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Kentucky’s bye week lasted two weeks

Oct 21, 2017; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs running back Kylin Hill (8) is tackled by Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Jones (34) during the first half at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Your Kentucky Wildcats just pulled off the first-ever double-bye in program history.

After tying the game at seven apiece early in the second quarter, the Cats did just about nothing to put up a fight on the road against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The opposition managed more rushing yards than UK’s total yardage, finished +2 in the turnover margin, and destroyed the time of possession. Absolutely nothing finished in favor of the Wildcats, and it’s best if we just move on and pretend it never happened.

But my job is to write about it. So let’s break down… whatever that was.

Kentucky had two weeks to prepare for this game

Two. Weeks.

Throughout the afternoon, many fans and media personalities made Bulldog QB Nick Fitzgerald out to be the most dominant force the college football world had ever seen and Kentucky had no shot at even attempting to stop this man. He dominated both through the air and on the ground, throwing for 155 yards and a touchdown, along with rushing for 115 yards and two scores. The defense looked like a deer in headlights with the 6’5, 230 lbs. quarterback lined up behind center.

A lot of people seem to forget, however, that Fitzgerald was Mississippi State’s quarterback last year. The same Mississippi State team the Wildcats took down at home.

This wasn’t some revolutionary talent that the Wildcats had no answer for. This was a player and team UK beat last year, and would have been in convincing fashion if you take away a few costly fumbles by Stephen Johnson to put the Bulldogs right back in the game.

The Wildcats had two weeks to prepare for Fitzgerald and the Bulldog offense. They didn’t attempt any trickery to throw the Kentucky defense off, they ran the same offense they had all season long. The same offense the Wildcats had six games worth of film on. And they bought into the media hype and played scared.

Stoops is now 2-3 following a bye week in his career at Kentucky, proving that the week off isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Another score before the half

When the Wildcats went three-and-out following the controversial deep throw on third and one with 3:08 remaining in the first half, Kentucky fans knew exactly what was coming.

Like clockwork, Fitzgerald led the MSU offense down the field, eventually rushing for a 40-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-one where three defenders had the opportunity to bring him down in the backfield. The score pushed the Bulldog lead to 17-7, and they received the opening kickoff in the second half. At that point, we knew things could get ugly in a hurry.

And they did.

KSR friend and Depth Chart podcaster Andrew Eaton found this statistic highlighting Kentucky’s struggles before the half in recent years.

In the Mark Stoops era, Kentucky has surrendered 20 total touchdowns in the final 3:00 of the first half. In the final minute of the first half, the Wildcats have given up 13 touchdowns and 106 total points in the last five years.

To break that down even further, in 56 games, roughly one of every four teams sees the Wildcats surrender a touchdown within the final minute before halftime.

I would say that’s unbelievable, but at this point, it doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

Eddie Gran called his worst game of the season

So. Many. Missed. Opportunities.

I think a lot of it had to do with the pressure of “playing not to lose” critics. Fans have been on Gran for conservative offensive play calls for the past several weeks. Last night he wasn’t “conservative” by any means, but he overcompensated at the wrong times.

Mark Stoops threw in a subtle jab in his post-game presser, saying he and the Wildcat offense “played to win” yesterday afternoon on the controversial third-and-one play call.

That being said, there’s a difference between playing “not to lose” and playing smart.

Why not try out that play on first or second down? Why wait for multiple third-and-short opportunities to throw the ball 30+ yards down the field? Especially when Stephen Johnson had been underthrowing his deep balls throughout the first half, and that continued throughout the game.

The run game hasn’t been working, but that doesn’t mean you have to take deep shots downfield when you only have to go 36 inches to move the chains.

Guys like CJ Conrad, Charles Walker, Juice Johnson, and Lynn Bowden could absolutely dominate in the dink and dunk game. This doesn’t have to be a boom or bust offense, nor is that what it’s designed to be. You have a talented finesse quarterback, use him as a finesse quarterback.

Eddie Gran is an unbelievable football mind and he has done a phenomenal job in his time at Kentucky. That being said, his stubbornness is a kick in the gut sometimes.

