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What Is Going Wrong This Season?

Forget the Wildcat or Scratch, this guy is the official UK Football Mascot

Forget the Wildcat or Scratch, this guy is the official UK Football Mascot

Well, if you said “it can’t get any worse than this” after the opening loss to Southern Miss, you were incorrect.

I have seen some terrible football over the years, but Florida’s annihilation of UK in week 2 was as bad of a Wildcat performance as I have ever witnessed.  UK didn’t just lose — they failed to even compete on any level.  It was humiliating, embarrassing, and troubling.  This season is in the danger zone, and if Stoops and Company do not figure something out quickly it will be over before it really even begins…it may already be over.  I know UK has a gimme game against New Mexico State next week, but Chester could be the only person in BBN who will care about that game after Saturday’s performance.  The coaches and team must find a way to re-group, but we basically have already thrown our Hail Mary with the player’s only meeting after week 1.  This just feels like a train running off the rails.  So what exactly went wrong over the last six quarters of football?  It’s really quite simple…nearly everything!

No Defense

The statistics are too horrifying to look up, so let’s approximate — the Cats have given up around 1,000 yards of offense and about 80 points over the last six quarters, and that is with Florida taking their foot off the gas in the 4th quarter Saturday.  The defense has been put in some terrifying situations by the offense’s lack of production — on the field WAY too much, bad field position, etc.  But the bottom line is we aren’t resisting opposing offenses at all.  We made Florida’s journeyman QB look like an All-American field general, and have made every opposing running back look like Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson.  We are not as elite in the secondary as we thought, and our front seven – Jordan Jones excluded, he’s been awesome – has played even worse than we imagined.

We are playing a lot of young defensive players, so mistakes are to be expected.  But this is the fourth year with DJ Eliot running the show, so he and his coaching staff should have a much better handle on leading this defense.  Yet we consistently look lost out there, and when things go wrong no one seems to have any ideas for how to solve the problems.  If the defense, coaches and players alike, do not improve dramatically and quickly, we will end the year as the worst statistical defense in school history.  Even if the offense were to turn it around, UK can’t keep giving up 500+ yards a week and expect to beat anybody.

Loyalty is an admirable trait in a person, but there is such a thing as being too loyal to your assistant coaches — just ask Tubby Smith.  I believe Mark Stoops should take over running the defense from this point on.  And if he is already running the defense behind the scenes, he needs to let it be known.  Stoops is a defensive guy with a successful track record.  The fans need to know that he is doing everything he can to right the ship, including taking full responsibility for improving the porous defense.  If he ends up losing his job, Stoops needs to at least go down swinging.  Take the reins, Coach, and at least then you’ll know you gave it all you had if things don’t end well.

No Offense

Again, check the stats at the door, as the eye test reveals more than enough issues to talk about.  Drew Barker has been even worse the last six quarters than he was good the first two of the season.  I NEVER thought I’d see a game of football on any level where a QB1 had more interceptions than completed passes.  There were tons of reasons for him to be rattled in the Swamp, but I’ve never saw a more panicked signal caller in my life.  Your QB has to be your team leader, the one who rallies the troops when things aren’t going your way.  I don’t think Barker was even looking his teammates in the eye by half time on Saturday.

Barker certainly wasn’t alone in playing poorly.  Where is this power running game everyone talked all offseason about?  Eddie Gran was supposed to feed his backs the ball in bunches.  Boom actually had some success in the first half against UF, particularly on first down.  UK was in far too many 2nd and longs because we went away from Boom on first down.  This team, once again, appears to have no offensive identity.  I expected purpose and a plan on offense, but there has been little evidence of either, especially when the crap hits the fan.  When the Cats need a drive and/or a score, we appear to have nothing to turn to.  This is alarming.

Finally, let’s talk about O Line play.  The supposed strength of the team has been a disaster.  This superior interior line has thus far proved to be a myth, and the tackles have struggled even more.  No offense will be more productive than its O Line, and this unit is the primary reason we’ve only scored 7 points in the last 6 quarters.  I have tried to give Coach Schlarman the benefit of the doubt because he is a UK guy and the players seem to like him, but he has not got it done so far in his time in Lexington.  Talent is no longer an excuse, as the team has more O Line talent than any I can remember.  The offense and all of its skill players will remain stuck in neutral unless the line begins to perform at a much higher level in both the running and passing game.

One Bright Spot

If there was a bright spot from the Florida beatdown, it was the improvement for punter Grant McKinniss.  His average upped by about 8 yards a kick in his second game, and hang time was much improved.  UF’s very dangerous return man Calloway was kept under wraps because of the work on special teams.  The coverage unit on kickoffs remains strong.  And while we aren’t getting any explosion plays out of the return game, they aren’t doing anything stupid.  So special teams has been mediocre, and somehow that has managed to be as good as it gets for the 2016 Kentucky Wildcats to this point.

