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Freddie Maggard’s Take

After Action Review: Mississippi State

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Mississippi State football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cat’s need to sustain and improve:

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game.

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Lost the football game 45-7.

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS

Very little running back generated rushing attack

— Benny Snell had 7 carries for 18 yards.

— Sihiem King managed 5 rushes for 24.

— Was good to see AJ Rose: 9 carries for 30 yards.

— QB Stephen Johnson led the team with 6 carries and 54 yards.

— To be completely fair, running lanes were miniscule. RBs were given very little help.

— Mississippi State’s constant pressure and disruption significantly altered Kentucky’s running game.

Lost the Line-of-Scrimmage

— Simplistic analysis: Miss State defense racked up 3 QB sacks, 7 tackles for loss and allowed just 7-points.

— The Bulldog offense rolled up 441 total yards including 282 on the ground.

— UK defense recorded 3 tackles for loss, zero QB sacks, and gave up 45 points.

— UK managed only 260 yards of total offense.

— Miss State was largely more physical in both phases.

Ineffective 1st down offense and defense

— Far too many 2nd and long scenarios for the Wildcat offense. This came from incompletions and zero to negative gain run plays.

— Ineffective 1st down offense assisted Miss State’s defensive intent which was to pressure in sure-passing downs.

— Kentucky converted 6/14 on 3rd down (42.8%).

— Nick Fitzgerald and company gained positive yards on 1st down from both the run and pass.

— Miss State converted 12/18 on third down (66.5).

— Seemingly, Dan Mullen threw the football more on 1st down vs. UK than any other 2017 opponent. It worked. 

Pass defense

— Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday’s matchup.

— The junior connected on 70% for 155 yards and one touchdown.

— Seven different MSU pass catchers got involved in the action.

— The Cats registered zero quarterback sacks. Fitzgerald had all day in the pocket. The Wildcats also lost containment during several scrambling situations.

Run defense

— Mississippi State ran for 282 yards.

— Averaged 5.9 yards per carry.

— Scored 4 rushing touchdowns. Two of which were from 40-yards out.

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

— Matt Panton averaged 45.1 yards per punt.

— True freshman Lynn Bowden becoming an offensive focal point. Threw a pass, ran the football from the Wildcat, and caught 3 passes. Bowden was also active in the return game and finished the day as the game’s leader in All Purpose Yards with 119.

— OLB Josh Allen registered 5 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 pass breakups.

IMPROVE

— Everything else

What does all this mean?

It’s probably been said and written about a thousand times already: Kentucky’s performance coming out of a bye week was not very good. Miss State out-everything’d its visitors.

How the Cats respond to an embarrassing road loss will have tremendous implications for the 2017 season. Butch Jones could be coaching for his livelihood on Kroger Field. Kentucky is fighting for bowl eligibility and reputation restoration. Saturday could get interesting. Both programs will enter an evening of reckoning. The old football phrase, “Whichever teams wants it the most will win” could describe Saturday’s contest.


Cats Get Rolled in Starkville

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

What could have gone wrong did go wrong for Kentucky in Starkville. Saturday’s performance surprisingly came after a bye week which meant an extra week of preparation. The Cats were dominated in all three phases. Kentucky played its poorest game of the season when a victory could have clinched bowl eligibility and made a statement of belonging in the SEC East. Instead, it must now claw its way back after getting beaten up by Mississippi State 45-7.

It’s not that the Cats lost on the road. Kentucky was defeated by a good football team that was favored by nearly two touchdowns. Prior to the game I didn’t understand the point spread. Afterwards, I got it. Miss State may end up being the second or third best team in the West. It’s the manner in which UK was smacked around along both lines of scrimmage that signaled alarms. On October 21st 2017, the Bulldogs were just plain faster, stronger, smarter, more physical, better coached, and well; you get the picture.

OFFENSE

59 plays, 260-yards, 14 first downs produced just 7 points. It also gave up 7 tackles for loss and 3 quarterback sacks. Time of possession: Miss St 34:49, Kentucky 25:11.

UK was whipped up front, dropped passes, had very little running back generated rushing attack, and threw two picks. Mississippi State should be credited for an accurate game plan, physical demeanor, and timely execution. But in my opinion, Saturday was more telling about UK’s deficits. The Cats beat this team 40-38 a year ago and defeated its defensive coordinator in last year’s Governor’s Cup. Miss State was just plain meaner and exhibited a much higher desire to win this time around. Hat tip to Dan Mullen and that cow bell toting home crowd atmosphere.

The Wildcats cannot expect to win another game this season if it doesn’t somehow, some way establish a run game. It’s not done so on a consistent basis through seven games. Perplexing given 2016 results and with a running back like Benny Snell in the backfield. Quarterback Stephen Johnson’s 54-yards led the team. The offensive line rotated personnel but has yet to establish a solidified foundation to provide satisfactory running lanes or adequately protect the quarterback. This trend was blatantly obvious on Saturday against a physical, disruptive front seven. Opposing defenses will continue to be highly talented throughout the rest of the season. Things will not get easier. UK continued to struggle on first down which led to several 3rd and unmanageable situations (6/14-42.85%). That’s not exactly a recipe for victory in the Southeastern Conference or any college football league for that matter.

DEFENSE

Totally whipped up front. Miss State ran 75 plays for 441-yards, 25 first downs, and 45 points. The Wildcats didn’t tackle, cover receivers, maintain gap integrity, or counter physical play with a great deal of fight. Mississippi State ran for 282-yards off 48 carries. The vast majority of these yards came after initial contact which was as distressing as the loss itself. Credit MSU’s state of mind for fighting through arm tackles and being mentally and physically tougher for sixty minutes.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday. Against Kentucky, the junior signal caller completed 70% of his throws for 155-yards with a group of receivers that were not known for their pass catching prowess. Again, credit Miss State. This is majorly concerning considering that UK has to face teams with elite throwing quarterbacks and pass catchers like Ole Miss, Louisville, and Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

As badly as the Cats were beaten up on the line of scrimmage, special teams really didn’t factor.

 WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

The back half of the schedule is difficult. Been saying that since Media Days. How Kentucky bounces back from Saturday’s embarrassing performance against a wobbly Tennessee team will define the 2017 season. It’s a simple as that. Tennessee played Alabama close (in context) for a half. The Tide led the Vols 21-0 after two quarters.

Listen, every team has an off day. But, Miss State’s complete line of scrimmage domination coupled with Kentucky’s continuing problems in both phases of the run game present a new perspective for Cat’s final five games. UT RB John Kelly will test the UK run defense. Kelly is one of the conference’s leaders in yards after contact and one of the best overall running backs the Cats will go against. There are also some very talented defenders along the Volunteer front seven that will provide similar challenges that were present against MSU. Plus, no outcomes can be taken for granted after this Miss State performance. Plus, the UK-UT game was once considered a rivalry. The two teams used to play for a trophy. Heated emotional games can lead to strange results. Tennessee historically is at its best against Kentucky. Or so it seems.

There were very few positives that can be construed from the 45-7 humiliation. The bigger and more telling question is what’s the ceiling for this football team? There are no sure wins in the back half of the schedule. Never has been.

An embarrassing loss can be answered in two ways. First, give up or simply throw in the towel. Second; learn from prior mistakes, circle the wagons, and become better from the experience. While future opposing teams may not have favorable win/loss records, there are still several competent individual players that are talented enough to take over a ballgame much like Nick Fitzgerald did in Starkville.

Kentucky cannot afford to lose to Mississippi State twice. Cliché and coach speak but applicable. Media and fans alike will decipher, complain about, and debate Saturday’s loss for at least a week. Mark Stoops and team will not be afforded that same luxury. Kentucky has no other choice than to go back to work and move on to Tennessee. For many and varying reasons, Saturday’s pending matchup is pivotal for both teams. Seven decisive days await the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers. Somebody’s season is about to change…….


The Depth Chart Podcast: Mississippi State

After a brief break for the Bye Week, Freddie Maggard returns for another exciting episode of The Depth Chart Podcast to preview Kentucky’s road trip to Starkville.  On top of Freddie’s knowledge, the podcast got a little perspective from a superfan who knows the Bulldogs better than anyone.  Highlights:

—  The Cats and the Bulldogs are a lot closer than the Vegas line appears.

—  Freddie found few tendencies, except on critical third downs.

—  Tips for those traveling to Starkville (DON’T FORGET EARPLUGS!).

— Why this game looks a lot like the 2016 UofL game.

—  A Game of Thrones reference all nerds will enjoy.

Editor’s Note: Sorry about the interview quality. For unknown reasons it was on the fritz this week and adds a little too much pop.  Please persevere through it; I promise it’s worth it. 

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


Mississippi State Scouting Report: Part I

Mississippi State Scouting Report: Part I

Picture by The Oxford Eagle

I fully expect Saturday’s game to become a little testy with so much on the line for both Mississippi State and Kentucky. What’s up for grabs that’s so important for both programs? An attainable and evasive SEC victory in the final stretch of the 2017 season. The Bulldogs have experienced extensive superiority in the fledgling rivalry under Dan Mullen. That was until 2016 when an Austin MacGinnis’ field goal split the uprights with no time remaining on the clock to give the UK its fourth win of the season, its first win over MSU in seven years, and tied the overall series 22-22.

The Bulldogs began the 2017 with a bang as it beat up on Charleston Southern and Louisiana Tech prior to dominating a newly-resurgent LSU team 37-7 in Starkville. Matter of fact, MSU is the only FBS program to face three consecutively ranked opponents without the benefit of a bye week. Following its win over the Bayou Bengals, Miss State went on lose two sequential road games at Georgia (31-3) and Auburn (49-10). Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and a stingy defense bounced back with a 35-10 home victory over BYU. This film was not useful in evaluation as the Cougars are 1-6 and dreadfully bad.