Benny Snell has to be Benny Snell again

Seven rushes for 18 yards, with a long of five yards is unacceptable for Kentucky’s premier back. There’s no other way to put it. Snell is one of the most talented running backs in the SEC, but he has yet to prove that this season against a legitimate defense.

Could it be opponents zeroing in on him, knowing he’s a power back without the speed of Boom Williams tiring the defense to start the game? (Yes.)

Could UK’s use of only two backs be finally coming back to haunt them? (Yes.)

The opposition is stacking the box with eight or nine defenders, just daring the UK offense to run the ball up the middle on them. And sadly enough, they do.

The Wildcats’ inability to convert via run on third and short is absolutely killing this offense. If the passing game struggles like it did yesterday, we’re getting zero production with the ball in our hands.

I’m no Kirk Herbstreit, but you won’t win many football games like that.


For the sake of all that is good, let’s move on to Tennessee.


Where in the World is CJ Conrad?

Where in the World is CJ Conrad?

At the beginning of the season, tight end CJ Conrad was expected to be an explosive component of Kentucky’s offense. Last season, he finished as the Wildcats’ fourth leading receiver with 19 catches, 262 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he entered this season on the preseason John Mackey Award Watch List, an award that honors the country’s best tight end. A reliable teammate, a top-level blocker in the SEC and a likable guy, Conrad was poised to become an even bigger fan favorite this season.

And he started out strong. The junior came out fighting against Southern Miss in the season opener, finishing with three receptions for 97 yards and one touchdown. Over the course of the first four games of the season, Conrad was averaging over 48 yards per game on minimal touches – Conrad only had nine catches throughout these early games, but eight catches were longer than 20 yards and three were touchdowns. Moral of the story: he wasn’t getting a lot of catches, but they tended to be big grabs at the right moments, like this touchdown against Florida, for example.

Well, if he’s having so much success, you may wonder, why isn’t he getting more chances? Great question.

According to Coach Vince Marrow after the Florida game, the staff originally planned to get him three to four touches per game. But as he improved, he expected this number to rise.

“I know this, the kid makes plays when the ball is thrown to him,” Marrow said. “He will be more a part of the offense, trust me.” 

But that was weeks ago. Since then, Conrad’s stats column has been freakishly empty. Zero yards; zero touchdowns.

He did get a touch at the very beginning of yesterday’s matchup. On the second play of the game, Stephen Johnson threw an incomplete pass to Conrad. He dropped the ball, and the tight end did not get another look the rest of the night.

So what gives? Listed at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds, Conrad is incredibly athletic. Remember his touchdown against Southern Miss? Remember how he ran nearly 22 miles per hour in his 59-yard catch? Remind yourself with the replay:

“People after his first four games, you know, there’s eyeballs all over him,” Gran said after the Mississippi State loss. “So now your [run/pass options] to him and stuff like that to him are a little bit less. We had another couple called to him, but the read took him somewhere else because of the coverage.”

Gran went on to say that the tight coverage on Conrad should free up other receivers.

Even when playing against a strong defense, Gran, Conrad, and the rest of Kentucky’s offense must find a way to get Conrad at least a few open looks per game. When he is so well covered, other receivers need to step up and make the plays Conrad is capable of making. And they better do it quickly – Tennessee is coming.


@MaggieDavisKSR


Gunnar Hoak’s dad is not a fan of Eddie Gran right now…

Gunnar Hoak’s dad is not a fan of Eddie Gran right now…

At least one football parent is fed up with the Kentucky offense’s lack of production.

Gunnar Hoak’s dad took to Twitter to express displeasure in Eddie Gran’s play calls, saying he’s “tired of all the excuses.”

Check out his string of tweets and retweets from the game:

As we posted earlier, Blake Bone had similar thoughts after the game, saying the team would be “unstoppable” if they threw the ball more with Stephen Johnson right next to him.

Yikes.


Cats Get Rolled in Starkville

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

What could have gone wrong did go wrong for Kentucky in Starkville. Saturday’s performance surprisingly came after a bye week which meant an extra week of preparation. The Cats were dominated in all three phases. Kentucky played its poorest game of the season when a victory could have clinched bowl eligibility and made a statement of belonging in the SEC East. Instead, it must now claw its way back after getting beaten up by Mississippi State 45-7.

