As always, Tom Leach joins us on Sundays to breakdown the game and let us know the thoughts of the Voice of the Wildcats:
When trying to pull off an upset, you don’t have to be perfect but you do have to take advantage of opportunities. Facing an outstanding quarterback, Kentucky deployed a defensive strategy that kept Louisville off its game for almost the entire first half. But a combination of dropped passes, inaccurate throws and two lost fumbles kept the Cats from possibly taking a lead into the locker room. If you do that, you might limit the Cards’ ability to get their running game cranked up and make them play with a fear of losing and then who knows? More than any numbers can illustrate, I think Kentucky fans left the game with just a feeling that their program is back on the right track. And here’s why–JoJo Kemp, Ryan Timmons, Javess Blue, Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery, Za’Darius Smith, Jason Hatcher, Blake McClain and Nate Willis have each done some impressive things in the first three games and all of them are Stoops-era recruits.
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It was that late-second-quarter fumble when the Wildcats were marching toward a potential game-tying touchdown. Instead of the heavily-favored Cardinals having to head to the locker room worrying about the season goals slipping away, they could relax a bit and take solace in knowing they had the ball to start the second half. Long TD drives by UofL on either side of that fumble is when the Cards gain breathing room and put an inconsistent UK offense into a two-touchdown hole.
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KEY CAT STATS
—- 5 three-and-out drives in the first half for UK. Some strategic moves kept Louisville’s offense out of sync until late in the first half and had Kentucky managed a few more first downs, the Wildcats would have benefitted from a big edge in field position–and might have been able to build a lead.
—- 17/37 passing. Eight of those incompletions came on first-down pass attempts, negating Kentucky’s ability to fully deploy its uptempo pace. OC Neal Brown has constantly preached that this offense is built on stringing plays together but between the dropped passes and inaccurate throws, the offense never could find much rhythm for most of the day.
—- 6 TFL’s by Louisville. Kentucky had only one sack so the other five tackles-for-loss by the Cards came on running plays. The defensive lines UK is about to face are going to be better than anything they’ve seen thus far so whether it’s missed blocks upfront or bad reads by runners, the Cats need to reduce the negative running plays.
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“WILDCAT PAW” HELMET STICKERS
—- JoJo Kemp (80 yards on five carries). Coach Stoops made it clear in his postgame remarks that we’ll see more of this guy, who averaged 16-yards-per-carry Saturday. Even if you take out his 47-yard run, Kemp still averaged just over eight-yards-per-carry.
—- D.J. Eliot. Kentucky’s defensive coordinator knew Bridgewater excelled at pre-snap reading of the opponent so UK had to disguise its tactics until the snap, while balancing the desire to not give young players too much to have to think about it. The inexperienced Wildcats executed beyond the years and Louisville had one turnover and only three first downs in its first six drives.
—- Avery Williamson (15 tackles). If you’re in a fight, you want this guy on your side. It’s much easier to do one job’s when things are going well, but Williamson’s production stays consistent when adversity hits, too. Most of his 15 tackles came in the second half when things weren’t going as well for Kentucky and I’ll always remember his 20-tackle effort in that Vandy game last year when his team was getting blown out.
—-l isten to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on “The Leach Report” radio network; and follow him on twitter @tomleachky and via “The Leach Report” page on Facebook
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