After jumping out to a solid lead and dominating all facets of the game for the majority of the first half, the Kentucky Wildcats got sloppy and allowed a mediocre-at-best Missouri team to keep it interesting for the remainder of the contest.
We saw some “wow” moments, but UK had their fair share of inexcusable moments, and they need to be addressed and fixed.
The final several minutes of the game were unbelievably stressful, as the Tigers were in position to put a dagger in the heart of Kentucky fans across the Commonwealth.
But they didn’t, and the Wildcats are 5-1 going into the bye week.
Here are my four leftovers from Kentucky’s 40-34 victory over Missouri:
We need answers from Steven Clinkscale
I’m going to be fairly blunt here:
DB coach Steven Clinkscale inherited one of the most talented secondaries in Kentucky history, and we just haven’t seen the production his unit is absolutely capable of. And we need answers.
The Wildcats are currently ranked 117th in the nation in passing yards given up per contest with 288 yards through the air per game.
Kentucky’s secondary gave up touchdowns of 50, 58, and 75 yards, along with another 48-yard bomb that led to a one-yard touchdown run by Drew Lock. Miscues and flat-out misses of that caliber are absolutely unacceptable if this Kentucky team has aspirations of making this a special season.
Chris Westry, Mike Edwards, and Derrick Baity are all NFL talents. Jordan Griffin, Kendall Randolph, and Darius West, among others, have proven to be extremely talented players with the ability to be consistent role players/starters. But the unit as a whole makes far too many mistakes.
I think Clinkscale is a talented coach and an elite recruiter, but I believe he and his unit needed this bye week as much as anyone.
Garrett “Juice” Johnson is one of the best receivers in UK history
Following his seven-reception, 111-yard performance against Missouri, Johnson is now fourth in UK history with 1,883 receiving yards.
Be honest here, did anyone have any clue Juice had numbers like that?
Johnson has passed up names like Dicky Lyons Jr., Randall Cobb, Anthony White, and La’Rod King, among others, and he’s 456 yards away from passing up Derek Abney for No. 3 on the list.
When the Wildcats have needed a big-time reception or a nice chunk of yards on any given play, “Juice” Johnson has been the guy over his four-year career. We saw his breakout game against Florida in his freshman season, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Keep breaking records for us, Juice.
Kayaune Ross is a legitimate target
Last week, we saw Ross convert on several massive receptions on third-and-long, and I mentioned after the game it could be the start of something more out of the JUCO transfer receiver. We saw several impressive catches early in his Kentucky career, but production has always been widely sporadic.
Last night, Ross finished with a career-high four catches for 77 yards, with a long of 27. He started out with an early drop across the middle, and then we saw an extreme confidence spike with plays made all over the field. He was a deep ball target, and he was finally able to show off his ridiculous hands.
JUCO receivers have historically had impressive second-year production jumps at Kentucky, and I firmly believe we’re going to see more of the same in the latter half of the year for Kayaune Ross.
Where is CJ Conrad?
Two consecutive weeks, no receptions for arguably the top tight end in the SEC.
His only target against Missouri was a drop on a Benny Snell throw out of the Wildcat… The ball was a bit of a duck, and it was a tough grab, but it was certainly catchable.
Against Eastern Michigan, Conrad was rarely used and finished with zero catches. Even when he was “looked” at, his season-high in receptions is three. Nine receptions on the year for 195 yards and three touchdowns.
Coach Stoops has said the junior tight end is banged up and playing through injury, but if he’s playing, the ball needs to find a way into his hands. If he’s not healthy, then utilizing guys like Greg Hart and Justin Rigg are crucial. Vince Marrow has coached those boys up in an impressive way, and it’s time to utilize them.
It was great to see Kentucky open up the offense and throw the ball around a little bit more, but there’s no excuse to not have your biggest and most valuable target involved.
Overall, the offense looked impressive and the special teams made some highlight plays, but the defense needs some massive improvement.
That being said, an SEC win is an SEC win, and I’ll never fault a Kentucky team for starting the year 5-1.
Any other leftovers you guys had for the game that impressed you?