It’s not that the Cats lost on the road. Kentucky was defeated by a good football team that was favored by nearly two touchdowns. Prior to the game I didn’t understand the point spread. Afterwards, I got it. Miss State may end up being the second or third best team in the West. It’s the manner in which UK was smacked around along both lines of scrimmage that signaled alarms. On October 21st 2017, the Bulldogs were just plain faster, stronger, smarter, more physical, better coached, and well; you get the picture.

OFFENSE

59 plays, 260-yards, 14 first downs produced just 7 points. It also gave up 7 tackles for loss and 3 quarterback sacks. Time of possession: Miss St 34:49, Kentucky 25:11.

UK was whipped up front, dropped passes, had very little running back generated rushing attack, and threw two picks. Mississippi State should be credited for an accurate game plan, physical demeanor, and timely execution. But in my opinion, Saturday was more telling about UK’s deficits. The Cats beat this team 40-38 a year ago and defeated its defensive coordinator in last year’s Governor’s Cup. Miss State was just plain meaner and exhibited a much higher desire to win this time around. Hat tip to Dan Mullen and that cow bell toting home crowd atmosphere.

The Wildcats cannot expect to win another game this season if it doesn’t somehow, some way establish a run game. It’s not done so on a consistent basis through seven games. Perplexing given 2016 results and with a running back like Benny Snell in the backfield. Quarterback Stephen Johnson’s 54-yards led the team. The offensive line rotated personnel but has yet to establish a solidified foundation to provide satisfactory running lanes or adequately protect the quarterback. This trend was blatantly obvious on Saturday against a physical, disruptive front seven. Opposing defenses will continue to be highly talented throughout the rest of the season. Things will not get easier. UK continued to struggle on first down which led to several 3rd and unmanageable situations (6/14-42.85%). That’s not exactly a recipe for victory in the Southeastern Conference or any college football league for that matter.

DEFENSE

Totally whipped up front. Miss State ran 75 plays for 441-yards, 25 first downs, and 45 points. The Wildcats didn’t tackle, cover receivers, maintain gap integrity, or counter physical play with a great deal of fight. Mississippi State ran for 282-yards off 48 carries. The vast majority of these yards came after initial contact which was as distressing as the loss itself. Credit MSU’s state of mind for fighting through arm tackles and being mentally and physically tougher for sixty minutes.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald completed 54% of his passes prior to Saturday. Against Kentucky, the junior signal caller completed 70% of his throws for 155-yards with a group of receivers that were not known for their pass catching prowess. Again, credit Miss State. This is majorly concerning considering that UK has to face teams with elite throwing quarterbacks and pass catchers like Ole Miss, Louisville, and Georgia.

SPECIAL TEAMS

As badly as the Cats were beaten up on the line of scrimmage, special teams really didn’t factor.

 WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

The back half of the schedule is difficult. Been saying that since Media Days. How Kentucky bounces back from Saturday’s embarrassing performance against a wobbly Tennessee team will define the 2017 season. It’s a simple as that. Tennessee played Alabama close (in context) for a half. The Tide led the Vols 21-0 after two quarters.

Listen, every team has an off day. But, Miss State’s complete line of scrimmage domination coupled with Kentucky’s continuing problems in both phases of the run game present a new perspective for Cat’s final five games. UT RB John Kelly will test the UK run defense. Kelly is one of the conference’s leaders in yards after contact and one of the best overall running backs the Cats will go against. There are also some very talented defenders along the Volunteer front seven that will provide similar challenges that were present against MSU. Plus, no outcomes can be taken for granted after this Miss State performance. Plus, the UK-UT game was once considered a rivalry. The two teams used to play for a trophy. Heated emotional games can lead to strange results. Tennessee historically is at its best against Kentucky. Or so it seems.

There were very few positives that can be construed from the 45-7 humiliation. The bigger and more telling question is what’s the ceiling for this football team? There are no sure wins in the back half of the schedule. Never has been.

An embarrassing loss can be answered in two ways. First, give up or simply throw in the towel. Second; learn from prior mistakes, circle the wagons, and become better from the experience. While future opposing teams may not have favorable win/loss records, there are still several competent individual players that are talented enough to take over a ballgame much like Nick Fitzgerald did in Starkville.

Kentucky cannot afford to lose to Mississippi State twice. Cliché and coach speak but applicable. Media and fans alike will decipher, complain about, and debate Saturday’s loss for at least a week. Mark Stoops and team will not be afforded that same luxury. Kentucky has no other choice than to go back to work and move on to Tennessee. For many and varying reasons, Saturday’s pending matchup is pivotal for both teams. Seven decisive days await the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers. Somebody’s season is about to change…….


Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson out for the year with knee injury

@OleMissFB

Big news out of Oxford, Mississippi…

According to several reports, Ole Miss starting quarterback Shea Patterson will miss the remainder of the season with a torn PCL.

Ole Miss has since confirmed the news.

Ever since the NCAA announced their investigation into the program for countless scandals over the last several years, Ole Miss has crumbled significantly. Just about the only bright spot the Rebels had to offer was their star quarterback, and now he’s done for the year.

Kentucky takes on the Rebels at home in two weeks, a game the Wildcats were already expected to win. With this news, UK’s chances just got that much better.

You never want to see a guy go down due to injury, especially a talent like Shea Patterson, but this is a significant development.

Prayers for Patterson in his road to recovery.


My Bad

My Bad

When teams lose, coaches take the blame.  Following their example, I must be accountable for my reckless pregame behavior.

What. An. Idiot.

This kind of reckless prediction happens when you’re drunk on success.  On the verge of seeing my fifth consecutive road victory, I tried to will Kentucky to a victory and failed miserably.

Everything seemed to align for a Kentucky upset.  The Cats were coming off a Bye, Miss. State was missing two of their best offensive players and Starkville was dead.  It wasn’t the normal Starkville desertion either.  The tailgating atmosphere was unlike anything I’ve ever seen prior to a college football game.  Cowbells did not fill the air.  It was quiet on the overcast day, as though the fans were preparing for impending doom.

Instead of doom, they watched their quarterback light up the Kentucky defense.  They celebrated with a night full of tailgating that was not quiet and Tweets to my account to remind me of the final score.

Each trip to Starkville I learn a lesson.  This time it’s simple: sometimes shooters probably shouldn’t shoot.


Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Cats in the NFL Schedule Week 7

Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

BBN, are you ready for some NFL action? 8 former Kentucky Wildcats play today as the NFL begins Week 7 of the 2017 season.

Player GameTime/TV
Za'Darius SmithBaltimore Ravens @ Minnesota Vikings 1:00/CBS
Avery WilliamsonTennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns 1:00/CBS
Wesley WoodyardTennessee Titans @ Cleveland Browns 1:00/CBS
Corey PetersArizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams1:00/FOX
Larry WarfordNew Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers1:00/FOX
Randall CobbNew Orleans Saints @ Green Bay Packers1:00/FOX
Danny Trevathan Carolina Panthers @ Chicago Bears 1:00/CBS
Bud DupreeCincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers 4:25/CBS

 


Blake Bone had some interesting thoughts following UK’s 45-7 loss to Mississippi State

A few weeks back, Lynn Bowden sparked controversy for his postgame thoughts on social media. Last night, another Wildcat voiced his displeasure on social media with Kentucky’s playcalling.

Blake Bone finished the afternoon with two receptions for 17 yards, but he feels the team needs to throw the ball more to find more success. In his own words, the offense would be “unstoppable” if they threw the rock more.

KSR’s own Brent Wainscott found this interesting story on SnapChat following the game… (Follow Brent on Twitter @BrentW_KSR.)

(NSFW WARNING)

Interesting seeing Stephen Johnson in there at the end…

Is Bone wrong?

And more importantly, how long before Mark Stoops takes social media away from his players?


Today on KSR: Gameday Recap, World Series and Today in Sports

Today on KSR: Gameday Recap, World Series and Today in Sports

PHOTO: Jim Brown – USA TODAY SPORTS

Well, guys, here we are. Yesterday was not fun. And even though today’s a new day, there is still a lot to be said about Kentucky’s atrocious 7-45 loss at the hands of the Bulldogs. The KSR crew will be bringing you lots of new content throughout the day, but let’s start with some of the basics:

A Nasty Loss Across the Board

While yesterday’s loss was painful to watch, it’s difficult to pinpoint one specific problem. Instead, it was mediocracy – or worse – across the board. The offense couldn’t convert, the defense couldn’t stop Nick Fitzgerald’s run game while continuing to miss tackles, the Kentucky running backs never got their momentum going, the secondary continued to give receivers cushion, Stephen Johnson struggled, the coaches play calling once again came into question… you get the point. Even the #KSRSecretPlay (a trick play where Johnson tossed to Bowden who also threw it) only benefitted the Cats because of a pass interference call on the Bulldogs.

In some games, it’s easy to blame the loss on one specific moment or even one specific player. But yesterday, the Cats just couldn’t keep up with the Bulldogs.

Back to Stephen Johnson

Yesterday’s performance was the quarterback’s worst of the season by far. He completed just 46 percent of his passes compared to his season average of nearly 64 percent – plus he had two interceptions. He rushed for 54 yards, his second-highest of the season behind 74 yards at South Carolina.

But the upsetting part isn’t that he ran for 54 yards, it’s that he was Kentucky’s leading rusher – by a lot. A.J. Rose placed second with 26 yards, followed by Sihiem King with 24 and Benny Snell with 18. Mississippi State’s run game was also controlled by their quarterback, who finished with 115 yards.

Mississippi State rushed for 282 yards, while Kentucky finished with 115 yards. So yes, UK’s entire offense had the exact same amount of rushing yards as Mississippi State’s quarterback. 115 yards for both. Do with that what you will.

The One (lucky) Touchdown

Kentucky’s only points of the night came from quite a bizarre play that can be attributed more to chance than talent. Johnson scrambled to get the first down, but then fumbled the ball right before stepping out of bounds. Wide receiver Blake Bone recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown that tied the game at 7.

At this point, the game was about halfway through the second quarter, and, for a little while, it looked like Kentucky had a shot. But Mississippi State’s next drive resulted in a Bulldogs field goal, and the game quickly got away from the Cats.

“I really feel like the game got away from us with three minutes to go in the half,” Stoops said after the game. “Because we battled back, and we fought to get to 10-7 and we knew that we were hanging on.”

One Unhappy Coach

I’m sure plenty of fans let out some unsavory words during yesterday’s loss, but I doubt anyone spoke more strongly than Vince Marrow. The assistant coach can be heard screaming in the locker room during Mark Stoops’ post-game press conference; I guess the walls in Starkville are pretty thin. The language is extremely NSFW, but the video is all over the internet. I’m not telling you where to find it, but our very own Matt Jones may have retweeted it last night… and I may have linked it here. Watch it if you want.

Lynn Bowden also released some frustration last night, but his, of course, was via social media. Bowden, who finished with three catches for 38 receiving yards and -1 rushing yards (his first negative yardage of the season), said he would be blocking any “negative vibes” coming his way.

College Football Updates:

Believe it or not, Kentucky was not the only team playing football yesterday. Around the SEC, Alabama pounded Tennessee 45-7 (surprise, surprise), LSU beat Ole Miss 40-24 and Auburn thumped Arkansas 52-20. Penn State and their Heisman-trophy contender RB Saquon Barkley continued their undefeated streak (7-0) with a 42-13 victory over Michigan. Notre Dame defeated the USC Trojans 49-14.

World Series

The stage has been set. This year’s world series is official: the Houston Astros vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. Game 1 will be Tuesday night on FOX.

