Well, that was awful. Not much you can say, as Pitt dominated the Cats, 27-10. The offense was terrible, the defense was worse, and the special teams might have topped them all. This game gave Kentucky an opportunity to play a team in disarray, develop their future quarterback and send out whatever departing players there may be with a bang all while building important momentum for the offseason. It’s pretty safe to say that virtually none of that happened. A disappointing performance to close the season and the basketball game can’t start soon enough.
And now, a few notes on the game…
—The Cats were anemic on offense, turning it over when they did manage to put drives together and shooting themselves in the foot with penalties and missed opportunities when they didn’t. The plan was centered around easy throws for Morgan Newton, but it failed to move the ball effectively and, interestingly, it wasn’t until late in the game when the offense was forced to open up that it started looking more like something we’re used to. Unfortunately, it was too little, too late. There were too many third-and-longs, too many dropped passes, not enough Derrick Locke and probably a few too many quarterback runs that weren’t handled by Randall Cobb to have success against a Pitt defense that was missing key players but came ready to play. Although Morgan Newton played relatively well [21-36, 211 yards] and had some nice throws, one thing the offensive performance did do was show anyone who thought Mike Hartline wasn’t the best option to run the show all season that they were flat out wrong.
—Something that we all were certainly watching was how the defense would look after their first month of practice in the ‘Nuclear’ Minter regime. Although the first half was good for the most part, overall it wasn’t much of a change. When the other team’s quarterback goes 9-of-19 for 96 yards and you get blown out, it doesn’t say a whole lot for the defensive performance. The Cats gave up 261 yards on the ground on 46 carries, good for 5.7 per carry and good to be called an abysmal showing. Pitt ran any time they wanted to, and even when the Cats knew it was coming they couldn’t stop it. There were good individual performances, particularly Danny Trevathan’s 12.5 tackles to possibly put the cap on a great career and Randall Burden’s interception and fumble recovery, but as a whole the defensive unit was, unfortunately, a lot like the one we saw for much of the SEC season, even if it was at least entertaining to watch Steve Brown talk into a headset that may or may not have been plugged in. As bad as it was, though, the offense didn’t do it too many favors.
—And neither did the special teams, as arguably the two most pivotal plays in the game came in that phase. The blocked punt set Pitt up for an easy touchdown late in the first half when the defense had actually been playing well, giving them momentum they wouldn’t relinquish until they had basically wrapped up the game. The failed fake punt also gave them good field position and a 17-point lead, which was entirely too much for the Cats to overcome. The call can be debated, and although I don’t necessarily mind it because personally I love fake kicks, the worst possible scenario followed with the Panthers turning it directly into a touchdown and it made it look like a terrible idea.
—If this indeed was the last time we see Randall Cobb in a Kentucky uniform, it was both historic and a little disappointing. Cobb probably didn’t get the ball as much as he should’ve, but it almost always seems like that’s the case. However, having him get the same number of carries as Raymond Sanders in a game where taking pressure off a fairly inexperienced quarterback is a huge key is pretty inexplicable. He finished with only eight total touches on the day, which is not even close to enough. However, he did break Darren McFadden’s SEC single-season record for all-purpose yards, so congratulations to him on that and pleasecomebackpleasecomebackpleasecomebackpleasecomeback.
Now our attention turns to NFL decisions, recruiting and addressing the needs of the team. ‘Operation: Win’ doesn’t quite have the same effect after a 6-7 season, and improvements must be made and players developed if the program is to move forward like we hoped it would this season. For now, though, it’s basketball season and nothing else and after taking a beating like that to close out the year in football, that’ll have to serve as consolation.