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KICKING OFF THE SEASON: KENTUCKY VS MIAMI (OH)
September 6, 2009

SCS.com While the venue is an unfamiliar one as Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati, there's no mistaking the crisp September air and the return of the college football season. The fans from Lexington and the fans from Oxford came in droves to enjoy some tailgating around PBS and Great American Ballpark on the riverfront in downtown Cincinnati. The game is only a little over an hour's drive from each campus, so this becomes a true-neutral site game as far as the distance goes. UK probably fills 3/4 of the seats that are full, but we are nowhere near the 66,000 capacity of the big pro stadium. Still, the Kentucky fans will be heard if things go as expected in this one. Each team looks pumped up to begin the season and we may have a surprising good game here if Miami can grind long drives against the UK defense.

Before we turn to the stream of consciousness notes from the game, I want to point out how one bad decision can make all the difference in a game. It always seems like there's a turning point where a team wins or loses a game, but these turning points are most painful when it comes on a bad decision. Take the OSU-Navy game which was happening simultaneously with this one. Up 15 points with 7 minutes left, Ohio State goes for a 4th and 2 on the Navy 10 yard line when Tressel is always known for his field goal kicking and putting games away. Yet they went for it, did not get the conversion, and Navy responded with a 85 yard touchdown play. Then Navy turned another turnover into another touchdown. Of course then Navy made their own terrible decision and went with a spread attack pass when they ran the ball all over OSU all day. But the main point is...Tressel kicks the field goal and it all never gets out of hand. Nobody would be talking about Ohio State, except with respect to the USC game. Don't overlook the small decisions because they can ruin a game and a season.

STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS GAME RECAP

FIRST QUARTER

Miami received the ball first and an ominous start as they struggled to return the kickoff to their own 10 yard line. The first possession yielded no more than a yard total, and the Redhawks already are staring a problem in the face with UK starting on their own 45. Although a couple of quick first downs had the Wildcats driving, penalties stalled the drive right before the redzone and a 43-yard field goal attempt went wide left. The first two punches of the season missed, but there's potential for some serious fireworks on the scoreboard. The Redhawks came back with the momentum and even used a fake punt on a 4th and 1 to drive and flip the field position. After a punt to UK at the 12 yard line, the Wildcats were not able to accomplish much and Miami maintained the field position advantage. The Redhawks were gaining in confidence and drove all the way to the 17 yard line before missing a field goal attempt to keep the game scoreless. Scary moment on the next drive as Wildcats starting center Marcus Davis got carted off the field, something you never want to see in the first game of the season. Walk-on freshman Matt Smith is now put into a tough spot being expected to get the ball into the quarterbacks hands and not cause undue false starts in his first ever college game. Kentucky could not manage much before the end of the quarter and punted back to the Redhawks, leaving us to begin the second period in pretty much the same position that we started after 3 fruitless possession on either side.

SECOND QUARTER

Miami crossed midfield and continued to have the momentum when they decided inexplicably to run a trick play flea flicker. There was nothing there but blue helmets and Kentucky returned the interception past midfield. Four plays later, Kentucky had a 7-0 lead as you really wonder what the Redhawks were thinking in a competitive game with all the momentum. That flea flicker could be the play of the game if Kentucky begins to roll with this touchdown and new momentum. Miami did not do much other than one first down, and Kentucky responded by rolling downhill with mostly passes until a 16-yard touchdown run by backup running back Derrick Locke pushed the score to 14-0. Kentucky is finally starting to show why they were favored in this game, and all it took was one big defensive play to spark what could be a rout. The remainder of the quarter will not slip away quickly enough for Miami, as they are forced to punt again, which leads to another fast scoring drive and a 21-0 Wildcat lead. The touchdown pass from Mike Hartline to top target Chris Matthews was a thing of absolute beauty on both ends. Miami had two minutes left on the clock and desperation set in as three straight incomlete passes would give Kentucky yet another shot. However, a holding penalty at the beginning of the drive forced Rich Brooks to run the clock out and enjoy all the momentum heading into halftime with a 21-0 lead.

HALFTIME

Well new coach Michael Haywood will need to come up with some kind of special halftime speech to get the Redhawks back on track. Kentucky took a poor decision from Miami in a competitive game and drove that momentum to a three-touchdown scoring spree. While it may be hard to get back into this game, the road will be no easier on the blue turf in Boise next weekend, so Miami needs to work to find some positives in the second half. As for Kentucky, now that the engine has started, it would be nice to keep it going for another couple scoring drives and then get the backups in there for some high-quality experience that will be important in three weeks against Florida and beyond. This game is a story written many times before, and I can only hope we see more of the first-quarter toughness from Miami in the second half of this one.

