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It Could Have Been Worse; Kentucky is 4-1

© Mark Zerof | Getty

© Mark Zerof | Getty

© Mark Zerof | Getty

First and foremost, credit the EKU Colonels for overcoming unimaginably tragic circumstances as it traveled twenty minutes north up I-75 with total intention of winning the football game. It did so, and in convincing fashion for 53 minutes. During that stretch of time, the Colonels out-hustled, executed, coached, and out-willed the preemptive favorites.

It could have been worse, much worse. Down 27-13, many fans had seen enough. Heck, at halftime, several headed to the house. With 7:39 remaining in regulation, UK woke up and decided it was time to play. That awakening doesn’t come just by simply turning on a mythical sideline switch. Finding a way to win in the face of adversity is a culmination of leadership, psychological assertiveness, and accountability development led by UK staffers that diligently work behind the scenes. Given the doldrums that preceded the Mark Stoops era, learning to win is a process.


— Kentucky’s rushing total for the night: 36 attempts, 55 yards. Given negated ground gains due to sacks, that’s totally unacceptable.

What happened: An undersized and undermanned EKU defensive front and linebackers gave the Kentucky offensive line fits. Linebacker Chris Kelly’s 11 tackles including a sack described Colonel defensive intent. That was, to take the fight to the Cats. For 53 minutes, Eastern was the hunter, UK was the hunted.

— EKU totaled 5 sacks for a loss of 33 yards. One QB sack was on Patrick Towles. A veteran quarterback should know better than to take a sack on first down and simply throw the football away. The other 4 are what worries.

What happened: EKU linebackers effectively blitzed as well as DEs Noah Spence and Marquise Piton were forceful off the edge. This comes a week after surrendering only 2 QB sacks against the SEC’s top defense. Colonel blitzes were not complicated by nature. Effort and determination to reach the UK QB topped scheme

— Eastern Kentucky dominated the line of scrimmage. On too many occasions, the Cats fell behind the chains on 1st down. Not a problem if it converted 3rd downs as it did against Missouri by going 9/14 (64%). On Saturday, the Cats were 7/16 (43.7%) with many of those coming in the game’s final seven minutes.

What happened: Great question, will take film evaluation to confirm. Have to chalk much of EKU’s front seven success to grit and determination. At many points in the game, it was obvious that EKU wanted to win the game more so than UK. That factor became the burr in the BBN saddle. I know it was mine.


— Eastern Kentucky’s rush total: 51 attempts for 180 yards. Colonels won first down. With a plethora of 2nd and 5’s, offensive coordinator Dane Damron had the upper hand for most of the evening.

What happened: EKU runners ran with more determination than their counterparts. Yards after initial contact were staggering and favored EKU. Kentucky’s linebackers did not tackle with the same tenacity and efficiency as it did against Florida and Missouri.

— Colonels ran 83 plays for 363 yards of total offense. It converted 8/18 3rd downs (44%), a percentage that dropped in the game’s final seven minutes.

What happened: An undersized EKU offensive line dominated the line of scrimmage. Only CJ Johnson seemed to gain consistent penetration which caused disruption. However, many of his 19 tackles were across the line of scrimmage. Johnson did have 3 tackles for loss and a QB sack, but got very little help from his defensive line mates.

— EKU’s Benny Coney completed 19/32 passes for 183 yards. By evading would be sackers, Coney found holes in the UK secondary for completions that moved the chains. The Colonels also completed opportune screen passes when DJ Eliot dialed up blitzes.

What happened: I counted 4 missed QB sack opportunities. Again, film will be telling to see if that number is low. Ryan Flannigan had 2 direct paths to Coney but whiffed. Steady Josh Forrest had a miss as well. As a whole, the Wildcat LB corps did not play with the same efficiency level as it did against either Florida or Missouri. Credit Coney for his evasiveness and the EKU offensive line for countering UK blitzes.


— Can’t leave out the third phase, there’s enough blame to throw around and it shouldn’t be left out. Landon Foster’s punting has to improve. Low, and short punts to the dangerous returner we’ve discussed all week, Stanley Absannon, hurt UK’s coverage team as Absannon’s 27 yard punt return shortened the field for an EKU touchdown drive.

— Kickoff coverage also struggled. Absannon’s 5 returns totaled 127 yards for an average of 25.4 yards

— The loss of Austin MacGinnis was more impactful than imaginable. Stanley Absannon’s 5 returns totaled 127 yards. Short kicks with little height put the coverage team in a precarious situation.


— Kentucky overcame a late 14-point deficit to score 21 unanswered to win the football game. Should it have been that close? Absolutely not, but EKU had something to say about that. Again, credit the Colonels.

— For all the “Same ole Kentucky Football” thinkers, give the Cats credit for finding the fortitude to refuse to lose. It could have been worse.

— In the first half, Patrick Towles’ 52.6% completion percentage and two interceptions worried. However, one of the picks was a 50/50 ball that EKU’s Stanley Absannon outdueled Dorian Baker for the INT. Football happens. His second INT was an ill-advised vertical route against a cover 2 with the safety easily breaking from the hash to make the play.

— However, in the final two drives of regulation and overtime period, Patrick Towles took control of the offense and game by finishing the night by going 29-42 for 329 yards with 3 TDs. When the Cats needed touchdowns, Patrick delivered. He finished the second half and overtime completing 82% passes.

— Dorian Baker is playing up to reputation. Baker was simply fantastic with 8 catches for 86 yards including 2 touchdowns worth of athletic freakishness.

— Blake Bone played his best game of the season. Bone’s 7 catches for 85 yards came the hard way. