On the way home from dinner last night, my Big Blue melecholy broke and I went on a rant about Kentucky football. I’m sure the same thing was happening in cars and at dinner tables all across the Bluegrass; frustrations over another painful loss against the Cards brimming over the edge along with fears for the rest of the season being realized. Between rants about the defensive line and our utter lack of a secondary, I came to the sad, sad realization: if it’s not one thing, it’s another with Kentucky football.
If the offense looked good, then the defense looked terrible. For every beautiful run by CoShik Williams, there was a hole the size of Clint Hurtt opening up for Louisville’s running backs. Every time Maxwell Smith threaded the needle, Teddy Bridgewater made our secondary obsolete. It’s the sad reality that we’ve come to accept as Kentucky football fans. For every embarrassing loss against Vanderbilt, there’s an unexpected, streak snapping win against Tennessee. It’s an awful, unbearable balance, and for the Cats to ever get better, it has to stop.
Maxwell Smith looked great yesterday. He really did. He finished 35-50 for 280 yards, four shy of a career high. He led the team to two touchdowns and showed admirable leadership that proves once and for all he is the best man for the job.
CoShik Williams’ game would have been great if not for a costly fumble on the three-yard line. Whenever he found a pocket, he ran through it, averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He also caught three passes for 21 yards and racked up 85 yards on returns. His improvement lived up the preseason hype. Kudos to the offensive line for giving him opportunities, as well as giving Maxwell Smith enough time to create plays throughout the game. There were other highlights, too: judging by his performance yesterday, we’ll be hearing “Smith to Collins” a lot this season. The talented redshirt freshman had an excellent debut, with seven catches for 64 yards.
The no-huddle offense worked too. It kept Louisville on its toes, preventing them from making substitutions and resting between plays. It neutralized the Cards’ speed on defense, and gave the Cats a flow and rhythm on offense that they lacked all last season.
I wish I could stop writing here. But, with Kentucky football, the other shoe always drops.
Oh, the defense. It was so bad I got to the point I couldn’t even watch. Teddy Bridgewater and the Cards made a mockery of us, exploiting the secondary and making us miss Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy so much it ached. Before the game, we talked about the crucial matchup on defense: UK’s defensive line vs. Louisville’s offensive line. Well, this quote from Louisville’s Senorise Perry says it all:
“The holes were huge. I was excited to run through them because I didn’t expect them to be that big.”
Ouch. For the most part, Ukwu, Cobble, and Rumph looked slow and winded. Teddy Bridgewater had so much time to operate he could have stopped and made his O-Line sandwiches. Linebackers Miles Simpson and Tyler Brause looked lost; if we didn’t appreciate Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan after last season, we sure as hell should now. The secondary? I can’t even go there.
Even Joker’s playcalling suffered from our very own brand of ying and yang: for every ballsy onside kick, there was a fake punt on 4th and 14 from our OWN 25 yard line. Yikes. The offense, our silver lining, flowed, but just failed in the red zone. Being able to move down the field is great, but is all for naught if you can’t put points on the board.
In the end, I will always support the Cats. I’ve been doing this too long not to. But, when I see mistakes as glaring as yesterday’s, so fundamental and so frustrating, it kills me. As with everything in life and Kentucky football, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.