So, here we are. Mississippi State is 4-2 with an upcoming trip to College Station. Things are again trending up for Dan Mullen after a challenging road stretch. Kentucky is 5-1. The Cats continue to be disrespected, unranked, and are a 10-point underdog with an upcoming matchup with Tennessee.

This is not a “must-win” for Mark Stoops. That term was vastly overused a year ago and remains exaggerated. All games are must wins. Let’s take a look at the Mississippi State Bulldogs:

2017 Schedule

Miss State Charleston Southern W 49-0
Miss State @ Louisiana Tech W 57-21
Miss State LSU W 37-7
Miss State @Georgia L 3-31
Miss State @Auburn L 10-49
Miss State BYU W 35-10

OFFENSE

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald continues to develop under Dan Mullen’s tutelage. Mullen is the best play caller that UK will have faced in its first seven games. Miss State has very few predictable offensive tendencies and is well coached in diversifying personnel packages, motions, and formations. Fitzgerald is a physical, down-hill runner that is becoming a more polished passer. At times, he lacks accuracy which is highlighted by a 54% completion percentage. The junior was considered a preseason Heisman Hopeful and is one of the better QBs in the Southeastern Conference.

Unlike a year ago, Fitzgerald is not the team’s leading rusher. RB Aeris Williams has taken over that role by running for 523 yards (87 ypg) and a couple scores. Elite left tackle Martinas Rankin is arguably the best player on the offense and is projected to be selected in the first/second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. However, he missed the BYU game due to an injury. His status is yet to be determined. Rankin compares to Florida’s Martez Ivey and is better than Missouri RT Paul Adams.

Miss State will rely on a physical run game, the RPO (Run-Pass-Option), play action passing, and ball security to control the game clock. Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald and running back Aeris Williams have yet to fumble in 2017. The Dogs rush for 261 yards-per-game (14th in nation) while averaging 170 (SEC-13th) through the air. WR’s and RB’s seem to be interchangeable in certain situations and are speedy. It also has quick strike capability ranking 4th in the SEC in the Long Run Plays from Scrimmage category.

Top Performers

Passing Nick Fitzgerald 54.9%, 1,024 yds, 10 TDs, 7 INTs, 170.7 ypg
Rushing Aeris Williams 97 carries, 523 yds, 2 TDs 87.17 ypg
Receiving Keith Mixon 16 rec, 238 yds, 1 TD

2017 Production

Scoring 31.8 ppg SEC-5th
Rushing 261.67 ypg SEC-3rd, 14th nationally
Passing 181 SEC-13th
Total 442.7 SEC-5th
3rd Down 44.32% SEC-3rd
Red-Zone 75.86% SEC-13th
Turnover Margin 0 SEC-7th

*Vs. ranked opponents: 365 ypg

**Vs. unranked opponents: 520 ypg

Projected Starters

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald 6’5, 230 Jr.
Running Back Aeris Williams 6’1, 217 Jr.
Receiver Donald Gray 5’10, 200 Sr.
Receiver Gabe Myles 6’0, 195 Sr.
Receiver Keith Mixon 5’8, 175 So.
Tight End Farrod Green 6’3, 236 So.
Left Tackle Martinas Rankin 6’5, 315 Sr.
Left Guard Darryl Williams 6’2, 305 So.
Center Elgton Jenkins 6’4, 315 Jr.
Right Guard Deion Calhoun 6’3, 315 Jr.
Right Tackle Stewart Reese 6’5, 333 Fr.

Picture by The Clarion-Ledger

DEFENSE

Mississippi State and Louisville swapped defensive coordinators in the offseason. Todd Grantham left Bobby 2.0 for StarkVegas. Peter Sirmon departed Dan Mullen’s staff to join the Fighting Lamar Jacksons. Grantham’s defense is ranked 3rd in the SEC and 8th in the nation. It will blitz or attempt to create some type of pressure on approximately 35-40% of snaps. His aggressive scheme normally relies upon man-to-man coverage in the secondary while creating chaos or disruption with the front-seven. There will be familiarity from his days coordinating the Wildcats’ arch-rival’s defense. Stephen Johnson took advantage of Grantham’s aggressive nature a year ago.

Jeffrey Simmons is the best nose tackle that Kentucky will have faced through seven games. This could present a challenge for the Wildcat center rotation. Freshman Drake Jackson more than held his own against Mizzou’s Terry Beckner Jr. Simmons presents a whole new level of challenge. The 6’4, 301-pound sophomore is an elite athlete that happens to play nose tackle. He’s registered 3.5 QB sacks and 4 tackles for loss. Those numbers are extraordinarily high for that position. Simmons is critical to the Bulldog defense.

Miss State sports a defense that relies upon speed and power but is not overly deep. It’s also the biggest front-seven that UK has faced. Safety Brandon Bryan reportedly sports a 4.2, 40-time so there is recovery speed from the back line. Fellow safety Mark McLaurin is the team’s co-leader with 1 interception. The Dog’s stress backfield disruption but is just 12th in the SEC with 32 TFL’s and 12th in the league with 10 QB sacks. Its led in tackles by linebacker Dez Harris. The best player on the defense is NT Jeffrey Simmons.

2017 Production

Scoring 19.7 ppg SEC-6th
Rushing 117.71 ypg SEC-5th
Passing 155 SEC-2nd, 4th nationally
Total 284.8 SEC-3rd 8th nationally
Red-Zone 81.82% SEC-6th
3rd Down 30.77% SEC-4th

*MSU is ranked 1st in nation vs. non-ranked opponents by allowing just 174 yards-per-game.

**Ranked 38th in the nation vs. ranked opponents; allows 395 per game.

Top Performers

Tackles Dez Harris 38 total
QB Sacks Jeffrey Simmons 3.5
Tackles for Loss Jeffrey Simmons 4
Interceptions Mark McLaurin 1

Projected Starters

Defensive End Fletcher Adams 6’2, 270 So.
Nose Tackle Jeffrey Simmons 6’4, 301 So.
Defensive End Cory Thomas 6’5, 303 Jr.
Outside Linebacker Montez Sweat 6’6, 240 Jr.
Mike Linebacker Dez Harris 6’4, 243 Sr.
Will Linebacker Leo Lewis 6’2, 235 So.
Outside Linebacker Gerri Green 6’4, 250 Jr.
Cornerback Tolando Cleveland 6’0, 195 Sr.
Cornerback Lashard Durr 5’11, 195 Sr.
Safety Mark McLaurin 6’2, 215 Jr.
Safety Brandon Bryant 6’0, 215 Jr.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter Logan Cook 46.2 yards per
Kicker Jase Christmann 5/5 FG’s, long-
Punt Returner Donald Gray 11.5 per
Kick Returner Keith Mixon 17.8 per

UK will have faced the number 1-4 ranked SEC punters with Logan Cook coming up on Saturday. Gray and Mixon carry over their receiver responsibilities to the return game.


What does all this mean?

Mississippi State is a good football team led by a crafty head coach, a dangerous quarterback, and a defensive coordinator that will be seeking revenge. Kentucky will have its hands full on Saturday. The challenge awaiting the Wildcats is arduous but not impossible. Kentucky will have to play a clean (turnover-free) game that consists of an improved run game to coexist with Stephen Johnson’s ability to execute the RPO and play action passing. Defensive coordinator Matt House must find a way to slow the run which will force Miss State into one-dimensional, passing scenarios.

This game is another manageable SEC road victory but it won’t come easy. The stakes are high for both the Dogs and Cats.

— Remember to listen to Part II of the Miss State Scouting Report on Thursday’s Depth Chart Podcast.


Revisiting Kentucky Football’s 2017 Statistical Benchmarks Halfway Through the Season

Pic by Food+Tech Connect

We’ve made it to the halfway point in the season. Kentucky is recuperating from six close, physical football games. The Cats are getting some well-deserved rest this weekend prior to jumping back into conference play against Mississippi State. Mark Stoops and his coaches are in the process of self-scouting which will reveal strengths, weaknesses, tendencies, and other avenues for improvement.

This majority of this post was written in the preseason as we provided suggested statistical goals for certain categories. The three classifications utilized in this analysis were: Non-Negotiable Improvements, Advantage (Critical) Developments, and Sustains (Explanation below). The following is a comparison of expected goals vs. updated, current numbers through six games. Let’s take a look:

— Non-Negotiable Improvements are self-explanatory. For UK to enjoy a successful season it must address and immensely improve upon the listed statistical classifications.

— Advantage (Critical) Developments examine actions that were not listed in the upper half of the league but needs to show improvement in order for Kentucky to better its win/loss record from a year ago.

— Sustain is easy. No change, continue status quo, keep on keeping on, keep on truckin; you get the picture.

 

Non-Negotiable Improvements

Turnover Margin

Preseason Remarks-Recovered 8 fumbles, intercepted 13 passes for a +21 margin. Conversely, UK lost 16 fumbles, threw 12 interceptions for a total of -28. Combined, it formulated a -7 total turnover margin (14th or last in the SEC).

2017 Goal: This number needs to be in the +2 level at a minimum. Mid-pack in the league was a +3 a year ago. This digit’s reduction will assist most all other statistical areas of concern. Last year’s turnovers twisted potential blowout wins into nail biters (Vanderbilt) and potential close game victories into losses (Georgia).

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Kentucky is 2nd in the SEC with a +8 turnover margin.

Punting

Preseason Remarks: 201661 punts, 2335-yards, 38.3 yards per, allowed 125 return yards for a 2-yard average, kicked 5 touchbacks which equaled a total 34.6 net yards per punt (SEC-14th).

 2017 Goal: Again, just shooting for mid-level production, a 39-40-yard net punt average would greatly improve field position and ease strain on the defense. Strategic, inside the ten-yard line punt placement also needs immense upgrading. Regardless, punting has to drastically improve.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Matt Panton is averaging 42.48 yards-per-punt and has placed opposing offenses inside its 20-yard line on many occasions.

