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Cats Roll Up 62, Give up 42 for a 20 Point Win

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If a hypothetical book was written about Saturday’s game it would be titled, “A Tale of Two Halves” or even more descriptive, “A Tale of Two Sides of the Football.” Here are some interesting numbers for your Sunday entertainment:
— Stephen Johnson replaced Drew Barker following an interception and 1st quarter injury. The backup quarterback completed 17 passes for 310 yards, 0 INT, and 3 touchdowns. In addition, he carried the football 10 times for 51 yards while competently executing the Run/Pass/Option scheme.

— True freshman Benny Snell Jr had himself a game. I made the comment on the broadcast, “I don’t think I could love a player more than I love Benny Snell.” Somewhat dramatic, but hey I was excited. His welcome to college football day included 17 carries, 137 yards and 4 touchdowns. Snell is a throwback, old school football player. Tough, determined, physical, and intense are appropriate descriptions for the rookie that resembled a Jerry Claiborne era running back. For the younger crowd, that’s the highest possible compliment that I can bestow upon a UK RB.

— Boom Williams averaged 10.4 yards per carry by rushing 18 times for 188 yards and 1 touchdown. The preseason All-SEC RB managed 25 rushes for 165 yards against Southern Miss and Florida.

— TE CJ Conrad emerged from the abyss to catch 5 passes for 133 yards and 3 touchdowns. The BBN has clamored for TEs to be incorporated into the offensive game plan on blogs, message boards, social media, and on the air waves. Greg Hart also had two grabs and was a physical line-of-scrimmage blocker.

— Punt returner Charles Walker broke a longtime drought by racing 65 yards through the NMSU punt team for a touchdown. Walker’s return score was UK’s first since Randall Cobb’s September 11, 2010 scamper for 6. Oh by the way, I called that if you haven’t heard. Humble brag? Yep and a shot at my not-so compassionate KSR Football Podcast pals that wouldn’t stop with the pregame traffic and elevator jokes. I took the stairs by the way.

— True freshman punter Grant McKinniss averaged 47.5 yards per punt. That’s almost 8 more yards than UK averaged a year ago.

— The Cats averaged 49 offensive plays–279 yards per game in its first two contests. The Johnson-ran offense produced 75 plays and 692 total offensive yards. 9.2 yards per play is an impressive number regardless of opponent.

— Kentucky averaged 94 rushing yards per game against USM and Florida. Boom Williams, Bennie Snell Jr. and crew racked up 381 off 51 carries for an average of 7.47 yards per rush.

— Time of possession average was 21:01 per game. Kentucky controlled the line of scrimmage and clock by utilizing 34:12 on Saturday.

— The Cats had been outscored 35-0 in the third quarter. It scored 14 and allowed 7.

Sunshine pumping? Maybe. I am fully aware that complimenting the Kentucky Football program is not exactly in vogue. But considerable team and individual improvements must be pointed out. A wise mentor once told me, “If you’re willing to critique you must be willing to praise.” New Mexico State is not South Carolina, it’s certainly not Alabama or Louisville. But improvements are just that: progress.

PHOTO BY NMSTATESPORTS.COM

Now for the not-so-good numbers (Defense):

— New Mexico State averaged 27 points and 326 yards of total offense per game against New Mexico and UTEP. The Aggies lit up the scoreboard and the Wildcat defense for 35 first half points; 42 for the game. NMSU also had 500 yards of total offense. No sugarcoating this: immediate and detailed defensive improvements are mandatory.

— NMSU averaged 120 yards on the ground. 223 vs. UK.

— QB Tyler Rogers accounted for 75.7% of Aggie offense in weeks 1 and 2. He was 16-33 for 246 yards and 2 TD’s against UK. Rogers also gained 74 yards on the ground to go along with 2 rushing touchdowns while accounting for 64% of all NMSU offensive yards. He did throw his first two interceptions of the season.

The Wildcats have serious and obvious decencies along the defensive line. NTs Naquez Pringle and Adrian Middleton played the majority of snaps as Matt Elam was utilized situationally. True freshman defensive end TJ Carter showed flashes, as did DT Tymere Dubose who played in his first sustained game action. Defensive ends Courtney Miggins and Alvonte Bell lost edge containment early, but played more fundamentally sound in the second half. Miggins batted down two of Tyler Rogers’ passes in the Aggie’s last offensive drive. UK DL has not registered a QB sack in 2016.