NFL Schedule

Mourn one college football loss with an entire day of profession ball. Here’s the schedule:

  • 1:00 – Buccaneers vs. Bills on Fox
  • 1:00 – Ravens vs. Vikings on CBS
  • 1:00 – Jets vs. Dolphins on Fox
  • 1:00 – Cardinals vs. Rams on Fox
  • 1:00 – Jaguars vs. Colts on CBS
  • 1:00 – Saints vs. Packers on Fox
  • 1:00 – Panthers vs. Bears on CBS
  • 1:00 – Titans vs. Browns on CBS
  • 4:05 – Cowboys vs. 49ers on Fox
  • 4:25 – Broncos vs. Chargers on CBS
  • 4:25 – Bengals vs. Steelers on CBS
  • 4:25 – Seahawks vs. Giants on CBS
  • 8:30 – Falcons vs. Patriots on NBC

NBA Schedule

The BBN shouldn’t write off the rest of the football season just because of the frustration surrounding last night’s loss. But if you need a break from the pigskin, here’s when you can watch some basketball:

  • 3:30 – Hawks vs. Nets
  • 7:00 – Timberwolves vs. Thunder
  • 9:30 – Pelicans vs. Lakers

That’s all I have (for now). Enjoy your Sunday morning, and go cats.

@MaggieDavisKSR


How Kentucky Plans to Bounce Back from Devastating Loss

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s 45-7 loss on the road was an unexpected smack in the face for a Kentucky football team that appeared beyond embarrassing losses like this.

“You never think you’re going to get your face waxed, not in this game,” said Eddie Gran.  “Obviously I didn’t get our guys prepared well enough.  We weren’t physical enough.  We didn’t execute.  I didn’t call good plays.  We gotta come back and show our leadership, where coaching begins.  We gotta come back and go to work.”

I was not in the locker room after the game, but it did not sound like a fun place to be.

“We was hurt.  We didn’t put all our effort.  We didn’t execute,” Josh Allen said.  “We just gotta get better next week.  This can’t be the game that loses us the season because that was only one game.”

Since Stephen Johnson took over the Kentucky offense, Mark Stoops’ program has been defined by their ability to overcome adversity, no matter the circumstance.  That will be put to the test this week, but Courtney Love knows these Cats are capable.   “I think we just need to respond, regroup, and tomorrow we have to get back to work.”

Benny Snell had his worst game as a Wildcat.  The powerful running back had just 18 yards on 7 carries.  It was bad, but Snell knows one thing for certain, “We won’t quit.”

The most captivating message came from Kentucky’s most important player, Stephen Johnson.  Like Snell, the quarterback had one of his worst days in a Kentucky uniform, undoubtedly the worst this season.  He’ll learn from this film, then look forward.

“We can’t take a step back and be like the Old Kentucky, we gotta be like the New Kentucky.”

Nobody misses the old Kentucky.  Today was a reminder of how far the Cats have come over the last year under Mark Stoops.  Once again, Kentucky is against the ropes, right where they are at their best.


Get your tickets to the 45-7 bowl next week!

Get your tickets to the 45-7 bowl next week!

When Tennessee comes to town next weekend, it will be looking to bounce back off a 45-7 road loss in the SEC West from the week before.

Kentucky will be doing the same.

Somebody’s gotta win, right?


Kentucky Called the Perfect Play on Third and One, They Just Didn’t Make the Play

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On a Kentucky third and one with less than three minutes to play in the first half, Mississippi State won the football game.

“I really feel like the game got away from us with three minutes to go in the half,” Mark Stoops said after the game.  “It was imperative that we got first down at that point in time.  We got it to second and short, then we had third and short,” he winced.  “And we went for a shot.  We had the play setup and it almost worked.  They had been super aggressive.  We tried a shot, went for a homerun and the game flipped right there.”

Instead of running the ball, like the omniscient fans requested after the fact, Kentucky drew up a play-action.  Stephen Johnson bootlegged off the fake, set his feet and found a wide open Greg Hart 20 yards down the field.  Unfortunately, the ball didn’t fly far enough.  The Mississippi State defender caught up with Hart and threw up his hand right when the ball arrived to its target.

Eddie Gran fell on the sword for the call.  “I didn’t listen.  I should have.  I had better ears and that’s on me.”

Calling that play was a risk Gran was willing to take to keep Kentucky in the game.

“It’s a pretty big gamble.  It’s high risk.  It would’ve been a really good reward but it didn’t play out like we wanted it to.  We had a guy open.  We didn’t execute it.”