THIRD QUARTER

The third quarter started just how the second quarter ended, as UK drove right down the field and scored on a direct snap 11-yard rush by Randall Cobb. Miami and Kentucky then exchanged punts as the Miami defense stopped UK for the first time in five drives. However, the Kentucky punt buried the Miami offense back at the 9-yard line. This led to a interception in their own red zone and a 25-yard interception return for touchdown by CB Trevard Lindley. Now that the momentum has stayed with the Wildcats, it will be mop-up time in the middle of the third quarter of a 35-0 game. Miami showed some signs of life yet again on the next drive, but stalled out as they crossed midfield and had to punt away with better field position. The Wildcats are beginning to rotate a few fresh faces in, but offensive leaders QB Mike Hartline, WR Chris Matthews, and WR Randall Cobb remain on the field for this drive. The Wildcats have a week off next week before big home games against Louisville and Florida so perhaps Rich Brooks is thinking of getting a much in-game experience as possible while it remains available to them. Despite those starters staying in, RB Moncell Allen carried the major workload in the following drive as UK drove across midfield to end the third quarter.

FOURTH QUARTER

Although Kentucky is driving down the field again, don't expect Miami to stop playing on defense just because the game is out of hand. However, the young gun RB Moncell Allen showed his speed and his strength in driving the Wildcats across the goal line once more for a 42-0 lead. Miami followed with a three-and-out and Kentucky drove it within Miami's 10 yard line and then pretty much downed it to keep the score classy. Miami again could do nothing but punt away on their red zone and Kentucky takes over with a mind to run out the clock with 6 minutes to go. The Miami college radio guys just had a bit of honesty on air as they said a hello to a listener "if they are still listening to us." Nothing like brutal honesty in a blowout. The last 8 minutes saw a couple possessions on both sides of the ball but not much action as Kentucky took their foot off the pedal and Miami could not get away from their own red zone. The game ends in a 42-0 blowout, but hopefully both teams can take something good away from this opener.

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE

Rich Brooks played his press conference to a room packed with reporters and cameramen that certainly would not have met fire code. Brooks seemed rather subdued and looks for a lot of improvement in the next two weeks before Louisville comes to town. The far more interesting part of the press conference was Mike Haywood and his players trying to make sense of the 42-point loss before heading to Boise next week. QB Daniel Radaubaugh said that the decision to go for the flea flicker was just to try and really put a knockout punch on Kentucky, take a shot and stay unpredictable. Coach Haywood seemed rather shellshocked and said that he hopes to imporve most in special teams and tackling before the trip to Boise. What was most interesting was that WR Dustin Woods said the Redhawks stayed composed at halftime and were not distraught even with the 21 straight points by the Wildcats. The players and the coach knows that they need to execute better, as they really seem to believe they can play with teams like Kentucky. Considering how well the game went up until the failed trickery, I'd be inclined to agree. Still, I cannot help but look at Miami's next six games and see five road games and one home toughie against Cincinnati...and it's hard to imagine Miami sitting with more than 1-2 wins when we get to mid-October.

So yet again, a regular little bad decision snowballs a bunch of momentum towards the superior team and before you know it, the underdog is out of the game. It's a cliche but this game proves yet again that it is true. When you are the underdog or lower-talented team and you've played an opponent to a scoreless dual through a quarter and a half, don't start resorting to trick plays. If you want to take a shot that's fine, but trick plays end up in disaster more often than big gains and touchdowns. It's not a promising debut for coach Heywood, but then again, nobody expected this to be an easy season in Oxford. Still, it would have been nice to have some points or some positives to take away from this game.

Kentucky will almost certainly be 2-0 when the Gators come to town, but the Wildcats will need to improve considerably if they hope to win that game. Kentucky cannot afford the mental lapses and slow starts from today. However, a win is a win and a 42 point shutout gives a lot of good things to build on. However, neither of these teams will be world-beaters from what I saw today. For the Redhawks, it's just going to be survive for the next two weeks and then jump into the weaker part of the MAC schedule with vigor. Hopefully they are not beaten down mentally, as Miami has enough to compete in the MAC if things break correctly.

Above all else, it is fantastic to finally have Saturdays full of football again. Whether it's blocking two field goal attempts to win a game, intercepting a 2-point conversion attempt, or turning an interception into 42 straight points, every game is a blessing. Enjoy the remainder of your Labor Day weekend and we'll see you later in the week where the inevitable LaGarrette Blount issues will come up as well as looking ahead to the biggest non-conference game of the season.

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