Linebackers are UK’s most active defenders as Denzil Ware, Josh Allen, Courtney Love, and Jordan Jones have compiled a high number of tackles and accounted for all 5 of the team’s QB sacks. However, this group continues to struggle in zone pass coverage. This is an urgent matter in need of immediate correction. In addition to pass defense liabilities, middle linebackers must increase their competence against interior runs. I’m referencing the inability to maintain rush-lane responsibility while facing cut-back runs during zone-stretch–read plays. Overall, inside linebacker play has to progress.

The secondary is more than capable when in man-to-man coverage. But as mentioned earlier, zone pass defense has been troublesome. There are many reasons for this. A lack of a defensive line pass rush, linebackers failing to reach their intended zone responsibility areas, and communication breakdowns have all plagued. All these issues are correctable. Rectification has to be done in a hurry and before the Gamecocks come to town.

Photo by UK Athletics

What does all this mean?

Eddie Gran’s game plan and play calling would have been universally praised if it wasn’t for an overabundance of defensive inadequacies. Gran dialed up a pretty football game while using several rookies in the lineup. RB Benny Snell is the obvious name; but also contributing at a high level were: LG Logan Stenberg, WR Jabari Greenwood, RG Bunchie Stallings, TE Greg Hart, QB Stephen Johnson, and LT Landon Young.

Stephen Johnson was an offensive spark. True, it was against a non-conference opponent but his performance displayed developmental results at the quarterback position. QB coach Darin Hinshaw should be commended. Johnson should be applauded for staying focused in his preparation while in a reserve role. Sustaining a high level of play will be a challenge. Unequivocally Johnson passed his first test.

Back to defensive distresses. They were plentiful and repeatedly pointed out by every writer, analyst, Twitter types, and most other folks. Truth is the first half was ugly, very-very ugly. Third and fourth quarters weren’t handsome, but not atrocious. The Cats made adjustments and allowed just one touchdown in the second half after giving up 5 in the first 30 minutes. Could this be a building block? I’m not sure and wouldn’t go that far yet. Far too many issues that need to be cleaned and coached up. But it was abundantly clear that the defense played at a higher level when it manufactured momentum.

It’s now time to move forward to South Carolina. Kentucky currently owns a two-game winning streak in the series. During the two-game stretch, UK has claimed a more talented roster than its impending visitors. Can it sustain Saturday’s offensive momentum? Will the defense gain confidence in an improved second half showing? Will the streak extend to three games? We’ll see soon enough.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

18 Comments for Cats Roll Up 62, Give up 42 for a 20 Point Win



  1. KYChris
    1:42 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    Freddie, we all know the woes on defense and how that’s truly what is going to be the downfall of this season but here’s my questions:
    1) Was Johnson that good or was NMSU’s defense that bad? If he was that good, does he change the dynamics of the offense so much that he can make the offense that good in the future?
    2) Is Johnson the starter for the foreseeable future?
    I believe he did change the way the offense played and made them harder to contain with his ability to run. With that said, I honestly don’t believe Barker is that bad but I believe he is easily shaken and not having the God given athleticism that Johnson has, he isn’t the optimal fit for this current offense as the O line can’t protect him as long as he needs.
    The Podcasts, with your and J-Lo’s take on what looks to be another QB battle, should be interesting this week. With Snell, saying Johnson should be the starter, I don’t believe we can play this out too long and create another divided locker room.



    • cayuts
      8:12 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      Johnson is not that good, but he is so much better than Barker, mainly because he isn’t an immature, drama queen. Barker’s teammates can’t stand him. Start Johnson.



    • cayuts
      8:18 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      My mom likes Barker. All up in her ass.



    • UK Big Board Update
      8:22 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      LMFAO!!!!!



    • KYChris
      9:59 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      Cayuts, you’re a real funny guy. I bet you write your own material. Any chance you are related to Dane Cook? You make me laugh just like him.



