As I sat on the front row of Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium press box watching the argy-bargy that was between the Wildcats and Tennessee last Saturday, I couldn't help but notice the man sitting two seats to my right.
The "reporter," who might as well have sported blue from head to toe and shook a pompom, was doing a bit more cheering than your average hard-nosed journalist, but that all made sense after I saw his affiliation.
Inside Wildcat Championship Football.
A colleague of mine pointed out that the title of the publication, in and of itself, was an oxymoron, a mere paradoxical idea.
In the approximate 30 seconds I spent thinking about it, I really couldn't put my finger on any kind of football championship stemming from UK - national, conference, state or otherwise.
But as Lee Corso might say if he were visiting Paris, "Au contrere, mon ami."
Don't let that technicality on the scoreboard, a 38-35 fallacy in the favor of the Vols, fool you.
To the lay man, watching his first football game, it was confusing to figure out which team was unranked with a 2-8 record and which was contending for a national championship, ranked sixth in the nation.
The Wildcats' wide-open passing game has riddled Tennessee in the past, but unequivocally to Saturday's 406 yards via the air. A banged-up secondary was slightly to blame, but the group's pride was probably a little more bruised than their bodies.
It was the first time since the 1998 Florida game that a team had passed for more than 400 yards on the Tennessee defensive backfield. Everyone anticipated that it would again be Florida's passing game that would shred the Vols, but the mauling came two weeks' prior.
Major reason: quarterback Jared Lorenzen, all 300 pounds of him.
Lorenzen rumbled and scrambled around the UT rush all afternoon, most of the time biding enough seconds to zip the ball, behind his tree trunk of a left arm, to ridiculously open receivers. Lorenzen typified the Cats' afternoon, leaving his Godzilla-sized heart on the field.
As he draped himself over the UK interview room podium, the mountain of a quarterback looked like he'd been zapped by a stun gun on the way to the locker room.
Lorenzen was buying into the theory that his team lost. For him, it was just another slit in the aorta of a team becoming accustomed to undue and undeserving heartache.
The Wildcats are 2-8 now, but they played like they were 8-2 on Saturday.
"We're 2-and-whatever and everybody's saying, 'Well, you've got a whole lot of moral victories.' That doesn't mean anything," Lorenzen said. "That's not going to get us to a bowl game. It doesn't do anything for our character. It doesn't get us respect, and that's what we're trying to get is respect."
Respect is precisely what Kentucky got from me on Saturday.
The Cats have long been doormats, the Bobby Bradys of the SEC East. But sometimes lil' brother grows tired of getting tickled, tackled and beaten up.
And speaking of battered, one can't forget about UK coach Guy Morriss. Morriss stepped into a volatile, impossible and implausible situation after taking over for Hal Mumme on signing day eve with NCAA violations pending.
While he hasn't turned the program around yet, he's maintained a level of respect in the program and with his players.
"They have hung in there with us and they believe in the coaching staff and they believe in the new philosophy and ideas that we are trying to implement here at Kentucky," Morriss said. "It's been a tough year on all of us. Like they say, though, 'Tough times build character in people.'"
That character beamed under the nearly tropical Lexington sunshine last Saturday.
Kentucky won the game. Turns out they were playing Wildcat championship football after all.
Wildcats earn respect in loss to Vols
Published: Tue Nov 20, 2001 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 03:56 p.m.