Gran fell on the sword because that’s what fans demand, but fans also demanded that he call that kind of play.  The two biggest complaints about Eddie Gran heading into the Bye Week were:

1. Eddie Gran is too conservative.
2. Gran needs to put the game in Stephen Johnson’s hands.

That play met the criteria.  It was a beautifully drawn play.  It attacked State’s weakness, their safeties, with a player they were not keying on to stop, and rolled Johnson out of the pocket to give him an option to make the play with his feet if necessary.

The play was perfect, the throw was not.

If you add three more yards to Johnson’s pass, Hart is off to the races.  It’s at least a 30-yard gain, and maybe even a touchdown if he breaks the tackle.  Instead, Johnson under-threw his target and the Mississippi State defender made a perfect play on the football to break up the pass.  Football happened.

Coaches can call bad plays, but this was not one of them.  The players were in a perfect position to make a game-changing play that would give Kentucky a chance to pull off the upset on the road, but this time, the players did not make the play to change the game.

The coaches made a call that cost Kentucky the game, but if the players executed, the coaches called the play that put Kentucky in position to win the game.


Blame everything; not a couple bad decisions

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It was easy to blame that 3rd-and-1 call toward the end of the half — which, with all due respect, was not a good play call in that situation — but Kentucky never stood a chance in this game. Say that play connects for a first down and Mississippi State never runs the ball 40 yards on fourth down for a touchdown before the half; the final score in this game likely isn’t too different.

That play should not be forgotten (nor should the next 3rd-and-1 call on the very next drive) because it was yet another poor decision in a long line of game management miscues that fans have questioned, but Kentucky flat out got whooped down in Starkville from start to finish. Stoops even said so himself.

Realistically, it was a game Kentucky stood very little chance to win from the beginning. We knew that all along, and accepted it ahead of time. But to get beat 45-7 coming off a bye week, with so much on the line, was an embarrassment. If they go down there and lose by a touchdown, we move on and get excited for Tennessee next week. This, however, has the fan base wondering what the hell went wrong.

So what did go wrong? The answer is easy, actually: EVERYTHING went wrong. Nick Fitzgerald was dominant, although we could’ve predicted that one. The Bulldogs controlled the trenches on both sides of the ball. Stephen Johnson missed throws. Tackling took a huge step backward, when we thought we were past those fundamental mistakes. The offensive line was banged up all game long. The coaches dropped the ball. The players were severely outplayed. You get my point.

Now we need to know if we were all fooled by the 5-1 start with a pretty tame first half of the schedule, or if this was simply a case of not showing up against a good Mississippi State team. Which is it?

If they come out next week and beat Tennessee, I think all is forgotten and you’re 6-2 with the bowl ticket punched. But if they don’t show up for that Tennessee game and they fall to 6-3, we’ll all be thinking the same thing for the rest of the season, and you know exactly what that is.

Burn the tape of this one and show us a good Kentucky football team, with good coaching, next weekend.


Mark Stoops: “They outcoached us…They whooped us”

Photo: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no sugarcoating it: Kentucky’s performance vs. Mississippi State was abysmal, and Mark Stoops knows it.

“Not acceptable,” Stoops said of his team’s effort. “Didn’t play winning football, didn’t coach good enough. [Mississippi State] took care of business from the beginning to the end.”

Coming off the bye week, Kentucky was rested and healthy but you wouldn’t know it from their performance on the field. After tying the game up at seven on a bizarre fumbled touchdown, the Cats let the Bulldogs score 38 unanswered points. What was Stoops’ message to his squad after the game?

They flat out beat us. They outcoached us. You accept it and there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They whooped us. That’s the way it is. You’ve got to accept it. We all have to look ourselves in the mirror and look at every aspect of our situation and look where we get better, starting with me.”

The play-calling definitely deserves criticism, especially the decision to throw it long on 3rd and one instead of running it late in the second quarter. Nick will have more on that call in a few minutes, but in the meantime, check out an assistant chewing out the players with some NSFW language around the 8:15 mark in the video of Stoops’ presser below. You probably feel exactly the same way.


LIVE: Mark Stoops on the loss to Mississippi State

It was not a good day for Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats. See what he has to say about the 45-7 loss to Mississippi State via our Facebook Live stream: