatar
      blue2ksr -
      Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
      Heck of a statement isn't it?

      Totally, completely unbelievable.

      So often, it is much better to just keep your mouth shut......
    1. jazyd's Avatar
      jazyd -
      Mick, I have read so many quotes from Joker over the last year that are just plain stupid that he doesn't suprise me any longer. He doesn't get it and he isn't a good coach. You play a team that is favored by 14, on their field, on national ltv, and you make that statement. Pathetic.
      And before I hear about how great the offense was, numbers mean nothing, points are all that count. dink passes for an average less than 10, and a defense that was playing soft in the second half with an OL that allowed UL to come in unstopped against Smith didn't show me anything. So you lose 2 fumbles deep, they count against the offense period. They didn't score and close to the goal doesn't count.
      The good news, we don't play ala or LSU.
      The OL coach needs to be fire, the DL coach needs to be fired, and Minter was lucky last year in that he had a good db and a great LB that carried that defense, we saw today why Minter has never been a DC at a major college, always small time.
      It will be a long season and many empty seats by Oct.

      Barnhartt needs to be canned, yesterday. It is only 'fair' to the University.


      \
      Quote Originally Posted by MickintheHam View Post
      We "underestimated" Louisville??? How do you under estimate your rival who is a 14 pt favorite??? That says an awful lot about our preparation for the game. Isn't that something we have had trouble with in the past? Jeez it is getting old.
    1. Padukacat's Avatar
      Padukacat -
      There are only two possibilities:

      A. This is a "how losers talk" statement
      B. joker is not very intelligent.

      I dont know him well enough to answer that?
    1. kingcat's Avatar
      kingcat -
      Sorry Joker...but you will need new employment if head coach is to be your title. For the first time I withdraw any support for you as head coach at UK (and for the UK football program in general).

      Enough is enough, and you sir have failed at the job.
      Thanks for all you have done over the years, but for UK I think it's time to move on.

      Roll tide!!!
    1. MTcatfan's Avatar
      MTcatfan -
      Not a Joker fan, but what exactly is he supposed to say?


      We sucked, we got killed, and there isn't a chance in hell we are getting any better.


      I mean really, he isn't a fan who freaks out about everything, and he has 11 more games to coach. I would be more pissed at a coach who destroys his team by being hyper-negative, a la BCG, than I am at a coach who still believes in his team.
    1. jazyd's Avatar
      jazyd -
      I understand what you are saying but he would have been better off saying we got beat by a better team and let it go at that. SAying they are better than this after your defense gets it handed to them every way possible is not a smart statement. We need to go back to the drawing board, we didn't play smart, teams always improve between first and second games, anything is better than saying they are better than that.
      When you really pay attention to things he says, he isn't a brilliant person with his statements, they leave me scratching my head as to how he can make the kind of money he does with the way he coach's and says things.

      Quote Originally Posted by MTcatfan View Post
      Not a Joker fan, but what exactly is he supposed to say?


      We sucked, we got killed, and there isn't a chance in hell we are getting any better.


      I mean really, he isn't a fan who freaks out about everything, and he has 11 more games to coach. I would be more pissed at a coach who destroys his team by being hyper-negative, a la BCG, than I am at a coach who still believes in his team.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      The "we overestimated them" quote is from the frosh CB Tiller, which IMO is far worse. That means this staff didn't get through to the players they had to bring their A+ game, they weren't ready mentally.

      Shows a real lack of preparation that this team wasn't hungry and instead came in overconfident.
    1. kingcat's Avatar
      kingcat -
      I think you say very little as head coach in jokers position. But of the successful coaches whose teams play that poorly, many do hammer their kids with negativity.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      Quote Originally Posted by MTcatfan View Post
      Not a Joker fan, but what exactly is he supposed to say?


      We sucked, we got killed, and there isn't a chance in hell we are getting any better.


      I mean really, he isn't a fan who freaks out about everything, and he has 11 more games to coach. I would be more pissed at a coach who destroys his team by being hyper-negative, a la BCG, than I am at a coach who still believes in his team.
      It's a no win situation, but IMO the only way out is to do like Pitino does and try to get on the fan's side of the table. If they get the sense you're as outraged as they are it helps. Not perfect, but it helps. Doing it without throwing the players under a bus is tricky, but basically you blame everyone and say you are better than you showed but we'd better start freakin' showing it or we're going to get our a$$es handed to us.

      There's no winning though, we agree completely you can't sound like much when your team lays and egg like today and you don't have any chips built up with the fans that they think you can correct it. You try to avoid saying much at all I guess.
    1. MTcatfan's Avatar
      MTcatfan -
      It is a no win situation...if he says nothing he probably gets ripped for avoiding the medias questions and is probably also accused of trying to hide something.

      To me it is borderline asinine to rip a coach for fulfilling his media obligations. It is something he has to do. To me it is on the field performance that determines if a coach should be ripped, and well so far that shows Joker deserves to be ripped.