An After Action Review is a military method utilized to analyze the success or failure of an intended action. Let’s apply this process to the Kentucky vs. EKU football game:
WHAT WERE INTENDED RESULTS
– Win the football game.
WHAT WERE ACTUAL RESULTS
– Won the football game 27-16.
WHAT CAUSED OUR RESULTS
– Quarterback Stephen Johnson steadied a wobbly offense by going 15-22, 224-yards, 1 TD, 6 carries, 48-yards, and 1 TD.
– UK finished the game with 17 unanswered points led by a mixture of a late game rushing attack and play action passing. It also won time of possession in the 4th quarter 10:09 to 4:51 which was to be expected due a depth advantage. When that happened, the Guard-Center-Guard play drastically increased.
– For the first time in two seasons Kentucky did not produce a turnover.
– Held EKU to 20 rushes for 62-yards.
– The Cats did not control the line-of-scrimmage against an outmanned opponent which sanctioned the game to be closer than it should have been. Penalties, bad snaps, ineffectual kickoffs, inconsistent OL, and allowing a high number of passing yards all led to just a lesser than expected 11-point victory.
WHAT WILL WE SUSTAIN–IMPROVE?
Quarterback Stephen Johnson
The senior quarterback played like a veteran on Saturday by completing 68.1% of his passes, accounting for two scores while playing another turnover free game. He’s not flashy, but it was obvious that the offense positively reacts to Johnson’s leadership and demeanor. Johnson’s quarterback rating is 157 and he ranks 5th in the SEC’s Total Offense category.
Benny Snell surpassing the century mark
Snell had 19 carries, 103-yards, and one touchdown. However, his yards did not come easy as the vast majority happened after initial contact. This is a strength of his game; but the offensive line desperately needs to create more friendly running lanes going forward. And, he rushed for over 100 yards with painful bruised ribs.
Kentucky rushed for 207 yards and passed for 229. 436 total yards is a good day’s work but it could have been much higher as the Cats left points and yards on the turf. But, having both attacks going for over 200 is exactly where the Cats need to be. This especially applies as the offensive line continues to be mixed and matched together. The losses of injured starters Cole Mosier and Dorian Baker have led to more distress than anticipated.
Kentucky held its opponent to less than 100 yards rushing for the second consecutive game.
Bone was outstanding against the Colonels. 3 catches and 93 yards sparked a stagnant offense at a critical juncture in the football game.
The safety led the team in tackles with 11 and forced action close to the line of scrimmage on multiple occasions.
“Excellent” was the term used in UK’s special team’s performance in the season opener. “Average” is applicable to how it played against Eastern and that’s being kind. Eli Brown’s jumping over the shield penalty extended a drive that led to a Colonel score. Kicker Austin MacGinnis missed a 48-yard field goal just before halftime and his kickoffs lack hang time as well as distance. This provided its opponent advantageous field position and limited the effectiveness of the coverage team. EKU’s LJ Scott had 4 returns for 141 yards including one for 53. MacGinnis’ tackling was a positive but unnecessary result. Punter Matt Panton punted 4 times, averaged 38.8 yards per kick. Going forward, South Carolina has won its first two games by excelling in the third phase. In order to have a chance to win, special teams have to be solid.
EKU used play action and bootlegs to freeze outside linebacker pass rushers. Both Tim Boyle and Austin Scott also threw the football quickly from the pocket as the intent was to complete short to intermediate passes. However; EKU QB’s stats: 31/43, 256 yards, 1 TD was surprisingly successful against a perceived defensive strength. Give Eastern credit; a strategic game plan was well executed by QB Tim Boyle along with receivers Neiko Creamer and Ryan Markush. Furthermore, only register one QB sack against a 1AA opponent can only be described as unexpected.
Guard Nick Haynes was forced to play center. Unfamiliarity influenced this situation. Bunchy Stallings seemed to settle the issue but this cannot continue.
Offensive line continuity
When I’m wrong, I admit so. UK badly misses graduated center Jon Toth and injured tackle Cole Mosier. Throw Ramsey Meyers in there as well. Coach John Schlarman’s worked wonders last season, but this group has yet to find a flow that can sustain drives and possesses a lower ceiling than the 2016 group. There is sufficient talent to have a well above average SEC offensive line. However, the fact that it did not overpower and undermanned EKU team alarms. The situation was worse this time a year ago but improved on a weekly basis. The OL has five practice days to improve to have a chance vs. South Carolina.
1st down offense
The Cats cannot afford incompletions or loss of yardage on 1st down. It’s simply not built to play behind the chains. 2nd and 12 following a loss of two in the Wildcat is not a scenario that can continue. 1st down is the most critical down for this offense.
3rd down offense
46.1% against Eastern Kentucky isn’t a terrible number, but it was when the Cats failed to convert on 3rd down that helped to create a close game. Finishing sustained drives were a 2016 team strength. That’s not been the case in its first two games.
S.L.O.P is where the Cats lived a year ago (Sustained Long Offensive Possessions). The Cats won the time of possession on Saturday but only by a slight margin: 31:28 to 28:32. This category has both offensive and defensive responsibilities. Eastern converted 6/14 on 3rd down (42.8%) and was perfect on 4th down conversions. Refer back to “1st and 3rd down” references. Again, penalties, bad snaps, and getting behind the chains have limited production and points.
CJ Conrad targets
Conrad is the best Kentucky TE since Jacob Tamme sported the number 18. He’s made the most of the passes thrown in his direction against Eastern but only had 2 catches for 28-yards and did score a touchdown. With young receivers all over the field and an inconsistent running game, going more with the veteran and highly capable tight end could improve the Cat’s offense and extend drives.
What does all this mean?
The Kentucky Football team embarks on the most important five days of the 2017 season as it prepares for South Carolina. While the focus is on game day, contests are won and lost on the practice field. Being 2-0 is much better than the alternative and where it was in 2016. But, Kentucky has not been crisp in its first two outings especially on the offensive side of the football. I’ll say it again: last year taught me to interpret this team on a week by week basis. While I have concerns, forgive me if I’ve not hit the panic button quite yet. Reality is that the Cats have several key issues to clean up in a short amount of time. South Carolina presents a whole new level of competition.