The exciting conclusion to the Sept. 15 matchup against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers had shades of what a "real" college football game should be like. You know, the kind for which fans stay until the very end. The kind that is so evenly matched, that overtime is the only fair way to settle the score. The kind that, in the middle of the game, you think: "Win or lose, this sure is a fun football game to watch."
But wait, this is Kentucky football we're talking about. This type of nail-biting game is a rare occurrence these days. The main reason I say that the Kentucky-Western Kentucky match-up only rang shades of a real game, rather than the full-fledged thing, is that prior to Sept. 15, Wildcats fans had already checked off the Western game as a "W." As many Kentucky fans will sadly admit, they have grown accustomed to looking ahead to these non-conference games for the off-chance that the Wildcats football team might win a few to pad its record. I hate to say it, but it's true.
Western Kentucky fans were so abuzz after their team had won, 32-31, they were calling Kentucky, with all of the presumptive notoriety that comes with its being a member of the Southeastern Conference, a Goliath, while they were the victorious David. Wildcats head football coach Joker Phillips even got a bit touchy when questioned about his reaction to the game in the post-game press conference (starting around the 8:45 mark).
So what's Goliath Kentucky to think in return?
Many charge the dismal team performance to Joker himself. After the Western Kentucky win, Kentucky sportscasters everywhere prompted much questioning of Coach Phillips' future and his job security.
Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio tweeted, "That play likely signals the end of the Joker Phillips era at Kentucky." The particular play that Jones is referring to is, of course, the two-yard rush by the Hilltoppers to win in overtime.
Lexington Herald-Leader sports columnist John Clay claimed that after the loss, "the head football coach has officially gone from the hot seat to blistering."
With five minutes remaining before halftime, Yahoo sportswriter Pat Forde tweeted, "WKU 17, UK 0. If you listen closely, you can hear For Sale signs being planted by UK fans in Joker Phillips' yard." Then, at the beginning of the third quarter, when Western Kentucky scored again, Forde tweeted,"For Sale signs, cont: Plant 'em if you got 'em. WKU 24, UK 10."
It'll be interesting to see whether these sportswriters' suggestions that a Joker ousting is near holds true, as the season progresses. Meanwhile, Hilltoppers will continue to celebrate their "real" football game win.
Shannon Frazer is a University of Kentucky graduate and football fan.
UK Athletics, "Kentucky Drops OT Heartbreaker to WKU," ukathletics.com
UK Athletics, "Joker Phillips postgame press conference," ukathletics.com
Matt Jones, Twitter tweet at 10:27 p.m., twitter.com
John Clay, "John Clay: Loss to WKU suggests more long days ahead," Kentucky.com
Pat Forde, Twitter tweets at 8:05 p.m. and 8:56 p.m., twitter.com