Sitting in the near frigid temperatures on Saturday night (seriously, is it just me or was it 4 degrees in Commonwealth Stadium?) and watching South Carolina’s quarterback convert 3rd down after 3rd down by QB scampers (both designed and improvised), it occurred to me that I could be a defensive coordinator. I mean granted I don’t know the inner complexities of the nickel vs the dime defense, when is an appropriate time to put “eight men in the box” or to what extent the “cover 2” can be exploited by the spread offense. But I do know this….when I see something happen a number of times with a “Groundhog Day” like repitition, I am going to find a way to stop it before my priorities head for other places.
Kentucky has been absolutely dreadful…..no strike that, to quote Simon Cowell, “bizarrely dreadful” at finding methods to prevent the annihilation of its defense by the mobile quarterback. In various games, Brent Schaeffer, Tim Tebow and even Brian Brohm have found ways to make Kentucky pay for its decision to rarely keep a spy on the quarterback and have gone off for huge runs in crucial situations…often with designed draws that make our defensive coordinators look like they were distracted by a visit from Carmen Electra during team film days. While Tim Tebow running for 73 yards on three consecutive plays may never again be repeated, watching Syvelle Newton (C.M.’s cousin) literally dance down the field against our diving linemen was truly embarassing.
From the get go, it was clear that Steve Spurrier has noted Kentucky’s weakness in this area (that is why he is the ole ball coach) and was determined to exploit it repeatedly. People will focus on the nifty reverse wide receiver deep pass (which only my Middlesboro boy Durrell White didnt bite on), but the much more cruical plays in my opinion were the continued third down conversions by Newton. Kentucky’s crowd has an unbelievable ability to get extremely loud on third down and on multiple occasions, Newton silenced the crowd…..not by showing Randall Cunningham-esque moves, but by simply hitting the stunningly wide open lane created by Spurrier’s spread down the field. One athletic linebacker spy could have prevented this and this was either never thought of or never executed.
Look, I am not as down as most about this game. We still have a solid chance to finish the season where most of us believed was our highest goal, 6-6, and I already have my Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana tickets ready to go (Missouri or Iowa State will pay dearly). But, as the season goes on, the questions about Mike Archer will continue to increase. On a team that has generally played pretty well and has had bursts of true excitement, the startling weakness has been on defense…..and not so much the players, as the schemes….you wonder how long that will continue to be tolerated.