Well it was UGLY, but the Cats managed to find a way to defeat Western Kentucky 14-3 in Nashville last night. This game was hard to watch on many levels. Both teams combined for seven turnovers and 165 yards in penalties. Overall it was just a sloppy game that was poorly attended. Hopefully this game serves as a wake-up call for the Cats. It could have easily ended differently.
WKU’s offense managed 234 yards of production compared to UK’s 175 yards. If anyone would have told me UK was going to hold Bobby Rainey to 105 rushing yards, I would have said, “I’ll take it.” Remember, last season Rainey torched the Cats for 155 rushing yards. Both teams missed opportunities in the 1st half on offense. If the Cats are going to win this season, they can’t afford to miss opportunities.
The Cats came out flat to continue the trend from last season. On the first series, UK went three and out. To say the offense struggled all night is an understatement. Most everyone felt UK’s offensive line would be able to handle WKU’s defensive line, but that wasn’t the case. The Cats managed 78 rushing yards on 34 carries. To put this in perspective, Morgan Newton finished the night with 14 yards on eight carries. His long run of the night came in the 4th quarter when he managed to break a 54-yard run on 3rd and long. Newton has to make quicker decisions and not take sacks.
Newton finished the night 7 of 18 passing for 97 yards and one touchdown. He threw three interceptions. Newton has always appeared to be one who puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on himself. It seemed that way last night. He was forcing throws and simply making poor decisions. All three of his interceptions could have been avoided. I’m sure film review with the staff will be fun. I would love to be a fly on the wall. He has to make better decisions with the football.
As much as Newton struggled, he did make some great throws. Early in the game, he threw a beautiful ball that hit La’Rod King’s hands in stride. Unfortunately, the pass slipped through King’s hands. It should be been a touchdown. Matt Roark had a couple of drops, but none worse than one on 3rd down that forced the Cats to punt. If Roark makes that catch, the Cats keep the chains moving and keep momentum on their side. Look for Demarco Robinson to receive more chances next week.
In trying to find positives, Josh Clemons recorded his first career touchdown and the running backs didn’t put the ball on the ground. Raymond Sanders started the game, but Clemons saw a lot of action too. Clemons finished the game with 39 yards on 11 carries and Sanders rushed for 35 yards on 13 carries. Neither running back really separated them self. However, Sanders had a few solid runs late to keep the chains and clock moving.
UK’s offensive line struggled all night. Mike Summers has been expressing his concern about the lack of reps the first unit had together during camp. Neither Stuart Hines nor Matt Smith started. Hines entered the game quickly, but the staff held Smith out. He makes a lot of calls for the offensive line. Hopefully these guys can get it together quickly as this was supposed to be the strength of the team.
The game ball should go to Ryan Tydlacka or Winston Guy. Both players had a huge night. Tydlacka had seven punts for 330 yards and flipped the field position several times. Greg Nord has told Tylacka he wants him to “make it rain.” I have been saying he may be UK’s secret weapon this season. Winston Guy had a great game. He was all over the field and recorded two interceptions. He is going to have a huge year in his new role on defense.
While the Cats offense was horrible, the defense really stood out. They had a couple of breakdowns, but they did manage to force four turnovers. Luke McDermott started strong and recorded a sack. Collins Ukwu injured his shoulder, but was having a solid game up to that point. Hopefully he will be ready to go next week against Central Michigan. Danny Trevathan turned in another All-American performance. Every time it looked like Bobby Rainey was about to break a run, Trevathan was taking him to the ground. Overall, fans have to feel much better about the defense after last season.
Based on all the feedback I had been receiving, I felt the Cats were going to simply drill Western Kentucky. The team sounded really focused and all we heard were positives when it came to Morgan Newton. Willie Taggart deserves credit. His team believed they could win and still had a chance in the 4th quarter. I said many times this summer, this UK team could beat anyone, but could lose to anyone too. I think last night showed UK has very little margin for error.
After this performance, many are going to write off this team. Many are going to question Joker Phillips. I’ll tell you to hang in there. It’s not uncommon for offenses to struggle early in the season. Newton will get better and so will the offensive line. The good news is they have a few extra days to get healthy and prepare for Central Michigan. At the end of the day, a win is a win. That’s all that matters.