Now 24 hours after the festivities at Commonwealth Stadium and fresh off my Bears fumbling loss to the Chargers, it is a good time to review the Cats uneven, but ultimately strong win over the Kent State Golden Flashes. Due to the game being available in state only on Pay-Per-View, many folks likely didnt get to see the festivities and the flow of the game was not easily discernable by the final score. So here are some thoughts from Section 113…..
(1) The first half showcased Kentucky’s defensive inability to once again contain a scrambling quarterback. If you remember last season’s win against Ole Miss, the Big Blue Nation’s collective cries for Mike Archer’s job began picking up steam as the fans watched the Rebels’ QB continually run designed quarterback keepers for seemingly endless amounts of yards. In that game, it seemed that Kentucky not only had no answer for stopping his scampering, but was unable to make an in-game adjustment to contain. This game however was a bit different…..most of the QB scrambling wasnt designed but was improvisation after the pocket collapsed. Also, the Cats were in position to make tackles, but simply didnt. When the coaches break down film of the game, the amount of missed tackles will likely set some sort of dubious record.
(2) Ultimately however, the Golden Flashes never truly made Kentucky pay for their sins due to Kent St’s self-inflicted errors throughout the first half. Three turnovers while driving and one inexplicable inability to get a field goal off at the end of the half turned a game in which Kent St had outgained UK 268-92 into a 14-14 tie at the half. The spread offense run by Kent St was well-designed, but the in-game management was abysmal. The Kent ST coaches continued to try and force pass plays onto a defense that had shown no ability to stop the scrambling runners and these decisions usually ended up stopping or slowing down drives. UK went into the half knowing it was tied after having been severely outplayed, and this was solely the fault of Kent St’s own mental breakdowns.
(3) With all of the criticism of the first half, the Cats in the second half were firing on all cylinders. They ran the ball effectively, got the passing game going and showed a new energy on defense. Putting up 42 points in a half would by itself seem to be enough (unless you are Western and putting up 87 in a game), but equally as impressive was how they did it. Unlike the Eastern game, where a physical advantage existed for UK at every position, in this game the Cats simply outworked and outhustled the Golden Flashes in the second half and took advantage of an exhausted offense that simply couldnt scamper like it did early. The second half was as impressive as the first half was frustrating.
(4) Great to see two big receptions from Kentucky Sports Radio favorite Steve Johnson. With Burton often seeing double coverage, Johnson once again found lanes and hit two big receptions, one of which was a touchdown as the other was stopped at the 1 yard line. Johnson also showed physicality, breaking tackles and using his strength to bully for more yards.
(5) It was very difficult to watch the injury to Ricky Lumpkin. A member of the Kentucky Sports Radio crew was near the end of the field where the injury took place and told me that you could hear his screams of pain on a couple of instances. Lumpkin has been playing really well and heres hoping the injury turns out not to be as serious as it looked.
(6) Lots of breakdowns in the first half from the offensive line. Andre Woodson kept the ball for too long on a couple of instances, but he also wasnt given the time to let some routes develop thanks to some breakdowns in assignments. Unlike last year however, the results were usually due to mental mistakes (which are presumably correctable) and not sheer lack of physical size and strength (which is probably not).
(7) The military presence at the game was great. Fans gave the men and women in uniform multiple ovations and they spent the game on their feet, even beginning a wave that took off all over the stadium. I am always impressed with the amount of respect people from all walks of life and political backgrounds show the individuals in uniform and Saturday was not an exception.
(8) Just as impressive was the sign of respect shown by the Kentucky football players to the military as each member of the team went and shook hands with the military folks after the game. Andre Woodson and Wesley Woodyard were two of the leaders of this effort and showcased once again why they are such great representatives for the university.
(9) As for the band, it was somewhat better…..by a little bit. They played the theme from the “X-Men”, not exactly modern, but not quite Pat Benetar either. They were joined by the alumni band which included an 80 year old tuba player and two middle-aged baton twirlers whose talent was really the highlight of the game for me. Those women still have it and baton twiring needs to be brought back into the UK marching band…..maybe these two young UK college students can be convinced to join and participate.
(10) As fun as Saturday was, everyone I spoke with was looking with great anticipation at next weekend. Every tailgate I visited ended with the “make sure you come back next week as it will be HUGE statements and all eyes were on how we would match up with the Cards. Virtually everyone has the same belief……we can win, and we are nervous because if we play well it could happen…..but if we dont, it will be a wasted opportunity. The line came out today and it is a Cards favorite by 8 1/2 and a 71 point over-under…..
More later, including some basketball news and a replay of the events of last week that led to the Darius Miller commitment…..