Third Down Defense

 Preseason Remarks: 2016-Opponents converted 80 of 180 3rd down attempts for a 44.4% success percentage (SEC-13th)

 2017 Goal: 39% would provide Eddie Gran’s offense with more possessions which could translate to additional points. 39% ranks in the middle of the SEC. Plus, getting off the field has been a struggle for Stoops’ defense throughout his tenure. Personnel shortages have greatly impacted this deficiency. 3rd down defense improved down the stretch in 2016 which could act as a precursor for this number to drop even further.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Allowing 33.71% conversion rate on 3rd down.

Rush Defense

Preseason Remarks: 2016-Opponents had 576 carries for 2966-yards, 25 TD’s. 5.1 yards per attempt and 228 yards per game ranked 12th in the SEC.

 2017 Goal: A realistic goal and more likely a blue lensed view would be for the Wildcats to allow 195-200 yards per game. Lack of proven defensive line depth significantly factors in this estimation. However, UK has an upper-level linebacker corps and secondary which includes the conference’s top two returning tacklers: LB Jordan Jones (109) and Safety Mike Edwards (100). I’m least confident in rush defense improvement than all other statistical projections within this study.

THROUGH 6 GAMES: Exceeding Goal. Kentucky is ranked 3rd in the SEC by surrendering 97.17 rush-yards per game.

(more…)


After Action Review: Missouri

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Missouri football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cats’ need to sustain and improve:

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game.

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Won the football game 40-34.

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS 

Opportunistic Special Teams

— LB Kash Daniel executed a fake punt for a first down.

— CB Lonnie Johnson blocked a Missouri field goal.

— Kicker Austin MacGinnis was perfect on the night: 4/4 FGs, 4/4 PATs, and kicked 5 kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.

— MacGinnis’ touchback kickoff with 1:48 remaining in the game was critical.

— Lynn Bowden recorded a 35-yard kickoff return.

Redshirt Freshman Offensive Linemen

— Center Drake Jackson surfaced in the lineup and didn’t relinquish snapping duties. He more than held his own against a good Missouri defensive line.

— Guard Luke Fortner’s block was key in Benny Snell’s 71-yard touchdown run and played at a high level. 

Fourteen Passing First Downs

— UK moved the chains through the air on 14 occasions compared to just 7 on the ground. This is the identity of the 2017 Wildcats.

— Steady quarterback play and the re-emergence of Blake Bone to go with a vastly improved receiving corps greatly factor.

— WR Garrett Johnson remains Stephen Johnson’s primary target on 3rd down.

Allowing Explosive Passing Touchdowns

— Missouri had touchdown passes that covered 58, 75, and 50 yards. QB Drew Lock threw for 172 yards in his other 19 completions.

— Long, touchdown passes have developed into a trend which is concerning with several highly ranked quarterbacks and receivers in the back half of the schedule.

Defensive Back Tackling on the Game’s Final Drive

— Efficient tackling and kept pass catchers in bounds which continued the game/play clock.

— CB Lonnie Johnson-3 tackles.

— CB Derrick Baity-2 tackles.

— S Mike Edwards-1 tackle.

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

Kicker Austin MacGinnis

— The senior kicker was clutch on Saturday to include a 53-yarder. He also became the program’s leading scorer. MacGinnis is an All-Timer.

Total Offensive Yards and Balance

— The Cats totaled 486-yards off 76 plays.

— Eddie Gran called 39 running plays (51.3%) and 37 passes (48.6%). 

Offensive Explosive Plays/Receivers

— Benny Snell 71-yard touchdown run.

— Garrett Johnson 64-yard reception.

— Lynn Bowden 22-yard run after catch.

— Tavin Richardson 27-yard receptions

— Blake Bone 14-yard touchdown catch.

— UK receivers have improved on a weekly basis. Coach Lamar Thomas is to be credited with player development. The 2017 group is collectively better than it was a year ago.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson

— Passing: 22/36 (61%), 298, 2 TDs, 1 INT. Rushing: 11 carries, 44-yards.

— Season results: Johnson has accounted for 1382-total yards (65.9%) of total offense and 11 out of UK’s 18 touchdowns (61.1%).

Benny’s 100 and 2

— Benny Snell surpassed the century mark for the eighth time in his career with 117 yards off 20 carries.

— His night included 2 touchdowns. One was a Red-Zone run play with Stephen Johnson under center. Snell appeared comfortable in that formation.

Linebackers Courtney Love and Josh Allen

— Love racked up 10 tackles and 1 fumble recovery. The senior leader is playing like a senior leader.

— Mizzou effectively schemed for Josh Allen. But the junior still managed 5 total tackles, 1 QB sack, 1 TFL, and a Forced Fumble.

IMPROVE

Pass Defense

— Surrendered 355-passing yards to include touchdowns of 50, 58, and 75 yards.

— Safety support was not timely or accurate in support of cornerbacks in 2/3 long scores.

— Cornerback injuries factored. Developing depth at that position critical.

— Credit Missouri for game planning UK’s pass rushers out of the equation.

Run Defense

— Kentucky entered the game 3rd in the nation allowing 74 rush yards per game. Mizzou had 33 carries for 213-yards.

— UK’s defensive line strength lies within its numbers (9-10 rotate in 3 positions). Tempo denied the Wildcat defensive line from its normal rotation.

Rushing Offense

— 39 carries, 188 yards, 2 touchdowns appear to be a positive. However, 71 came on a Benny Snell scoring run.

— Kentucky averaged 4.8 yards per carry.

— Play action passing is more productive when a run game is established. Offensive line continuity could help going forward.

— A third running back needs to surface. Going with just two (Snell and King) is a dangerous proposition.

Red-Zone Touchdowns

— Cats settled for field goals on three Red-Zone trips.

— 11/20 Red-Zone possessions have resulted in a touchdown through six games (55%).

Short Yardage Offense

— 8/17 on 3rd down (47%) but an excessive number of unsuccessful attempts were in short yardage situations. This especially applied in the Red-Zone.

— Kentucky is converting 39.53% on 3rd down for the season.

Delivering Knockout Punch

— Missouri was willing to surrender on two occasions when the Cats were up 13-0 and 20-7.

— Up 13-0: 50-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to J’Mon Moore.

— Leading 20-7: 58-yard touchdown pass from Drew Lock to Emanuel Hall with :40 remaining in 2nd quarter.

— Momentum shifted after both plays. The latter propelled the Tigers into the second half.

What does all this mean?

Kentucky is 5-1 and several teams are not. Saturday was a win and advance scenario as the Cats entered the game battered and fatigued from playing five close games. Mizzou traveled to Kroger Field fresh off a bye week, healed up, and seeking to right the ship. UK sustained the Tigers’ best punch and found a way to win. Bye week focus: Heal up, clean up, and develop a running game.


The Cats Need a Break After Beating Missouri

The Cats Need a Break After Beating Missouri

Kentucky moved to 5-1 on the season and 12-4 over its last 16 regular games with a gutty victory with a banged up depth chart against an inferior opponent. My concern all week was that the Mizzou offense and all that talent would “wake up;” it did so in a big way by amassing 568 total yards and exceeding its scoring average by 9-points.

Most wanted to see more offense after the Cats scored just 24 points against Eastern Michigan a week ago (Who has a much better defense than Missouri by the way; not talent wise, but in relation to execution). Eddie Gran’s unit answered by totaling 486-yards and hanging 40 on the Tigers. It arguably left another 21 on the Kroger Field turf.

Full disclosure; Missouri was allowing 40-points per game so let’s keep Saturday’s offensive performance in perspective. But, did you know that Kentucky has won 8 of its last 10 home games? There was a sense of testiness following Saturday’s win. But; perspective.

The defense struggled. Missouri is to be credited for its offensive game plan which all but negated UK’s key pass rushers: OLB’s Josh Allen and Denzil Ware.

The Tigers were assisted by a sketchy pass defense and that’s being kind. Of its three long touchdown passes, one was a schematic flaw which matched up linebacker Courtney Love on Mizzou’s top pass catcher Johnathon Johnson that resulted in a 75-yard pitch and catch for six points. J’Mon Moore’s 50-yard score was a result of a great throw from quarterback Drew Lock that was perfectly placed behind the cornerback and in front of the safety in a Cover 2 look.

Hey, football happens. Sometimes the bad guys win. The third came when WR Emmanuel Hall just flat-out ran past the cornerback on a go route to the end zone at the end of the first half.

Missouri’s offensive line was rated as one of the SEC’s top 5 going into 2017. It played so on Saturday night as the Tigers rushed for 213 net yards against a Wildcat defense that was allowing just 74 per game. Kentucky had not faced two dynamic runners on the same team like Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett. Crockett was the foremost concern but it was Witter who ran for 139-yards off 17 carries for an average of 8.2 per.

Yet another game was decided with the opposing team possessing the football in the game’s final drive with the contest in doubt. Mark Stoops’ decision to kick a field goal on 4th and goal at the 2-yard line late in the fourth quarter was the right call and forced Mizzou into scoring a touchdown and an extra point for the win with just over a minute to play with no timeouts.

Kentucky won the football game 40-34. Its 5-1 going into a necessary break in action to heal up, clean up, and develop a run game. Now let’s dive deeper:

Hello Drake Jackson

The redshirt freshman center played the majority of offensive plays and more than held his own against future pro defensive tackle Terry Beckner Jr. Jackson’s snaps were accurate and he was a key blocker in several of the Cats explosive plays. Plainly, given the status of the Mizzou defensive line; Drake Jackson played his guts out. Having the rookie solidify that position frees up Bunchy Stallings to move back to guard, a position that he played at a high level in 2016. Perhaps Jackson’s performance could be a step forward in answering offensive line questions. Time will tell.

Johnson to Johnson

See the first sentence of this post. Kentucky is 12-4 in its past 16 regular season games with Stephen Johnson at quarterback. The senior was 22/36 (61.1%), 298-yards, 2 touchdowns, and was intercepted once. He also rushed the football for 44-yards off 11 carries; many of which were drive extenders. I don’t know how others evaluate quarterbacks but I’d describe his game as solid, motivational, gutty, and indispensable. Remember, Johnson is also beat up and has taken several shots over the course of six games.