Conclusion

When you do not perform at even a marginal level on offense or defense, 72-7 over six quarters is apparently what happens.  I’ll be honest, this season has started considerably worse than I thought was even possible.  This is a whole new level of ineptness for Kentucky football.  Can this team turn it around and make this a respectable season?  Absolutely.  They have the talent and enough winnable games left on the schedule to still win 4-6 games.  But will they turn it around?  It is hard to see it happening at this point.  This situation is starting to feel toxic.  Losses like the one in Gainesville will do that to a program.  Winning is the only cure at this point.  This team needs to DOMINATE New Mexico State just to stop the bleeding.  I think the Cats definitely win this week, but the season will hang in the balance in week 4 when South Carolina comes to town.  That game will be the difference between a 5+ win season and a 2-3 win season.  Leaders need to emerge on that sideline, and they need to emerge now.  Gut check time, Wildcats…if there is anything left in the tank at this point now would be a good time to access it.

Article written by Brad Sherman

13 Comments for What Is Going Wrong This Season?



  1. pithuahua
    7:52 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    like Spurrier used to quip after beating the crap out of Kentucky when he was at Florida…” Well they seem to always have a pretty punter”. Go Big Blue….



  2. roundballwiz
    7:56 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    Brad, let’s just face the fact that our Cats will never have a great football program like the elite teams of the SEC. UK has, and always will be, a basketball fanatical school and the top football players in high school know it. Like some of our lesser publicized athletic programs, UK needs to get out of the SEC. If not, then recruit the kids from Kentucky. At least we know they will play with heart.



    • Luether
      8:01 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

      The fact that we are a basketball school is irrelevant to the the lay-down that our football team has done this year…



  3. AndTheDevil
    8:18 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    I think a lot of this is we have a coaching staff that is full of examples of the Peter Principal. Stoops has never been a head coach and maybe he’s not meant to be. Football world is full of coordinators that never panned out when given the head job. Also Gran’s offense is based a lot on tempo, without tempo it’s pretty generic. see Chip Kelley as an example of no fast tempo equals no points. Cincinnati isn’t the same as SEC.



  4. WeareBBN
    8:40 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    So I guess Patrick and Shannon were not the problems. Winning football at major levels starts with the lines, O and D and that is the weakest part of this team. At this point I call no game a gimme and I won’t be there anyway, gave my tix away and saved $500. Will probably go back for the SC and MSU games cause I have tix to the Bengals game the next day on my way home. That is prolly it for me, I can not give effort as well. The last 6 quarters is as disappointed as I have ever been in our team, including 73-7 and 65-0 losses I was out in Gainesville 10 years ago. Don’t see a change in outcomes as the lines are what they are but effort better be there.



    • psacatfan
      7:26 am September 13, 2016 Permalink

      Couldn’t agree more. The OL and DL are the foundation of any decent football team and ours are woefully inadequate. Player development at these positions seems to be the biggest problem. Our senior O linemen are constantly getting beat my underclassmen. A coaching change is definitely called for.



  5. bluecat15
    8:42 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    Offensive and defensive lines are pitiful!!! Lack of coaching or lack of heart? Game is won or lost in the trenches.



  6. dale-in-orlando
    8:59 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    I’m all in on cheating and having a good time while it lasts. They can never take the air raid memories away from me. They can’t take away James Whallen and Derek Abney. We might have paid for it down the road but it sure was fun while it lasted. I can’t believe that I am writing this but this six year nightmare has got to stop.



  7. AllBall
    11:14 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    You could be on to something with the cheating/bending rules idea. Seriously all they can do is vacate wins, prohibit a bowl game, or lose some scholarships. Our fanbase is already used to not having most of these anyways.



  8. AllBall
    11:21 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    However, a cheating scandal could cost us our coach. Okay, so the benefits may outweigh the consequences more than I thought.



  9. Willis talkin bout....
    11:37 pm September 12, 2016 Permalink

    The only thing that will make our defense look good. Is playing against our offense. And vice versa. I guess that’s why everyone thought we would be good this season through spring. Little did we, or the coaches apparently, realize both sides of the line suck.



  10. robuk
    8:54 am September 13, 2016 Permalink

    Fire the entire coaching staff and start over. At least there will be excitement as we hire and listen to the new coach talk about how UK is where he always wanted to be. Recruiting excitement will follow. Then we will suck his first year as he gets his players here. Then after 4 years we well still suck so we fire him and start over.



  11. Howdy Doody
    9:40 am September 13, 2016 Permalink

    4 wins max….THEN what ?? ANOTHER contract extension and pay raise ?
    Yeah, thats’ the ticket…..