The only thing worse than almost losing to Eastern Kentucky? Losing to Eastern Kentucky. Perspective can be hard to find after a near miss like last night, but that’s what the morning after is for. In that spirit, I spent the morning breaking down the biggest areas of concern in UK’s near-loss to Eastern (hard for me to call this a “win”) and, in an attempt to comfort myself, found a silver lining for almost every single one. It wasn’t easy.
Let’s start with the most offensive.
UK only had 55 yards rushing
…on 36 attempts. To be fair, 13 of those attempts were by Patrick Towles, but UK’s normally-robust rushing attack looked weak against Eastern, an FCS team. After getting the starting nod over Boom Williams, JoJo Kemp had 14 carries for 46 yards and one touchdown. Mikel Horton carried the ball 9 times for 13 yards. Freshman Sihiem King, who many figured would see the field, never did. With Boom out, UK’s rushing attack faltered, in part because Eastern’s defense manhandled UK’s offensive line.
Silver lining: Boom Williams will be back in the lineup for Auburn. Hopefully the offensive line, which has seen a lot of praise this season, will get their act together as well.
Patrick Towles’ first half was awful
Patrick better be happy he had the second half he did, because that first half? Woof. 10-19 for 121 yards, zero touchdowns and two interceptions. Florida Patrick was back. With each bad throw and sack, the calls for Drew Barker became deafening. His offensive line wasn’t doing him any favors, but Patrick dug a hole for himself in the first two quarters.
Silver lining: Patrick’s second-half and overtime performance may have saved him his job. 19-23 for 222 yards and three touchdowns. Missouri Patrick was back! Can we keep him?
Also, I love you, Patrick, but can we cool it with the hair shakes and winks? Or at least save them until the end of the game?
At times, the offense looked inept
…against an FCS defense. There’s a lot of blame to go around here, but it starts with the offensive line. EKU had four sacks for 33 yards, numerical proof they manhandled UK’s line. That poor performance led to ineptitude across the offense, especially the rushing attack.
Silver lining: They showed up when it mattered. I praised Patrick Towles’ second-half performance earlier, but the biggest praise has to go to Dorian Baker, whose heroics saved Kentucky from the ultimate embarrassment. Baker had 8 receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns, a few of those catches so freakish and athletic that at times, you wonder if he’s human.
Shannon Dawson’s comments about Baker after the game said it all.
“He’s a special kid. He’s a competitor. And he’s one guy that, in my opinion, tonight, he really put this offense on his back. He said, ‘Gimme the ball.’ So we got him the ball, and probably some situations where it wasn’t a good look to get him the ball.”
Once you get over how terrible the offense looked for most of the game, you have to admit that their final few drives were pretty freaking impressive.
EKU ran for 180 yards; put up 363 yards total
Remember that defense everyone was raving about after the Missouri game? Me too. Where were they last night? EKU put up 363 yards of offense, 180 of those on the ground. Behind Ethan Thomas and Dy’Shaw Mobley, the Colonels averaged 3.5 yards per carry to UK’s 1.5.
Silver lining: I’m struggling to find one, so instead, I’m just going to praise Cory Johnson. Johnson built on a career game against Missouri with another one against EKU, tallying 19 tackles, including three for loss and one sack. There were a lot of negatives in last night’s near-loss, but Cory’s performance certainly wasn’t one of them.
Eastern wanted it more
The phrase that keeps running through my mind while writing this is “against Eastern!”. After a big win over Missouri and an enticing Thursday night showdown with Auburn on the horizon, it’s clear Kentucky overlooked Eastern and almost got burned for it. But you have to give the Colonels credit. With heavy hearts, they came to play and clearly wanted the game more. Quite frankly, they deserved to win.
Silver lining: Hard to find one here. After almost losing to a FCS team, overlooking opponents shouldn’t be an issue the rest of the season.
Kentucky almost lost
Silver lining: They didn’t.