Senior receiver Garrett Johnson led the team with 7 receptions for 111 yards and 1 score. Juice has proven time and time again to be UK’s go-to pass catcher during critical 3rd down plays. He’s also continuing to climb the program’s record books in several receiving categories.

The Receivers and the Emergence of Lynn Bowden

I said in the preseason that the receivers would be better in 2017 than it was a year ago. I stand by that statement. Kayaune Ross played his best game as a Wildcat with 4 catches for 77 yards. The resurrection of Blake Bone continued as the senior grabbed 3 passes for 30-yards including a touchdown. True freshman Lynn Bowden’s route running has drastically improved. A specific instance impressed as he executed a flawless three-move corner route for a catch. He’s starting to understand the position. Bowden finished the game with 3 receptions for 49-yards and had one explosive play called back due to penalty. The BBN got a glimpse of his special playmaking abilities with spectacular runs after catch. There was a dropped potential touchdown on a post route. UK cannot afford missed touchdown opportunities especially in a season that scoring points and connecting on explosive plays have proven to be a challenge.

Kentucky Can’t Deliver the Knockout Punch

Cornerback Derrick Baity, “I think our instinct to destroy an opponent, we don’t really have it. We’ll jump out on them and it’s good, but we’re not consistent enough to keep going on them…. We’re letting up ourselves.  We’re getting complacent once we take a good lead and I think that’s why it’s coming down to the wire.”

Up 13-0, which could have easily been 21-0 with more efficiency in the Red-Zone; Missouri was ready to quit. UK didn’t oblige when Lock hit J’Mon Moore down the sideline for a touchdown strike. Up 20-7, the Cats allowed its opponent back into self-esteem land by giving up a 58-yard TD pass with :40 prior to halftime. This was reminiscent of Southern Miss-2016.

Quarterback Stephen Johnson, “It’s just execution on our side, putting the game out of reach.  That’s something we have to work on this Bye Week and the following week after that get it all together.”

Benny Went Back Over 100 and into the End Zone

Snell’s night included 117-yards off 20 carries and two touchdowns. That involves a 71-yard scamper to pay dirt. The sophomore averaged 5.8 tough yards for the game. Reality is that he’s not gotten the same level of offensive line support as he did a year ago when he rushed for over 1,000-yards. But seeing him break a 71-yarder had to be considered encouraging. Another positive was seeing Stephen Johnson go under center to hand off to Snell for a touchdown. He looked comfortable in that role.

Austin MacGinnis is the Kentucky G.O.A.T

The senior kicker became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 314-points. MacGinnis made all four of his field goals and four extra points, totaling 16 for the night. The 16 points tied his career high for a game and is the second-most points for a kicker in one game in school history. He also became the first player in school history with three career field goals of at least 53 yards.

Pass Defense Deficiencies 

That’s been covered throughout this post. Starting cornerbacks Derrick Baity and Chris Westry have both battled injuries. Not an excuse, but relevant. Depth must continue be developed at that position. Safeties Darius West and Mike Edwards have both played an enormous amount of snaps through six games. But, the trend of surrendering explosive plays through the air is alarming. Missouri QB Drew Lock was the SEC’s 2nd rated passer entering Saturday’s contest. We knew that the Missouri receivers averaged 15 yards-per-catch which ranks high nationally. J’Mon Moore was averaging 26 yards-per-catch entering Saturday. However, giving up homerun grabs for points has to stop or at least slow.

Run Defense

Kentucky entered the game 3rd in the nation by allowing just 74 rush yards per game. Missouri gashed the Cats for 213. Missed tackles again reared its ugly head. But, give credit to Missouri and that mammoth offensive line for opening running lanes for RB’s Ish Witter and Damarea Crockett. Preseason All SEC tackle Paul Adams was excellent. The running backs ran through arm tackles. Mizzou won the line-of-scrimmage for the better part of sixty minutes.

What does all this mean?

Simple; UK is 5-1 going into the bye week. I may have been wrong with my assessment that the 2017 schedule was more challenging than 2016. But, there are teams left on the slate that are very Missouri-like. This means that even though records and recent results aren’t extraordinary; there are still very talented individual players and especially quarterbacks remaining in the back half of the season. Saturday’s pass defense didn’t exactly sanction confidence. This team has simply found ways to win.

The first half of the season has produced a heartbreaking nightmare against Florida, impressive road wins at South Carolina and Southern Miss, two ho-hum home wins over EKU and EMU, and a scarier than necessary victory over Missouri. As we are at the halfway point in the season; I think most would have taken 5-1 going into the bye week and labeled that outcome as a success. Style points don’t count in football. At the end of the season only W’s and L’s matter. Right now Mark Stoops’ team sits at 5-1 and a whole bunch of teams across the nation are not.


Up Next For The Cats: Missouri Tigers Scouting Report

Up Next For The Cats: Missouri Tigers Scouting Report

Missouri comes to Kroger Field ranked 2nd in the league’s passing offense category. So, the key to beating the Tigers is obviously to stop the forward pass. This may surprise you, but I’m going against conventional wisdom here and think that slowing running back Damarea Crockett and the Mizzou run game are the keys for victory. This is a very confusing and perplexing team to scout. Its 1-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play but has future professionals on the 2-deep depth chart.

Remember, this is Part I of the Missouri Scouting Report which means that the following information is a basic overview of personnel, schemes, projections, and results. A more in-depth version or Part II can be heard on the Depth Chart Podcast which will be posted on KSR on Thursday.

OFFENSE

Second year head coach Barry Odom based his program’s success on an offensive system that is more suitable for the Big 12 than the SEC. It scores points in bunches against Group of 5 and 1AA opponents but has not exactly busted scoreboard light bulbs against its Power 5 peers both inside and out of the Southeastern Conference. Quarterback Drew Lock will appear similar in style and efficacy as Eastern Michigan’s Brogan Roback. The noticeable difference between the two is that Lock is surrounded by a much more talented supporting cast. Lock is the league’s 2nd leading passer: 70/130, 1115-yards, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s. Missouri is 9th in the nation by averaging 15.93 yards per catch.

Running back Damarea Crockett rushed for 1062-yards and 10 touchdowns as a true freshman a year ago. 2017 numbers: 59, 375-yards, and 2 touchdowns. Crockett blazed out the gate by running for 202-yards and 2 scores against 1AA opponent Missouri State. But, his numbers have decreased in his team’s three consecutive losses as the level of competition increased: 18 carries, 97-yds vs South Carolina. 10 carries, 19-yards vs. Purdue, and 13 rushes for 57 against Auburn. As Crockett goes, so do the Tigers. The team’s point total also significantly decreased after dropping 72 against Missouri State: 13 vs. South Carolina, 3 vs. Purdue, and 14 against Auburn.

WR J’Mon Moore led the league a year ago with 62 receptions, 1062-yards, and 8 scores. He currently ranks 9th in the country with a 26 yards-per-catch average. WR Johnathon Johnson is the team’s leading receiver with 18 catches, 233-yards, and 2 touchdowns. Former starting WR/KR Demetrios Mason was recently dismissed from the team. Mizzou rotates three tight ends that possess optimal size for blocking and the ability to catch the football.

Missouri has the largest offensive line in the SEC. It averages 6’5, 326-pounds. This is mystifying as the Tigers rely on a fast tempo to score points. Most teams that lean on a high number of plays possess offensive linemen that are smaller and more mobile. However, it has only allowed 4 QB sacks which ranks 12th nationally. Preseason All SEC tackle Paul Adams is considered the unit’s best.

This team confuses me and is difficult to scout. I’m not talking about tendencies or schemes. I’m referencing the fact that talent is not matching results. Missouri averages just 25 points per game but is 3rd in the league in total offense.

Top Performers

Passing

Drew Lock

70/133, 52.6%, 1115-yds, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s 278-ypg, SEC-2nd

Receiving

Johnathon Johnson

18 rec, 233-yds, 2 TD’s, SEC-10th

Rushing

Damarea Crockett

59 carries, 375-yards, 2 TD, 93.8-ypg, SEC-4th 

2017 Production

Scoring

25.5 points per game, SEC-10th

Rushing

166.5 yards per game, SEC-8th 

Passing

278.8, SEC-2nd

Total

445.2, SEC-3rd

3rd Down

19/50, 38%. SEC-8th 

Turnover Margin

-9, SEC-14th

Projected Starters

Tight End

Kendall Blanton

6’6, 260 Jr.

Left Tackle

Tyler Howell

6’8 330 Sr.

Left Guard

Kevin Pendleton

6’4, 330 Jr.

Center

Trystan Castillo

6’4, 315 Fr.

Right Guard

Tre’Vour Simms

6’5, 340 So.

Right Tackle

Paul Adams

6’6, 315 Jr.

Quarterback

Drew Lock

6’4, 225 Jr.

Running Back

Damarea Crockett

5’11, 225 So.

Receiver

J’Mon Moore

6’3, 205 Sr.

Receiver

Emmanuel Hall

6’3, 200 Jr.

Receiver

Johnathon Johnson

5’10, 185 So.

DEFENSE

Missouri’s defense is yet again ranked dead last in the SEC. The Tigers finished 2nd in total defense in 2015 while annually producing NFL defensive linemen and linebackers. It finished 14th a year ago and has maintained that trend and status by allowing 452.5 yards per game through four 2017 games. DT Terry Beckner Jr. and DE Marcell Frazier are future professionals. Frazier has been consistent and is a fascinating character. He self-imposed a local media ban but broke his silence in an attempt to portray leadership following the Tiger’s loss to South Carolina. Former 5-star recruit Terry Beckner has experienced a roller coaster, three year stay in Columbia. A revolving door at safety has limited pass defense. Initial thoughts are that Mizzou does not possess a lockdown cornerback.

Head coach Barry Odom fired his new defensive coordinator and inside linebacker coach DeMontie Cross after a 31-13 loss to South Carolina. Even though the head coach assumed both vacated duties, the Tiger defense has worsened. It surrendered 35 points to Purdue and 51 to Auburn.

Schemes have changed and remained the same. Puzzling right? Mizzou is most efficient utilizing a four-man front but went with a 3-3-5 then back to an even front. 40 points per game is a lot. Giving up 43 to Missouri State started an alarming trend that has continued leading up to its bye week.

The best aspect of the unit lies within its rush defense. Ranked 8th in the league, Mizzou is giving up 194 run-yards per game. Opponents have also experienced success through the air to the tune of 257.8 ypg. Talent is not matching result. Normally a pass rush nightmare team; Missouri has registered 9 quarterback sacks and 27 tackles for loss. Those numbers are similar to UK’s.

2017 Production

Scoring

40 points per game, SEC-14th

Rushing

Allowing 194.8 yards per game, SEC-8th

Passing

257.8, SEC-12th

Total

452.5, SEC-14th 

Top Performers

Tackles

Cale Garrett, 30 tackles, SEC-25th

Tackles for Loss

Marcel Frazier, Rashad Brandson-2.5. SEC-46th

QB Sacks

Terry Beckner Jr., Marcel Frazier-1.5, SEC-31st

Interceptions

Thomas Wilson, Logan Cheadle-1, SEC-10th (tied with multiple)

QB Hurries

Marcel Frazier, Cam Hilton-2

Projected Starters

Defensive End

Jordan Harold

6’2, 255 Sr.

Defensive Tackle

Terry Beckner Jr.

6’4, 305 Jr.

Defensive Tackle

Markell Utsey

6’4, 305 So.

Defensive End

Marcell Frazier

6’5, 265 Sr.

Linebacker

Cale Garrett

6’3, 235 So.

Linebacker

Terez Hall

6’2, 230 Jr.

Linebacker

Kaleb Prewett

6’1, 210 Jr.

Safety

Thomas Wilson

5’10, 190 Sr.

Safety

Anthony Sherrils

6’0, 200 Sr.

Cornerback

Logan Cheadle

5’10, 185 Sr.

Cornerback

DeMarkus Acy

6’2, 195 So.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Punter

Corey Fatony

46.67 per, SEC-3rd

Kicker

Tucker McCann

4/5 FG’s, long-43

Kick Return

*Dimetrios Mason

27.5 yards per

Punt Return

Johnathan Johnson

7.0 yards per

*Demetrios Mason no longer on team.

Punter Corey Fatony is the league’s 3rd leading punter and is very, very good. Kick returner Dimetrios Mason was 2nd in the SEC by averaging 27.5 yards per return but as mentioned earlier, was dismissed from the team.

What does all this mean?

Heck, I don’t know yet. Who is this Missouri team? I’m not sure they know either. How motivated will it be coming off a bye week and after getting stomped by South Carolina, Purdue, and Auburn? What I do know is that running back Damarea Crockett is next-level talented. Stopping or slowing him could be the key to the game for the Cats. QB Drew Lock counts defenders in the box which dictates his decision to run or pass. Tempo will not allow UK time to substitute. WR J’Mon Moore led the league with catches a year ago. Perplexing team these Missouri Tigers.

Defensive ends Marcell Frazier and Jordan Harold are formidable pass rushers. Defensive tackles Terry Beckner Jr. and Markell Utsey can force the issue along the line-of-scrimmage. Yet, even with that talented defensive front Mizzou is allowing 40 points per game.

Numbers, talent, and results are not adding up. As of now, I can’t pretend to know which or what Tiger team shows up on Saturday night. We’ll continue to analyze personnel and tendencies for Thursday’s Depth Chart Podcast.


The Depth Chart Podcast with Kentucky Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover

This week The Depth Chart Podcast has a new person on the fourth mic.  Kentucky Speaker of the House Jeff Hoover joined Freddie and the gang to talk about your 4-1 Kentucky Wildcats.  Just like every podcast, the crew looked back on last week’s game and previewed the matchup with Missouri.  The show had more than a few memorable moments, like…

— How Speaker Hoover got the nickname “Bucket.”

—  The most concerning stat from the EMU win.

— Prepare to see more Wildcat vs. Mizzou.

—  Speaker Hoover’s Favorite Wildcats .

—  Andrew brags about coaching a golf state championship team.

—  Kentucky must defend the best running back they’ve faced all season.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


After Action Review: Eastern Michigan

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Eastern Michigan football game to determine what caused the final outcome as well as addressing the Cat’s need to sustain and improve:

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game. 

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Won the football game 24-20.

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS

Opportunistic special teams

– Josh Paschal blocked a punt. Coach Dean Hood called a “block” play after EMU’s punter had prior kicks during which he was allowed extended time.

– Long snapper Tristan Yeomans recovered a fumbled punt return.

– Punter Matt Panton averaged 47.2 yards per kick which includes a 71-yarder. He also landed 3 punts inside the 20 yard-line.

Defensive explosive plays

– 6 QB sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions.

– OLB Josh Allen accounted for 2 QB sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss.

– Denzil Ware, Adrian Middleton, Kengera Daniel, and true freshman Josh Paschal produced 1 QB sack.

– Multiple Cats contributed tackles for loss: Eli Brown, Adrian Middleton, Denzil Ware, Kengera Daniel.

– Mike Edwards and Kendall Randolph registered an interception.

Run defense

– EMU lost 43 yards on the ground. It gained 13 total.

– UK defensive line rotated fresh defenders which applied consistent pressure on the EMU OL.

– Linebacker Eli Brown quietly played a solid football game: 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss.

– The secondary efficiently tackled. Led by Mike Edwards’ 8 tackles, Chris Westry followed with 4.

Underwhelming offense

– Eastern Michigan was good; but not overpowering enough to limit the Cats to 228 total yards.

– Far too many 3-and-outs. Frequent 1st down plays that resulted in negative yardage put it behind the chains.

– No way to sugarcoat the obvious; Kentucky was dominated up-front.

– EMU totaled 5 QB sacks, 10 tackles for loss, forced one fumble.

– 45 negative rushing yards.

– UK OL did not control the point of attack in the run game. It also failed to consistently protect the edge during pass plays.

– QB Stephen Johnson was hit on far too many occasions. However, he did hold onto the football too long during one sack due to EMU coverage.

– Kentucky did not respond to change of momentum situations with touchdowns. This includes plays following forced turnovers, special team’s explosive plays, recovered on-side kick, an EMU 18-yard punt, and QB sacks that produced optimistic field position.

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

Pass Rush

– 6 QB sacks from 4 defenders: Josh Allen, Denzil Ware, Josh Pashcal, and Adrian Middleton.

Run Defense

– Allowed 13 yards off 27 carries.

– Effective tackling while maintaining gap integrity

Punt Teams

– Averaged 49.4 yards per punt.

– 3 punts inside opponent’s 20-yard line.

– Blocked a punt to set up a 12-yard Benny Snell run for a touchdown.

Receivers

– This group makes a repeat appearance in this category. Unselfish blocking was not overly noticeable due to EMU’s high level of tackling. But it continues to be unselfish and the drops are not a recurrent, postgame theme.

IMPROVE

4th Quarter

– Kentucky 17, EMU 14. The Cats failed to seal the deal with an ineffective final period for the second consecutive week.

– Time of Possession: EMU 10:22, UK 4:38.

– QB Brogan Roback: 12/25, 119-yards.

– Kentucky was penalized 4 times for 25-yards.

UK 4th quarter drives

Drive 1, Field Position-18-yard punt, Cats start on EMU 24-yard line. 1st down sack and intentional grounding penalty. 2 incomplete passes, missed 53-yard FG.

Drive 2, Field Position-EMU 12-yard line. 1 play TD drive (12-yard run by Benny Snell).

Drive 3, Field Position-UK 20-yard line. 3-and-out.

Drive 4, Field Position-UK 10-yard line. Holding on 1st down; 3-and-out.

Drive 5, Field Position-UK 40-yard line. Recovered on-side kick, 3-and-out.

Offensive Line

– Allowed far too many sacks, tackles for loss, and nearly got Stephen Johnson killed.

– Failed to open holes in the running game.

– UK is averaging 128 rush yards per game in 2017. Finished last season with 234.

First Down Offense

– Another repeat appearance. Lost or no yardage on 1st down plays are putting UK behind the chains. 7/17 (41%) on 3rd down is efficient and ranks in the top 5 in the SEC. Matter of fact, my pregame comments were that 40% was actually an applicable goal for offensive success (Normally add 5% to opponent’s season average). Please see above 4th quarter drives. It’s the “When” the 3rd down offense stalls that is the issue.

What does all this mean?

This was a different AAR post to write. If felt that the “What caused our results” portion was far more important than the “Sustain” and “Improve” categories. Film analysis supported initial thoughts. UK excessively lost one-on-one matchups along the offensive line-of-scrimmage. But there were positives. WR play is upgraded. The Cat’s second offensive drive in the first quarter was highly efficient and forceful which resulted in a Greg Hart touchdown reception.

Eastern Michigan was an extremely well-coached opponent that played tremendous defense but lacked offensive weapons around Brogan Roback. Kentucky was coming off a disappointing, no demoralizing loss to Florida. The Cats played winning football in two of the three phases: Defense and special teams. There are obviously many offensive issues to fix which mainly focuses along the offensive line. John Schlarman’s crew is beat up, patched up, and struggled to find continuity and rhythm.

Kentucky is at its best when the football is in Stephen Johnson’s hands. Whether it be an RPO, play-action, or drop-back pass, positive results are more frequent when number 15 controls its destiny; however, the basis for Eddie Gran’s offense starts with the running game. 37 carries for 53-yards will not lead to wins with the meat of the schedule ahead. Ineffective running takes the play-action out of the equation.

The good news is that the BBN is experiencing the most successful 15 game span since the 1977-78 seasons; however, close calls are preventing it from enjoying an accomplishment in program growth. I’ve said it since the opening game, this team is not constructed to light up the scoreboard or break offensive records. But, it has to clean up the penalties and execution flaws prior to Missouri coming to town on Saturday. The Tigers will be well rested and prepared as its coming off a bye week while the Cats are battered. Going into the bye week at 5-1 would be optimal and is probable. The theme for the week is “Urgency.” Compulsion for a fast start and a faster finish. Determination to win one-on-one matchups along the line-of-scrimmage. And, insistence on capitalizing on an opportunity to be 2-1 in the SEC.


An Ugly, But Pretty Win; Cats are 4-1  

An Ugly, But Pretty Win; Cats are 4-1  

Kentucky beat Eastern Michigan on the backs of its defense and special teams while delivering a non-esthetically appealing offensive performance. In other words; at times the UK offense was plain ugly on Saturday. Although it produced 24 first downs compared to EMU’s 20, the Wildcat offensive line underwhelmed along the line-of-scrimmage. It was frequently beaten off the edge, about got its quarterback killed, and provided very little push within the inside run scheme. As a unit; UK’s surrendered five quarterback sacks, ten tackles for loss, three quarterback hurries which led to 81 negative yards. While these numbers are eye popping; the feel and vibe of the game provided a much worse sensation.

OFFENSE

Quarterback Stephen Johnson summed up what many within Kroger Field sensed, “At times it felt like we weren’t really prepared to be in that game. I have to pick (it) up. I have to get the guys more involved, and we need to play the whole 60 minutes.” That’s what a senior starting quarterback is supposed to say. That’s Johnson taking ownership. But, a positive is that Kentucky got the win over a good team when it was far from its best. 228-total yards was not the outcome that the BBN or Eddie Gran desired.

Troublingly, the 4th quarter was again dominated by the opposing team. EMU outlasted the Cats in time of possession: 10:21 to 4:39 while outgaining the home team 126 to 17-total yards. Furthermore, while leading 24-20, Eastern Michigan possessed the football on the game’s final drive with a chance to win. Self-inflicted errors, a low number of series due to 3rd down inadequacies, and the inability to finish off an opponent continue to plague the Cats. Furthermore; costly red-zone penalties, negative yardage on 1st down, and 7/17 on 3rd down overshadowed a valiant performance by Lamar Thomas’ receivers who are quietly improving on a weekly basis. His group’s unselfish blocking, route running, and non-drops are notable advances.

Good teams deliver a knockout punch when its opponent is wobbled. The Cats did not do this vs. Eastern Michigan. Kentucky flipped the field by defensive three-and-outs, quarterback sacks as well as extraordinary special team’s production but did not capitalize with touchdowns to increase its lead.

Running back Benny Snell finished with 75-yards off 21 carries. I’m unaware of the YAC (Yards after contact) at the time this article was sent to the KSR editorial staff.  I’d estimate that number to be approximately 70% and that’s being conservative. WR Garrett Johnson (8 receptions, 61-yards) continues to play well and climb UK’s all-time statistical lists. When given time and opportunity, Stephen Johnson was steady: 18/27, 175-yards, 2 TD’s.

Credit Eastern Michigan’s defense. While lacking the high number of future pro’s that the BBN are accustom to seeing in SEC opponents, our scouting report was fairly accurate. The Eagle’s proved to be incredibly well coached, disciplined, disruptive, and stingy. It was also the best tackling team that UK has faced through five games. Many runs and yards after catch were stopped on the spot.

-Stoops on pass protection, “Not very good. Not very good protection. That’s the bottom line. So we need to protect better.”

DEFENSE

After EMU QB Brogran Roback hit Sergio Bailey for a twenty-yard scoring strike on the Eagle’s first play, the Cats settled in and executed a well-prepared game plan. It did fall prey to a well-performed trick play for a touchdown. Roback’s arm-talent was on full display but Matt House adjusted to not allow incessant short/intermediate completions. This schematic alteration opened the door for UK’s pass rush to harvest havoc plays in the opponent’s backfield.

Go ahead and say it, “Josh Allen is this year’s Jon Toth.” You’d be correct by the way as I frequently discuss Allen’s significance to this football team and exceptional play. He now has to be included in the discussion of being one of the top Edge defenders in the Southeastern Conference. 7 tackles, 2 quarterback sacks, and 1.5 tackles for loss support that assessment. His OLB running mate Denzil Ware also excelled: 3 tackles, 1 QB sack, 1 TFL, 1 forced fumble, and 2 QB hurries. Joining Allen in the QB sack parade (6-total) was true freshman Josh Paschal, Kengera Daniel, Adrian Middleton, and Denzil Ware. Matt House’s unit also produced 7 tackles for loss. In all, it allowed just 13 net rushing yards.

Defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc’s rotation impressed. Nose tackle Matt Elam contributed another affirmative performance. DE Calvin Taylor Jr. played several snaps. Kengera Daniel and Adrian Middleton recorded quarterback sacks. Kordell Looney stretched an option play to the sideline to prevent a gain. Rookie NT Quinten Bohanna contributed quality minutes.

Back shoulder fades were the Eagle’s primary weapon. The secondary defended this play well. Overall the defense played winning football against a very good quarterback that lacked an elite supporting cast. Much like Josh Allen, Mike Edwards is solidifying his All-SEC status: 8 tackles (led team) 1 INT, 2 pass breakups.

Mark Stoops on his defense, “I was for the most part. I know we can play better, but I was pleased. I thought rushing — you know, rush defense again was very good, and we said all week how well they threw the football, and they do. I thought we were in really good position and had pretty good coverage for the most part. Came up with some big sacks and had an opportunity for a few more pressures. And some things we missed, we were a little late on, but overall they played pretty solid.”

-Stoops continued, “I thought defensively we gave up some explosives again, and that’s never a good situation. I think the second half we played very good football until that late drive. Unfortunately, we’re not getting any first downs, and we’re on the field quite a bit, and field position was an issue, and they found a few plays and created a drive there. Outside of that, I thought we played some very good football in the second half.”

SPECIAL TEAMS

Cliché alert: I thought Kentucky’s special teams were well, special. Coach Dean Hood has proven to be invaluable. Unfortunately, its offensive counterparts did not appropriately capitalize on exceptional field position and momentum shifting scenarios. Punter Matt Panton averaged 43.6 yards-per-punt and continued his knack to land kicks inside the opponent’s ten-yard line. Josh Paschal blocked a punt, Tristan Yeomans recovered a fumbled punt return. Explosive special team’s plays normally lead to points. That was not always the case on Saturday.

-Mark Stoops on the blocked punt, “We felt like we had an opportunity to get it at some point, and that’s always a double-edged sword because you’re starting to play really good defense, but you’re not moving the ball. So if you rough him, that’s a bad possession there if you rough him. So you’ve got to pick your spots when you come after him.” 

What does all this mean?

Easy response here would be to say, “Well it wasn’t pretty but a win is a win.” But, that’s not completely true and not how I saw it. Mostly, two phases of the game were indeed pretty (defense and special teams). But ultimately teams are judged by its offensive output or points on the board. UK scored one point less than its season average.

We work extremely hard to prepare scouting reports that paint an objective and accurate portrayal of the Cat’s upcoming opponents. Eastern Michigan was about who we thought they were going to be. An extremely well coached team with a stingy defense that solidly tackled and was led by an upper-level quarterback. However, I thought that the Kentucky offensive line would experience more success in the trenches. It didn’t. That showed on the stat sheet and scoreboard.

Missouri is next and will be coming off a bye week. The Tigers have more talent than Eastern Michigan but have not proven to be as well coached or disciplined.

Cat’s Illustrated’s Jeff Drummond tweeted an interesting fact: Kentucky’s 11-4 mark in last 15 regular season games is its most successful stretch since the 1977-78 teams. Three of UK’s four 2017 wins have been against bowl teams from a year ago. But, there is no sugar coating the obvious; Kentucky has some serious work to do on its offensive line.

Kentucky is 4-1.


The Depth Chart Podcast: Eastern Michigan

Freddie Maggard puts the Florida game to bed and previews Eastern Michigan in the latest Depth Chart Podcast.  You may have forgotten about the MAC opponent, but they aren’t a team to sleep on.  Highlights:

—  Why Saturday will show us how Kentucky will finish the season.

—  EMU’s quarterback is great, but his surrounding cast is questionable.

—  Kentucky can’t lose to Florida twice.

—  Saturday marks 50 years since Nate Northington broke the SEC color barrier.

You can easily listen on the KSR App, available on iTunes and Google Play.  Streaming online is simple through Pod Paradise.  You can also get it directly to your phone by subscribing to “Kentucky Sports Radio” on iTunes or via Android’s Podcast Addict app.


UK’s Schedule Heats Up With Threatening Quarterbacks

Kentucky’s loss to Florida left a resounding ripple throughout the 2017 schedule. Against the Gators, Kentucky misshaped itself into the lesser likelihood of blazing out of the gate with a 6-0 start prior to its bye week. I’ve argued that this fall’s schedule is more difficult than the slate that Mark Stoops and his team faced in 2016. Several disagreed and still do; which is perfectly ok. But, my hypothesis wasn’t a baseless guess. It mainly pertains to the season’s post-Bye week gauntlet.

The major factor that influenced this premise is based on the high number of unique signal callers that could present a clear and present danger to the Wildcat defense. As of today’s SEC rankings, UK will face 6 of the league’s top 10 statistically rated quarterbacks. This includes numbers one through four.

It started with a Week 3 matchup with South Carolina’s Jake Bentley. While I didn’t agree with certain talking head’s preseason conjecture that he is the best quarterback in the conference, I do feel that the sophomore has a tremendous upside. However, the situation begins to seriously heat up this weekend with Eastern Michigan’s veteran QB Brogan Roback. (Who is that, you ask? You should read my Eastern Michigan scouting report to find out.)