  2. kycats13
    2:07 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    If this is an example of Stoops becoming involved with the defense, we can’t have anymore such involvement. Louisville and Alabama will hang 100 on us.



  3. Howdy Doody
    2:18 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    Sunshine and Lollipops 24/7365. When we are 3-9 KSR will STILL be playing the same old tune. Last night was akin to a Jr. HS Flag Football match.
    I know you guys risk the ire of BarnFart and Co. unless you are waving the Pom Poms, but it is becoming sickening ….



    • Billy Hill
      2:46 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      You don’t actually READ the articles, do you? Failing to see where you are getting all this sunshine pumping you claim this site exudes….



  4. cats paw
    2:50 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    no matter how you slice it… UK has absolutely wasted over 20 million training a newcomer to learn coaching. even if Stoops were to start bowling every year (not happening), this was a complete failure! i would think you could give any human that ever played sports 20 million dollars, his choice of offensive/defensive coordinators (a couple in case some didnt work) and 4 yrs to study the game, they would have similar results. there’s not enough lipstick to cover this pig! only the best of UK homers could argue this.



    • Billy Hill
      3:03 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      “…even if Stoops were to start bowling every year, this was a complete failure!…”

      “….i would think you could give any human that ever played sports 20 million dollars, his choice of offensive/defensive coordinators (a couple in case some didnt work) and 4 yrs to study the game, they would have similar results.”

      You truly believed all of that when you wrote it? You are a level of moronic unlike I have ever seen. You have the IQ of a field mouse.

      Please tell me you don’t have children. Please.



  5. cats paw
    2:55 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    hire J-lo as our next coach!! everyone seems to ignore bashing him for predicting 4 wins this season while all the other “experts” were saying 7 wins and a bowl game. J-lo is obviously the one that knows football!



  6. cats paw
    2:58 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    go cards!



    • Billy Hill
      3:15 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      …and there it is. We all knew.

      Congrats on coming out of the closet.



    • Patches
      6:00 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      Not a Cats Paw fan in any way or a UL fan and far from it. That said the Cards have an incredible team put together under the leadership of the best offensive mind in the college game. The same guy Mitch wouldn’t even interview. The same guy who has been successful everywhere he has been. Patrino has a shot at the BCS championship series with this team.



    • UK Big Board Update
      8:09 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      Yeah, Patches. We hear ya. You aren’t a UL fan or a fan of a certain troll. But you are a fan of trolling this site. We know.

      You also cannot spell Petrino. You are an idiot.



  7. BigBluSoTru
    4:42 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    If you noticed the sunshine writer omitted the defensive stats of NMSt. they are horrible so a majority of the Grans offense gameplan was bailed out because they played a horrible defensive team. Watch next game against a better defensive scheme and SC doesn’t have elite players yet.



  8. Patches
    6:05 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

    Cats for sure are in deep deep doo doo and the offense has to carry this team. I am a Steve Johnson fan and have never had faith in Barker. His high school passing stats were not even that good and he is like a deer in the headlights with pressure. Cats only hope for any success is to not turn the ball over, run the ball as much as possible to rest that pathetic D, and hope to get some turnovers to keep scoring as we are likely to not stop many teams with this Swiss Cheese defense we have.



    • UK Big Board Update
      6:44 pm September 18, 2016 Permalink

      Oh really? 🙂

      ————————————

      Patches September 5, 2015 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      BARKER, BARKER, BARKER!!!!!!!

      Towles crap will not cut it in the SEC. We all know deep down Barker is the QB this team needs.

      Time Expired aka Patches September 6, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      I know this was the first game and most teams way underperform the first time out. The one thing that stands out for the Cats in the quarterback. Towels just does not have the abilities to be the leader of this offense. Barker is the better option than Towles or UK is certainly in trouble.

      Time Expired aka Patches January 26, 2015 at 11:46 am | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      I do not agree. Towles played half a season. He became nothing the last 5 games of the year. I say Barker has a great chance to take the reins next year if he puts in the work.

      Time Expired aka Patches September 6, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
      Like It (0)
      The offense will be fine? I guess you didn’t see the second half as Towles was MIA. Terrible passing, terrible reads, over throwing wide open receivers, and throwing into double coverage. The Cats need a QB and Barker is it.