Kentucky isn’t the fastest team. Kentucky isn’t the most talented team. Kentucky isn’t even a very good team. So if Kentucky wants to have any shot at winning games in the SEC, the Cats are going to have to avoid costly mistakes and turnovers. That hasn’t happened so far.
Kentucky’s offense has given up 10 turnovers in four games this season. Only 10 other teams in all of football have given up more.
That can’t happen.
When you’re already outmanned on the field, you have to do the one thing you have full control over – hold on to the football. If the offense goes three and out, so be it. Punt the ball and let the defense make it a game of field position. UK did a great job of doing that in the first 8 minutes of yesterday’s game.
The defense forced Florida to punt on its first possession after only gaining 7 yards from inside its own 20. Kentucky took over on the 37, but had to punt it right back. Again, the UK defense forced the Gators into another punt. At that point in the game, the crowd was electric, the players were fired up, and Kentucky had the advantage in field position. Then the one thing that couldn’t happen, happened.
Josh Clemons fumbled the ball away. The game went with it.
Florida’s John Brantley connected with Gerald Christian for a 45-yard touchdown on the first play after the turnover. Florida didn’t look back from there. The Gators were on the board, the momentum shifted, and every fan in Commonwealth Stadium had that sick feeling of “here we go again.” That feeling was exactly right. The Gators would use the momentum to force another UK turnover just three minutes later on their way to three straight unanswered touchdowns in the first quarter and a 48-10 win.
That’s a sloppy football team,” Phillips said after yesterday’s loss. “I have got to get this football team to know how precious the football is. We’ve had very poor field position the last couple weeks, and we’ve given the opponents good field position, and that equals an L most of the time.”
The four turnovers against Florida weren’t anything new to Kentucky. La’Rod King fumbled the ball away after an 18-yard catch and run to the edge of the red zone in the first quarter against Louisville. Had Kentucky scored on that drive, it would’ve been up 10-0 on Louisville and the game could’ve had a completely different outcome. Another fumble in that game doesn’t even show up as a turnover in the statistics but hurt Kentucky just as much, if not more. DeMarco Robinson had a first down inside the 10 on that final drive but fumbled it backwards where it was recovered behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of a 1st and goal for the tie, the Cats were looking at 4th and 6 and we all know how that ended.
Last year’s team had the same turnover problems and the results showed. Kentucky was 4-0 in 2010 when winning the turnover battle. They were 2-7 when tying or losing that battle. That team still hung around in games because of the playmakers on offense. This year’s team doesn’t have that luxury.
The remaining teams on the schedule (outside of Ole Miss, Jacksonville State, and maybe Vandy) shouldn’t have any trouble getting a win over the Cats. So UK’s offense needs to avoid giving those teams any extra help by beating itself.
This isn’t an unrealistic request. We’re not asking for 300 yards passing, 150 yards rushing, or 35+ points. We’re just asking that Kentucky hold on to the football.
Avoid turnovers and you stay in the game. We’ll worry about what happens from there when we get to that point.
Still, Go Cats.