Sports in Kentucky by Bob Watkins

Posted August 27, 2014 at 2:11 pm

That time of year. Hazy, hot and humid, woolen blanket cast over the Bluegrass State this week.

Gardens gone to weed, corn browning higher up the stalk, and cadence of base drums from a high school marching band practice over the hill.

Except for harvest high hope and promise of pageantry in September, August is a sweltering frown. A hunker down month seen through a squint and dusty haze, hordes of insects, an itchy and biting nuisance.

Still, the pleasant hints of autumn are at the horizon.

√ Sounds: Whistles shrill, and hut-hut-hut, of course.

√ Aroma: BBQ, whiff of bourbon and the keg, at the tailgate.

√ Colors: Greens give way to big blue (flags), Big Red (mascot) along with yellows, ambers and browns along the roadways.

√ Weather: Gratefully, first frost comes around October 17.

√ Quote for a season: Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompson said, “Football fans share a universal language that cuts across cultures and personality types. A serious football fan is never alone. We are a legion (even if) football is the only thing we have in common.”

Another college football season has its order of things.

Preseason polls. The Usual Suspects at the top Florida State and/or Alabama, then everyone else. But, at the end, a playoff.

The new order at home …

Two of the Commonwealth’s three D-I affiliates play in new leagues. Louisville in ACC and Western Kentucky C-USA.

The old order: Kentucky will be the Southeastern Conference doormat again.

In random order, a few things to watch for and wonder about during another college football season.

1. The SEC Network will claim more of our time in front of a tube.

2. Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson will make it all fun.

3. How Louisville fares playing a legitimate D-I schedule. In particular, Oct.11 to Nov. 22 – Clemson, North Carolina State, Florida State, Boston College and Notre Dame.

4. If Louisville has success will anyone in River City say, “But, Petrino did it with Charlie Strong’s players.”?

5. How will the faithful show its colors at Western Kentucky’s home date against Alabama-Birmingham, Oct. 4. The Hilltoppers could come home blank from Illinois, Middle Tennessee and Navy.

6. UK’s Patrick Towles makes his debut as No. 1 quarterback at Florida. Last time a native son signal caller opened in Gainsville his name was Tim Couch and final score was 65-0. 1996.

7. Respect. How will Mark Stoops’ team fare with 50-50 calls on field by game officials? Leering eye of SEC Network might make a difference.

8. Louisville receiver Devonte Parker will be an All-American, but the Cardinals’ big noise could be linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin.

9. When Kentucky’s coaches need a “let’s show ‘em!” item to counter the predicted finish for the Wildcats in the SEC, will anyone try: “If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” (Lewis Grizzard)

10. At Kentucky, much talk of a high powered running game. Some of us want to see where the offensive front rates on the Ornery Scale … in the fourth quarter.

11. At Louisville, new starting quarterback Will Gardner is no Teddy Bridgewater. Sophomore Gardner is bigger and, in a new offense, could be better.

12. Rookie Matt Elam. A chance for defensive tackle rotation from get-go.

13. Kentucky chance for signature win in Stoops Era, at Florida, September 13. A week before Big Blue Madness ticket hand-out.

14. Kentucky pivot game, Mississippi State at home, Oct. 25. One week after basketball introductory.

Other things to watch …

15. Kentucky. How synchronized: pass rush pressure and secondary defense.

16. UofL place kicker John Wallace.

17. Best name: Prince Charles Iworah, starting cornerback at Western Kentucky.

18. Football purists simply have to hope for success for WKU first year head coach Jeff Brohm.

19. Bowl games, 39 and a four-team playoff. Bowl bid chances? I think Louisville has a 70 percent chance, Western Kentucky 40, Kentucky 20.

20. Running back Damian Harris at Madison Southern High, progress and keeping him at home.

21. Bowling Green High won its season opener pushing to 45 wins in a row for coach Kevin Wallace’s Purples; Three undefeated seasons in a row and a hat trick of Class 5A state titles is incredible.

Third-longest streak in state history belongs to Wallace teams, five behind Louisville Trinity. And, the season open win was the 250th coaching win in Wallace’s career.

22. John Calipari. Not to be left out of any news cycle, any day, night or month, Kentucky’s coach guested on WFAN Radio two weeks ago. Host Mike Francesa told New York listeners what a “great recruiter and motivator” Calipari is, “… but he’s not a good Xs and Os coach.”

Uh-oh. Calipari couldn’t let it go. His limo-sized ego drove him to cell phone into Francesa’s show apparently from the lobby. Calling himself John in Kentucky, Calipari disputed Francesa’s Xs and Os remark. “Don’t you know they call me Cal the Magician in Kentucky?”

Another insecure millionaire who would be pope.

23. Worth Repeating Dept. UK basketball rookie Karl Anthony Towns was not a member of the Dominican Republic’s basketball team in the World Cup in Spain this week.

“As much as it hurts to not be playing in Spain,” Towns tweeted, “I am a student-athlete first and committed to my studies at the University of Kentucky.”

COMMENT: Outstanding. Never mind that the University of Kentucky had already issued a statement saying it would not allow Towns to play.

24. Being honest may not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones. – John Lennon.

And so it goes.