On a sports day filled with the rise of Vanderbilt, the downfall of the Chicago Cubs and the demolition of Kimbo Slice, we here of course focus on the Kentucky loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Feelings are mixed on the game depending on who you talk to, but I am generally very positive. The defense played as well as I had hoped and the offense (at least in the second half) showed some signs of life. Here are ten notes from the game:
(1): You can become either optimistic or pessimistic depending on how you look at the game. Most fans seem to believe that the Cats were only a couple of mistakes away from winning and thus Kentucky is “as good as any team in the SEC.” Others suggest that the Tide missed two FGs and fumbled inside the ten, thus meaning they were a few plays from blowing the Cats out. I think the answer is somewhere in between, as both teams missed their opportunities. But I do take solace in this. Kentucky went on the road, to the #2 team in the land, did not play their best game, and still could have won the ball game. If that doesnt say improvement, I dont know what does.
(2): An uneven, although not terrible performance by Michael Hartline. Many focus on the fumble into the end zone and it was of course, a game-changing mishap. In addition, he threw a bad interception in the second half that stopped some momentum as the Cats were moving the ball. However both of those mistakes were poor plays, and not mental errors. He generally took care of the ball, didnt put himself in bad positions and threw it away when he had too (including when he didnt, as in the play where the screen didnt develop and he threw it away with no Alabama player within 10 feet of him). Hartline is not ready to be a big-time SEC quarterback yet. He hasnt shown an ability to go deep and he isnt a runner that can keep the defense honest. BUT he doesnt lose games either….and there is something to be said for that with a defense as good as the Cats have right now.
(3): Poor game by the offensive line. Hartline had no time and the running game between the tackles was nonexistent. The Cats may not face another team with a front 4 as good as Alabama, but they have to do a better job. With a first-year QB, you cant keep having guys in the backfield on play after play.
(4): Not a great day for the running backs, especially Tony Dixon. Dropped passes, missed holes and overall lack of burst was tough to watch. Couple of good plays by Locke, but in general, not the best day these guys will have in the Blue and White.
(5): Gutsy game by Dicky Lyons. Gary Danielson said that he will play on Sundays, and I am beginning to think he is right. The guy made a couple of big plays, kept the team in the game mentally and made a number of great and important blocks. You got to love Dicky.
(6): The front 4 for the Cats was abysmal in the first quarter, but hit its stride and played great in the last three. Early on, Alabama ran the ball at will and the front four showed no ability to make the early tackle. But a couple of big tackles in the second quarter, and then they settled down, showing why they are a top-tier group in the SEC. Especially good game by Jeremy Jarmon, whose acting debut on television was bizarre, but whose game was solid.
(7): The Cats missed Micah at LB. Some of the early big runs found LBs out of position and pressure on the quarterback was lacking that may have been there with Micah anchoring the center of the field. But, the guys shut down the short passing routes and kept Wilson from running the ball. Overall a solid performance.
(8): Great matchup today between Julio Jones and Trevard Lindley. Lindley generally got the better of the youngster, but Jones beat Lindley at least twice and played him very well. Lindley will finish as one of the best ever for the Cats at the position.
(9): Couple of big mistakes in the secondary but otherwise a pretty good game for the back four. David Harrison was stepping in for Lentz and Cobb (who did make the trip) and was out of position on the 80 yard run early in the game. David Jones missed the chance to keep the Cats in it when he didnt recover the fumble. But, Jones did get an INT and the passing game for the Tide was subpar from previous weeks. Generally a solid performance.
(10): No big injuries for the Cats and Ricky Lumpkin even saw a bit of time. Micah will be back next week and Randall Cobb may as well, although it is unlikely he will see QB snaps until at least the next week.
We will have more on Sunday and Monday about game specifics, but overall I am pleased. We can play “if, onlys” until the end of time (although someone should teach Seiber to kick an onside kick), but overall a solid performance on the road. The game against South Carolina may be the biggest game all year and if the Cats play like they did today, they win.