He really *is* undersized for a defensive tackle!
When football coaches are asked to evaluate a game immediately after its conclusion, they frequently defer the question, saying that they will first have to review the game film. It is somewhat understandable that they make this request, as there is a fair amount on their plate during the game. I felt similarly distracted on Saturday. Between friends, family, tailgate fare and my blinding hatred of all things Cardinal, I needed some follow up study of the game film (by which I mean my DVR-ed television broadcast) before providing any insightful commentary. That task now complete, stand by for knowledge.
As we have known for some time, Randall Cobb is ridiculous. Forget the numbers. Let’s just contemplate Kentucky’s third touchdown drive. It began with Cobb returning the kickoff to the Kentucky 32 yard line. The first play of the series was a screen pass to Cobb. He made a difficult catch in traffic, broke two tackles and drove forward for eleven yards and a first down. That powerful run exemplified Cobb’s physicality; his running style much more like a tailback than a receiver. After Derrick Locke was stuffed in the backfield on the second play of the drive, Cobb made his absurd one-handed behind-the-body catch on the slant from Hartline. You will not see a better catch than that all season, highlighting Cobb’s elite receiving skills. On the next, and final, play of the drive, Cobb took the reigns at quarterback and flew around left end for a 51 yard touchdown. In addition to displaying his skill as a signal caller, this play demonstrated his game speed, which belies his measurable 40 time. This single series revealed all of the traits that make him the country’s most uniquely talented football player.
The stellar plays of Locke, Cobb and Matthews were not particularly shocking to anyone. The same cannot be said of Anthony Mosley and Luke McDermott, who provided Joker Phillips with the sneak attack portion of Operation Win. Mosley played a great deal of Saturday’s game in Kentucky’s nickel package, and provided solid pass coverage. (He was also the victim of a phantom first half interference call.) Mosley also saved the Cats twice in special teams. First, he pounced on Randall Cobb’s fumbled punt, and second, he hustled down Victor Anderson on his long kickoff return, possibly saving a touchdown. McDermott, who I did not mention once in my otherwise brilliant defensive line preview, was amazing. I truly believed his starting assignment on Saturday was a Rudy-esque symbolic gesture; allowing the hard working over-achiever to start the big game in his hometown. I figured that after a ceremonial snap or two, Luke would give way to more talented players. I was mistaken. McDermott was a force in the middle, finding angles to reach the Card backfield repeatedly. His two tackles for loss were more than any lineman on the roster, and an extremely impressive statistic for a defensive tackle. It is now apparent that McDermott is a player and can help this team throughout the season.
Who Was That?
I am constantly fascinated with the exuberance fans have with incoming players at the start of a season. This is especially the case with high profile freshman or guys who the coaches discuss in interviews during the news-starved Fall Camp. A couple who fit this profile, freshman defensive lineman Nermin Delic and corner Jerell Priester, did not see the field as far as I could tell. (Nor are they listed in the official game participation posting.) In fact, the only true freshmen that I am certain saw action were linebackers Avery Williamson and Jewell Ratliff, defensive lineman Donte Rumph, tight end Tyler Robinson, tailback Raymond Sanders and kicker Joe Mansour.
It appeared that several of U of L’s big plays, including Victor Anderson’s long kickoff return and Bilal Powell’s touchdown run, were the result of overly-aggressive and undisciplined defensive work. The Kentucky coverage unit must exercise better lane integrity. In watching the kickoff return again, I counted six Kentucky players within about a five yard area all take each other out of the play. On the long touchdown run, it appeared that both of Kentucky’s linebackers and at least one safety (Bailey) crashed randomly through the line of scrimmage providing no containment. These big plays must be eliminated if Kentucky is going to beat better teams.
It is surreal to me, having lived through an era in which Kentucky fans were happy to just give the Cards a decent game, that some fans are disappointed that the margin was not greater. I think that that notion, in and of itself, speaks to the transformation of both programs. Still, Kentucky was much the better team, and the score was not indicative of that. Bear in mind that at halftime, Kentucky had compiled 271 yards to U of L’s 102 and was averaging 9.7 yards per play. Complacency, combined with a hobbled Locke and Cobb, go a long way to explaining the second half performance. Still, a win at Louisville is an outstanding beginning to what looks to be a promising season. I mean, we could be Ole Miss fans today. Hotty Toddy.
Use the comments to let us know what you saw on Saturday.