We must first study UK’s effectiveness vs. the pass prior to analyzing the onslaught of upcoming, talented QB’s that Kentucky has yet to face.


2017 Kentucky vs. The Pass

Pass Yards Allowed

1078, 269.5 per game

Team Pass Defense

SEC-12th

Opponent Completion Percentage

63.9%, SEC-13th

Interceptions

4, SEC-5th

QB Sacks

6, SEC-11th

Pass Breakups

14, Passes Defended SEC-5th

Quarterback Hurries

5


UPCOMING OPPOSING QUARTERBACKS


Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan

2017: 69/114, 798-yards, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 60.5%, QB rating-121.61.

Career: 569/989, 6561-yards, 40 TD’s, 25 INT’s, 58%, 1,132 offensive plays.

Summary: Most threatening QB the Cats have faced through five games in 2017. Most will disagree with that assessment. I’m just calling it as I see it on film while taking in consideration the following factors: Experience, conversations with trusted talent evaluators, quick release, football IQ, system familiarity, skill player continuity, surrounding cast, schedule faced, and film based gut instinct. Roback is a crafty veteran who is in complete control of a highly accustomed offense.

— The 5th year senior is considered a 2018 NFL Draft sleeper and is a skillful playmaker. He has elevated arguably the worst FBS program into a two-season bowl contender.

— Specializes in back-shoulder fades and is extremely accurate in the short/intermediate passing game. The veteran will audible (change plays), shift blocking schemes, and improvise on Saturday. Defensively, EMU is successfully conservative by nature. But, expect its offense to play with a “nothing-to-lose” brashness which could lead to a high risk/high reward game plan. Remember, EMU averages 38 pass attempts per game.


Drew Lock, Missouri

2017: 2nd rated QB in the conference. 70/133, 52.6%, 1115-yards, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s, QB rating-138.84, 278 yards per game.

Summary: Lock lights up the scoreboard and stat sheet against inferior opponents. But, he has not enjoyed the same success against formidable defenses; especially those that call the Southeastern Conference home. Regardless, he finished 2016 with 3399-yards and ranked as the league’s 2nd rated passer.

— Missouri will throw the football all over the field. Lock is surrounded by a 1000-yard rusher (Demarea Crockett), an on-paper top 5 offensive line, and the SEC’s top receiver from a year ago in J’Mon Moore. Moore currently ranks 6th in the league. Mizzou’s defense and in-game management are a mess; but Lock’s arm talent is undisputable.


Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

2017: 57/99, 57.6%, 626-yards, 7 TD’s, 3 INT’s, QB rating-127.96, 156 passing yards per game.

2017 Rushing Statistics: 41 carries, 287-yards, 5 TD’s.

Summary: Was entering the Heisman race until his team was beat down 30-3 at Georgia. Fitzgerald is big, strong, mobile, and gave the Cats fits a year ago: Passing-13/21, 81, 1 TD, 1 INT. Rushing: 16 carries, 107-yards, 2 TD’s. He’s also extremely well coached by Dan Mullen.


Quinten Dormady, Tennessee

2017: Quietly rated 4th in the SEC. 71/121, 58.7%, 861-yards, 6 TD’s, 4 INT’s, QB rating-128.20, 215 yards per game.

Summary: Dormady is not as threatening as the other quarterbacks mentioned in this post and may actually be replaced by freshman Jarrett Guarantano by the time the Volunteers travel to Kroger Field. Guarantano relieved Dormady in the 3rd quarter during UT’s clunker vs. UMass last Saturday. However, he is rated 4th in the league and has played well at times.

— Tennessee has allowed only 2 sacks through four games, which is tied for the sixth-lowest in the nation


Shea Patterson, Ole Miss

2017: SEC’s top rated quarterback. 86/122, 70.5%, 1281-yards, 11 TD’s, 4 INT’s, QB rating-181.88, 427 yards per game.

Summary: Improvisation driven, athletic quarterback that is surrounded by the best receiving corps in the Southeastern Conference.  Averaging 427 passing yards per game should be all you need to know about the super-sophomore. Regardless of the Rebels/Black Bear’s state of mind come November 4th; Patterson and those pass catchers are a menace to opposing defenses and creates matchup nightmares for rival coordinators.


Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

2017: Ranked 8th in SEC but was much higher prior to facing the Crimson Tide. 53/84, 63.1%, 721-yards, 8 TD, 1 INT, QB rating-164.25, 180.3 yards per game.

Summary: Was the conference’s leader in QBR, QB rating, completion percentage, and TD-INT ration prior to facing Alabama. He finished 2016 on an extremely high note and has RB Ralph Webb to balance the Commodore offense. Plus, the game is in Nashville.


Jake Fromm/Jacob Eason, Georgia

2017: True freshman Jake Fromm took over for the injured starter Jacob Eason. The rookie has led the 7th ranked Dawgs to wins at Notre Dame as well as a dominating home victory over Mississippi State.

2017 Stats: 43/69, 62.3%, 650-yards, 7 TD’s, 1 INT, QB rating-172.03, 167.3 yards per game.

Summary: These are impressive numbers for a true freshman especially considering the fact that UGA doesn’t have a pass catcher ranked in the top 14 of the SEC. Plus; Fromm benefits from having running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the same backfield.

— Original starter Jacob Eason suffered an injury in the first quarter of Georgia’s 31-10 win over Appalachian State. However, Eason was one of the nation’s top QB prospects a couple years ago and played well as a true freshman in 2016. Most likely to be healed from a knee sprain, Georgia will have two quarterbacks to choose from by the time the Cats travel to Athens.


Lamar Jackson, Louisville

— Reigning Heisman Trophy Winner

2017 Statistics: 94/149, 63.1%, 1387-yards, 10 TD’s, 3 INT’s, QB rating-159.41, 346.8 yards per game.

Rushing: 65 carries, 337-yards, 4 TD’s, 84.25 yards per game.

Summary: Won the Heisman but lost to Houston, Kentucky, and LSU to close out 2016. Posted inflated numbers (4th quarter stats padded vs. Tiger reserves) vs. Clemson a few weeks back in a home loss. But, Jackson is still the most dynamic football player in America. With Bobby Petrino’s obstinate insistence on statistics, my concern for Jackson is a senseless injury well after the game has been decided.


What does all this mean?

Saturday’s game vs. Eastern Michigan is a precursor to how the Cats could fare against upper-level quarterbacks that remain on its schedule. This especially applies to EMU and Missouri.  Roback and Lock share multiple, similar traits. Thus, this weekend’s contest possesses an invaluable evaluation factor for potential outcomes down the line.   

Two defensive categories must increase: QB sacks and tackles for loss. Plus, Kentucky’s offense must sustain a higher number of drives by converting on 3rd down. It cannot afford to leave its defensive counterparts on the field for ten plus minutes in the fourth quarter as it did against Florida.

Starting with Brogan Roback and going all the way through Lamar Jackson; Kentucky’s schedule is littered with quarterbacks that are dangerous enough to expose minute flaws against most pass defenses. The aforementioned list of signal callers is daunting. The challenge has been presented. Let’s see how the Cat’s respond. 


Scouting Report: Eastern Michigan

Scouting Report: Eastern Michigan

Picture of QB Brogan Roback by Detroit Free Press

Eastern Michigan won its first game against a Power 5 team when it traveled to New Jersey and beat Rutgers 16-13. It plays in the Mid-American Conference or the MAC. The Eagle’s turnaround has been led by head coach Chris Creighton who has a 12-28 record at the school but a career total of 151-74 as a head coach. Creighton, a technically sound defense, and 5th year starting quarterback Brogan Roback have led the Eagles to a renewed sense of expectation after it finished 2016 with a 7-6 record and a trip to the Popeye’s Bahama’s Bowl. Its last venture into postseason play was in 1987.

2017 Schedule Prior to Kentucky

At Charlotte W, 24-7
At Rutgers W, 16-13
BYE
Ohio L, 20-27 (2 OT)

OFFENSE

This won’t be a popular statement. But, through film evaluation, considering his surrounding cast over the course of four seasons, the putrid state of the EMU program early in his career, a profound understanding of the offense, arm talent, football IQ, and experience, Brogan Roback is the most threatening and potentially the best signal caller that UK will have faced through its first five games. Roback has thrown for 6,561 career yards, 40 touchdowns and is frequently referred to as a sleeper pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. He averages 38 pass-attempts per game.

EMU will take multiple downfield, deep shots relying upon QB/WR familiarity with tendencies to favor the back-shoulder-fade. I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the Eagle’s first play call on Saturday. When referencing a high number of go-routes, I mean like 15-plus. Sergio Bailey II is its top outside receiver and has twelve receptions of 10+yards and six that went for more than 20.

Operating out of a Pistol formation, the Eagle’s offense is varied. It can spread the field and operate with tempo while relying upon the passing attack. Or, much like Florida; it can align in bunch/overload formations when intentions are to run the football. EMU lost three offensive line starters but return eight as an offense. Shaq Vann is the feature running back and has 49 carries for 186-yards in three games. Familiarity and continuity within the system are obvious as its primary contributors consists of nine upperclassmen that have played a great deal of football together.

Projected Starters

Quarterback Brogan Roback 6’3, 218 Sr.
Running Back Shaq Vann 5’10, 220 Jr.
X Receiver Johnnie Niupalau 6’0, 215 Sr.
Z Receiver Serio Bailey II 6’0, 190 Sr.
H Receiver Antoine Porter 5’8, 180 Sr.
Y Tight End Bryce Kemp 6’5, 235 So.
Left Tackle Chris Bukoski 6’5, 295 Jr.
Left Guard Jeremy Hickey 6’4, 310 Jr.
Center Dakota Tallman 6’5, 310 Jr.
Right Guard Jimmy Leatiota 6’3, 295 Jr.
Right Tackle Steve Nielson 6’8, 320 So.
Fullback Lavonte Robinson 5’8, 245 Sr.

Offensive Statistics  

Scoring 20 points per game
Rushing 95 yards per game
Passing 277.3
Total 372.3
3rd Down 16/50, 32%
Red-Zone 18/22, 82% (8/22 TD’s)
Time of Possession 30:35

Top Performers 

Receiving Sergio Bailey II 17 rec, 267-yds, 1 TD
Rushing Shaq Vann 49 carries, 186-yds
Passing Brogan Roback 69/114, 798-yds, 2 TD, 2 INT’s 60.5%

Picture of Jeremiah Harris by Detroit News

DEFENSE

Eastern Michigan leads the MAC and ranks 19th nationally by allowing just 15.7 points-per-game. “Multiple” schematically, it mainly operates out of a four-man front and does not rely upon pre-snap movement or exotic fronts/coverages like former opponents Southern Miss or Florida. What you see is normally what you get. For the Kentucky offensive line this means that Saturday will be a man-on-man fracas which could be just what it needs. It also is a heavy zone-coverage team.

The Eagles are led by safety turned linebacker Jason Beck who has started 37 games and accumulated 286 career stops. He’s active and joined by the “Dog” Brody Hoying who is the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Week. Hoying’s position is similar to Mike Edwards as he aligns all over the field and provides EMU with a multitude of options that best utilize his varied talent set. The “Bull” position or defensive end Jeremiah Harris provides pass pressure from the edge.

Eastern Michigan heavily leans on technique and execution within its system for defensive success. It’s a highly effective tackling team and rarely differs from assignment. “Sound” is the word can be used to describe this defense’s structure. However, it can produce havoc in the opposing backfield from its organic front-four defensive linemen and an occasional blitz from a linebacker or the aforementioned Hoying. It accumulated four QB sacks and seven tackles for loss in an overtime loss to Ohio a week ago. The Eagles have accumulated five interceptions and forced three fumbles while allowing just two touchdowns in regulation in 2017.

Projected Starters

Defensive Tackle Dion Dawson 6’0, 320 Sr.
Nose Tackle Oddie Granger III 6’3, 315 Sr.
Defensive End Maxx Crosby 6’5, 265 So.
Bull (LB/DE) Jeremiah Harris 6’5, 255 Jr.
Mike Linebacker Ike Spearman 6’0, 233 Sr.
Will Linebacker Jason Beck 6’1, 220 Sr.
Field Cornerback Ross Williams 5’11, 175 Jr.
Boundary Cornerback Kevin McGill 6’2, 195 So.
Dog Brody Hoying 5’11, 205 So.
Free Safety Justin Moody 5’10, 185 Jr.
Rover Vince Calhoun 5’11, 185 So.

Defensive Statistics

Scoring Allowing 15.7 points per game
Rushing 155 ypg
Pass 169
Total 324
QB Sacks 7
3rd Down 18/52, 35%

Top Performers

Tackles Brody Hoying-21
QB Sacks Luke MacLean-2
Tackles for Loss Jeremiah Harris-3.5
Interceptions Brody Hoying-2
Forced Fumbles Brody Hoying-2

SPECIAL TEAMS

Eastern Michigan is ordinary in this phase. However, QB Brody Roback averages 44 yards per punt as he takes on the punter role while aligned at quarterback. This all but ensures a no-return scenario.

Punter Ivan Oraha 35.7 yards per kick
Kicker Paulie Fricano 6/7 FG’s
Kick Returner Mathew Sexton 17 yards per return
Punt Returner Blake Banham 6.2
QB/Punts Brody Roback 44 yards per/7 quick kicks

What does all this mean?

Kentucky is the better and more talented team. UK should win the game. But, EMU will certainly make Cats earn it. Eastern Michigan is a well-coached, disciplined program that lacks defensive pizazz but excels in assignment and fundamental tackling. Thus; its ranked 19th in the nation by allowing just 15 points-per-game.

Two factors are concerning. One; QB Brogan Roback is an accomplished and skilled veteran player that will take multiple downfield shots. He also possesses a quick release which could limit UK’s pass rush and lead to a high number of completions. He’s also joined by fellow offensive players that are extremely familiar with each other and the system. Roback can frequently be seen changing plays, altering protection, and pre-snap directing his teammates which is an obvious sign of experience and grasp of the system.

Secondly; Mark Stoops’ team cannot lose to Florida twice. EMU is a good enough to pull off the upset if the Cats mope and linger from its Florida woes. Some may call this a Trap Game. I’d describe it as a signature contest that will define Kentucky’s character and fortitude as it deals with tremendous disappointment from a demoralizing loss.


After Action Review: Florida

PIC BY HISTORY.ARMY.MIL

An After Action Review is an Army method utilized to analyze an intended action. Let’s apply a version of this process to the Kentucky vs. Florida football game to determine what the Cat’s need to sustain and improve: 

WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS

Win the football game. 

WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS

Lost the football game 27-28

WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS

Two sideline to field miscommunications that resulted in two touchdowns unguarded Florida receivers.

— Wide open and unmatched Gator pass catchers accounted for 14 of its 28 points. That’s 50% if my math is correct. Gift wrapping a couple scores will get any team beat in most situations. It did so on Saturday.

Ineffective 3rd down offense

— 1/10 for the game; 10%. UF was allowing 35% for the season. First down ineffectiveness led to this result along with penalties, bad snaps, and other pertinent factors.

— Kentucky is at its best when play action passing on first down. This method decreased in the second half following an impressive third quarter scoring drive to move the score to 21-14.

— Far too many 3rd and 8+ downs which fed into the strengths of the Florida defense which lied within its pass rushing defensive ends.

Untimely penalties

— 7 penalties for 55-yards were not an overwhelmingly large total. But, it was the timing of the flags that decreased the Cat’s likelihood for winning the football game.

— Nick Haynes’ holding call is the most discussed, but others were equally as detrimental.

— Holding can be called on every football play in all football games. But, the game should have never been in question for the Haynes’ flag to cause such a fuss.

Lost the 4th quarter

— Florida controlled time of possession: 10:52 to 3:25. It scored 14 points by converting 4/7 on 3rd down and 2/3 on fourth. The Gators rushed the football 15 times for 70-yards and Luke Del Rio completed 6/9 passes for 80.

— Kentucky lacked offensive flow and possessions (3). It went 0/3 on third down, 1/1 on fourth while managing just 42 total yards and 3-points. 

WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?

SUSTAIN

Atmosphere

— 67,606 blue cladded fans packed the stadium. The BBN was the MVP of the game; not close.

— Kroger Field was loud when the Gator’s possessed the football.

— Cat Walk was amazing.

— Well done BBN.

Continued, consistent quarterback play

— UK’s top offensive weapon is quarterback Stephen Johnson. Period. The senior completed 68% of his passes (17/25) for 196-yards, and 3 touchdowns. Four quarters worth of opportunities would have provided larger numbers and could have sparked a Wildcat victory.

Outside linebacker Josh Allen

— 8 total tackles, 1 QB sack, 1 tackle for loss, and one pass breakup vs. All SEC left tackle Martez Ivey. This film will be utilized by NFL Draft early entry committee following the 2017 season. Allen made himself some money on Saturday.

— Allen is playing as good as any Edge defender in the SEC; some say the nation.

Talent stalemate

— There was no differential in roster talent from my viewpoint.

— Florida’s defensive line was more explosive, but it could be argued that Kentucky’s was deeper with consistent effectiveness. 

Sihiem King

— A second running back appeared and did so in impressive fashion. King’s stat line: 5 carries, 64-yards rushing, 1 catch for 24 receiving.

Lynn Bowden diversity

— Returned kicks, ran and passed out of the Wildcat formation.

— Factoring from the WR position will only benefit Gran’s offense.

Receivers
— Quietly, Lamar Thomas’ group has improved on a weekly basis. Five receivers caught passes on Saturday led by senior Garrett Johnson’s 4 for 56-yards and a score. Blake Bone grabbed a touchdown as well.

Chuck Walker

— The senior played his best game as a Wildcat. In addition to 4 catches for 28-yards, Walker totaled 115 all-purpose yards to include 87 in the return game.

IMPROVE

Maintaining presence of most threatening offensive players for 4 quarters

— Stephen Johnson is the most threatening offensive players. UK is at its best when it diversifies and leans on the senior in play action pass scenarios. This decreased in the latter portion of the game.

— CJ Conrad is arguably (in my opinion definitely) the best tight end in the Southeastern Conference. 2 catches for 34-yards and a score was efficient, but he is an elite weapon. While the Gators may have been keying on the junior, but more passes in his direction betters the Cat’s execution.

Defensive sideline to field communication

— Structure had been a defensive strength in Kentucky’s first three victories. Two unexplainable mishaps led to 14 free points as Gator receivers were left unguarded that resulted in 14-points.

1st down offense

— The difference in scoring drives and those that resulted in punts or missed field goals occurred on first down. Kentucky couldn’t afford to get behind the chains. It did so on far too many occasions.

3rd down offense

— 1/10, 10%

Sustaining the defensive point of attack

— This mainly occurred in the 4th quarter when Florida rushed the football for 70-yards. The Gators utilized bunch or overload formations to gain the edge with power and zone run plays. This is not totally on the defense. Again; UF controlled the clock for nearly eleven minutes as the offense failed to continue drives. UK’s defense was on the field far too long in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

Red-Zone execution

— Bad snaps, penalties, and senior quarterback Stephen Johnson taking two sacks were tremendous mishaps.

Pass protection

— QB Stephen Johnson was sacked four times. He was pressured on multiple other occasions. 

Finishing

— See “What caused the results” section of this post.

What does all this mean?

Kentucky let a win slip out of its hands on Saturday. Arguably the better team, UK did not play clean, had far too many mental errors, and failed to capitalize during opportune situations.