Cards’ Worst-Case Scenario Turning into Reality

Stein crushed. PHOTO: AP

Reality bites sometimes.

It was such a nice story for the U of L football team this year. Coach Charlie Strong, in his second season, seemed to have everything moving right on schedule. There have been no off-field problems with his players. Academics are important. Billboards on the interstates attest to the possibilities. A diminutive QB from Trinity is a surprising starter. The schedule is set up to build momentum toward Big East competition.

But then, the reality is you still have to play the games. And this is big-time college football, and no matter how great the story is, you can’t win with a 5-10 walk-on at QB.  You can’t win if you can’t prevent back-to-back long TD passes, even if you’re facing an all-world receiver and Heisman candidate like T.Y. Hilton. You can’t give up an interception return TD on your first possession. You have to score more than 7 points in two games in the second half.

In the bigger picture, U of L can’t afford to have a bad football team. There were plenty of empty seats at Papa John’s last night, a sad commentary on the program despite the Friday night start.  After stinking up the joint against an OVC team, the Cards looked worse against the Sun Belt Conference champs. Maybe Kentucky will look bad against Central Michigan tonight, but still there’s no way these Cards will be favored in Lexington next week.

Which sets up a real test of U of L fan loyalty — the Cards get a week off after UK, and could bring a 1-2 record into a home game against Marshall, which played West Virginia tough in its opener and will have faced Southern Miss, Ohio and Virginia Tech before coming to town. Don’t expect a sellout for that one. After that, the Cards get a tough road test against North Carolina in a final outing before Big East play.  And who can the Cards beat in the league?

U of L fans will be whining on talk radio this week, imagining the worst — a 1 or 2 win season.

Maybe it’s too early to write off U of L’ s bowl hopes, but the dismal start puts way too much pressure on Strong’s squad. And thus far, the reality is, this bunch doesn’t respond well to pressure.