Hey, did you hear? UK lost yesterday and a mini-revolution has started on the message boards, questioning the play-calling of coach-in-waiting Joker Phillips. Sound familiar? It’s become pretty much a guaranteed ritual when the Cats lose, which kind of makes you wonder if it’s a chicken and the egg situation. Do the Cats keep losing because of the play-calling or do the fans just (I just noticed I didn’t finish writing this. I have no idea where this was heading. Oh well.)
The interesting twist on this week’s message board meltdown, though, involves the lack of involvement of Randall Cobb – a player who could be accused of being too involved in most games. For a year and a half now – and definitely since Mike Hartline went down a few weeks ago -Randall Cobb has been a crutch that the UK offense has leaned on when they found themselves limping offensively. But, yesterday, the Wildcat formation was thrown into the scrap heap at the first sign of adversity and Kentucky put the burden of offensive success on a true freshman and their pro-style offense.
Entering the fourth quarter, Kentucky trailed the Bulldogs by a touchdown and had the ball on the Mississippi State 35 and, after a Derrick Locke 21-yard run on 4th down, a first down at the 14 yard line and a whole bunch of momentum. But, what followed was a series of six consecutive running plays where four players not named Randall Cobb tried to punch it in the end zone, all of them ending unsuccessfully. Ultimately, the drive would end with Morgan Newton rolling out and throwing a pick from 4 yards out. At a critical point in a critical game, the Cats were able to move the ball….but never put the ball in the hands of their best player, only trying to get him the ball on the final interception play.
The Cats, though, would get one more shot. After the UK defense stopped the Bulldogs, UK and moved 64 yards on 15 plays, giving them another shot at tying up the game. But, curiously, Randall Cobb was again absent on the entire drive, most notably in the red zone where he’s proven to be so lethal. Of the 15 plays, the Cats ran only two running plays, with carries split between Derrick Locke and Moncell Allen, and neither coming from the Wildcat formation. Of the 13 passes thrown by Newton, only one was intened for #18 and Newton sailed it well over his wide open frame.
The question now is, why did Randall Cobb disappear? Rich Brooks said after the game that the staff noticed the ineffectiveness of the Wildcat formation and wanted to find something that would yield more successful results, which I think probably has its merits. Abandoning it altogether? Maybe not. What we do know is that the Kentucky football season has crossed back across that imaginary line from optimism to potential disappoinment and Joker Philllips and Rich Brooks will again be cast as the villians. And, by making conscious decision to remove their biggest play-maker from the offense completely, you have to wonder if they again need to be footing the blame.