Its late and I dont really feel like a long rant going into a Sunday morning. Suffice to say, Kentucky got beaten badly on Saturday night and with the defeat, a lot of dreams about what could be this year have been put on the backburner. There were lots of problems, the Defensive front got virtually no pressure, Mike Hartline played a poor game and the penalties in the first half were killer. However ultimately the game was lost due to a mindset that didnt aggressively pursue attempting to win in the Swamp. From the opening kickoff, the Cats played not to lose and to “manage” a victory. That is all well and good when you are playing a team that you out-talent such as Louisville or are locked in a close game like we might see next week at Ole Miss. But as we said on here earlier this week, if you are going on the road against a team with more talent, a hostile crowd and a 23 year losing streak…well you must seize the victory. The Cats didnt come close.
The defensive playcalling was horrid and suggested a defeatist attitude from the outset. Rather than put pressure on the Florida QB and attempt to make game-changing plays, the Cats set back and only rushed four, hoping to somehow avoid giving up big plays and win a field position battle. This left Florida WRs covered by UK Linebackers and a QB who had time on nearly every play to pick the open man and move the ball. No big plays were surrendered, but rather the Cats died a million small deaths and gave up six touchdowns to a Freshman who tied an SEC record. The very few times UK blitzed, they had success…but it happened only sporadically as Kentucky somehow showcased a belief that it could win a game in the trenches with Florida, with no evidence on the field to back it up.
The mindset was best seen at the end, with the Cats down 41-14, when Kentucky tried a meaningless Field Goal that was blocked. Why down 27 would you attempt such a fruitless kick? The only reason to do so is to make the score seem closer. It doesnt help you acheive a win or gain confidence from your team, but rather it makes the final margin look slightly better. That was how Kentucky played the whole game…not to lose, rather than to win. Mike Hartline dumped off passes, rather than going downfield not because it would win the game, but rather because it would be “managed.” His best throws were to Matthews deep, and his worst (including the pick six) were short plays that attempted to throw for three yards when eight were needed on third down. In short, it was a timid gameplan executed without passion or aggression.
There is no reason to make too big of a deal out of this game as anyone with some degree of rationality knew that a win was a long shot. But I expected UK to play better and without a scared gameplan. The latter severely disappoints me and worries me as we go into a must-win in Oxford next weekend.