Always expect the unexpected during rivalry games. I’d love to meet the fool that predicted UK’s defense would hold the high-powered Louisville offense to 10 points in the first half; I’d give him a firm handshake and a pat on the back. The defense played like you’d expect a Mark Stoops defense to play. They stopped the run and forced multiple 3 and outs early in the first half. Once fatigue began to set in, their bend never broke, forcing Louisville to kick 3 FGs (making 2) that would’ve normally resulted in Touchdowns. Unfortunately the offense couldn’t respond, at all. They didn’t do much of anything right in the beginning of the game: 3 and outs, allowing too much pressure, turnovers, a bad Jalen Whitlow (Max wasn’t great either), and dropped passes make a long list. The only stat that was worse than 3 turnovers was the 3rd down conversion percentage- a WHOPPING 0% (0-13). 675 yards of offense last week may have gotten our hopes too high, but ya still have to love your Cats for beating the spread and proving that Louisville isn’t the untouchable dynasty their fans believe they are.
What did the defense do right? Coach Stoops showed us why he’s considered a defensive mastermind this week. The Cats D rarely looked the same, switching often back and forth from the 4-3 to 3-4, using Jason Hatcher as either OLB or DE. The strategy isn’t worth anything if you don’t execute. Today the Cats played responsible on defense, remaining disciplined on the run, forcing Bridgewater into 3rd and long situations. There was only one recorded sack, but Teddy faced more heat today than he had all season. The secondary played even better, locking down a GREAT WR group (I mean really damn good), with the first half’s lone touchdown coming off a highlight catch that not too many people other than Devante Parker could make. The defense did everything right for as long as they could, leaving optimism on the table in the future for a team that won’t get rolled over by every team in the SEC.
Max Smith, and the enigmatic QB situation. A blunt description of today’s QB play would be “they sucked”. Jalen looked as scared as he did against WKU, with his first two plays resulting in a fumble and a run for a loss of 4. Max was missing his throws; whether it was a second late on the decision or just a bad pass, Max couldn’t find a rhythm. Once he hurt his shoulder, it forced Whitlow to step up. Jalen showed a little more moxie in the end, throwing his first TD pass of the season to Alex Montgomery, but everyone that watched the game knows he didn’t play as good as he can play. Who knows what will happen with Max’s shoulder in question. Pat Towles and Reese Phillips were both seen warming up on the sidelines at one point during the game. Expect things to be even crazier than they already have been.
Today’s Best Performers
Javess Blue- Filling in for the injured Demarco Robinson, Javess was consistently UK’s best athlete. Javess was good deep, down the middle, and turned a couple screens into big plays. While it’s hard to not mention a couple of his drops, his improvement in the Special Teams department makes it easier to overlook. After proving that it was a struggle last week, Javess put the team in fantastic field position twice. No one came close to matching his 6 catches for 58 yards.
Jason Hatcher- Hatcher got a great firsthand chance to upend his hometown team today, playing the majority of the snaps as a DE/OLB. His pass rush was solid, and his run support got him 4 tackles on the day. He may not have had an 8 tackle game like Bud Dupree, but essentially acting as a first time starter, the true freshman excelled.
Ryan Timmons- Timmons is the spark-plug that UK needs to utilize more on offense. They used him a lot, but Timmons’ 3 catches (2nd most on the team) and 2 runs aren’t enough for this offense to be successful. His 75 receiving yards (most on the team) were explosive big plays, with one of his runs on first down moving the sticks.
JoJo Kemp- The live blog fans were relentless in their desperate desire to see Kemp on the field. After watching a half without Kemp in the game, he went on to lead the Cats in rushing (80 yards on 5 carries) for the second consecutive week. Timmons and Kemp were UK’s only chances offensively this week and will have to be integrated more into the game plan in the future.
The ghost of Joker Phillips’ dropped passes showed its ugly face early and often today. They happened on every type of play: the easy screen pass, the touchdown pass, the ‘tough catch, but you’re in the SEC and should make that’ kind of catch, with their most important drops occurring on 3rd down. It was painful to watch some of the few good thrown balls turn into nothing. Hopefully the intense Top Ten Rivalry game got all of this BS out of the young wideouts’ systems.
A few plays here, and a few there. In any big game you’re going to need some big plays. Jeff Badet’s 27 yarder late in the first half looked similar to his big TD last week, using the spin move to mangle the Dirty Birds’ ankles. With a little over 40 seconds left in the half and the ball inside the red zone, the next play the Cats coughed it up. A Touchdown would’ve made it a tie ball game at 10 going into half. I guess that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.
Moral victories aren’t a real thing. A loss hurts EVERY time. This game is one of the few losses that didn’t feel so bad. UK played with the Cards for most of the game. What kills me is that this team didn’t look anything like a team we’ve seen hit the field this season. Heading into the BYE week, you’d expect the team to have formed some type of identity after 3 games. So far we’ve seen a run team that couldn’t tackle, a great passing team with a solid run D, and a tenacious defense that can stop one of the best QBs in the country but doesn’t have an offense to back it up. Which one of those teams will be the one taking the field for the rest of the season? Moving forward, hold your head high knowing that Stoops has built a defense that can slow down a Heisman Trophy Candidate and a BCS National Title Offensive MVP.