Going into the 2008 football season for Kentucky, only one mission was in mind: Go to a third straight bowl and build upon the program that was a doormat in the SEC.
That mission was a success, but other objects were not a success. Coach Rich Brooks' goal was to move out of the bottom half of the SEC and into elite status in the SEC. That was a little out of reach for a rebuilding year.
The season was put in turmoil before the season even started. With the loss of the probable starter in Curtis Pulley and returning starter Paul Warford, it put Kentucky in hurry-up mode early.
The season had highs and the lows like any other rebuilding program. Here's a look at the season at a glance.
Aug. 31, 2008 at Louisville
Mike Hartline made his first start in a hostile in-state rival game. The Kentucky offense was mostly not at the game and a non-factor, but the defense showed up and put on a defensive clinic against the Cards. Louisville was kept out of the end zone but scored on a safety.
The defense played at elite status for the SEC, but the offense was more like a mid-conference team playing against an elite defense. The score didn't show how the game really was. Both offenses played horrible.
Final score: Kentucky 27, Louisville 2
Sept. 6, 2008 versus Norfolk State
Mike Hartline once again struggled to get the offense going. Coach Brooks then put in Randall Cobb, and the offense clicked. Kentucky's defense showed some elite status again and held Norfolk State to a field goal.
Kentucky overpowered a smaller Norfolk State team. The most exciting part of the game was halftime, when the visiting Norfolk State band performed.
Final score: Kentucky 38, Norfolk State 3
Sept. 13, 2008 versus Middle Tennessee State
Kentucky came into the game knowing that Middle Tennessee can hang with a bigger program, as they came close to beating a Louisville team the previous year. Kentucky may have taken this team softly.
The defense that was stopping the run and the pass didn't show up at this game. Offense was late to start but came in just in time to take the lead late at 20-14. Middle Tennessee was not giving up that easy.
If Robbie McAtee was not at the one-yard line to stop a long Hail Mary pass, then Kentucky would have walked away with a loss.
Final score: Kentucky 20, Middle Tennessee State 14
Sept. 27, 2008 versus Western Kentucky
This was the first meeting between the two in-state schools. Western Kentucky was hoping for a better showing at Commonwealth Stadium. The defense came back to life and shut down the Hilltoppers.
The offense seemed to be on the right page and put up big numbers. Kentucky was on a roll and couldn't be stopped.
Final score: Kentucky 41, Western Kentucky 3
Oct. 4, 2008 at Alabama
Alabama jumped on Kentucky early and added to the score when Mike Hartline fumbled and Alabama picked it up and went into the end zone. The Kentucky defense stepped up and shut down Alabama for the next three quarters.
Kentucky scored in the third quarter to cut the lead down to 14-7. In the fourth, Alabama hit a field goal to go ahead 17-7. On the next Kentucky drive, Hartline threw a long touchdown pass with the clock running down to cut the lead to 17-14.
The onside kick went out of bounds and ended a Kentucky comeback.
Final score: Kentucky 14, Alabama 17
Oct. 11, 2008 versus South Carolina
Kentucky looked like the zero for forever against the ol' ball coach was going to end. However, turnovers killed Kentucky in the end, and they could never get over the hump. South Carolina gave Kentucky every shot they could.
The defense gave the offense turnover after turnover. In the end, the offense could not overcome the loss of senior receiver Dicky Lyons Jr., who was hurt in the first half and was lost for the season.
Final score: Kentucky 17, South Carolina 24
Oct. 18, 2008 versus Arkansas
The Kentucky defense could not stop Arkansas for most of the game. It took the offense until late in the fourth quarter before it came to life. It looked like a Kentucky comeback was out of the question.
Kentucky proved everybody wrong. Randall Cobb came up big by catching two huge touchdown passes. Kentucky proved that a true bluegrass miracle was in effect and sealed it with a late interception. The win came at a cost, losing running back Derrick Locke for the season.
Final score: Kentucky 21, Arkansas 20
Oct. 25, 2008 at Florida
Kentucky took the game off, and Florida was on a mission of killing the Cats. The defense was not there. The offense was not there. The special teams were not there also. The first two Kentucky punts were blocked and led to easy touchdowns for the Gators.
Every Kentucky fan wanted to forget this game and put it in the past as the score was of the past.
Final score: Kentucky 5, Florida 63
Nov.1, 2008 at Mississippi State
Coach Brooks made the switch and put in Randall Cobb at quarterback. The offense took a while to get going but showed up in the second half. The defense was strong but strong late.
If Kentucky hadn't blocked an extra point try, the game would have most likely gone into overtime. In the end, Kentucky pulled out win number six to get them bowl eligible.
Final score: Kentucky 14, Mississippi State 13
Nov. 8, 2008 versus Georgia
Kentucky once again fell behind early, but did not get down. Randall Cobb sparked the Kentucky offense and kept them in the game. The defense was hurt, and it showed as Matthew Stafford threw all over the field.
Kentucky had a chance to win the game at the end. A Randall Cobb interception sealed the game for the Bulldogs. Kentucky was kicking themselves in the end for blowing the game.
Final score: Kentucky 38, Georgia 42
Nov. 15, 2008 versus Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt did not have history on their side. Kentucky could not handle the Vandy quarterback when he was running or throwing. The offense sat on the sideline for almost the whole first half.
Kentucky did not help its cause by getting flagged for roughing the punter more then once. Kentucky came back in the end, but a late roughing the passer was the end of the game.
Final score: Kentucky 24, Vanderbilt 31
Nov. 29, 2008 at Tennessee
Tennessee is looking to extend the streak to 24 wins over Kentucky. Tennessee is also looking to send Phillip Fulmer out with a win. Kentucky is looking to end the streak. The person with the most to gain is Randall Cobb.
Cobb was insulted by Tennessee when they said that they didn't have the time to go watch the Tennessee native play. It was only 10 minutes away, but they didn't have the time.
Kentucky has a lot to play for still. They can get the seventh win of the year with a victory Saturday. They would not like to go to the Music City Bowl for the third straight year.
Kentucky will take it anyway. Going to a third straight bowl game was the mission at the start.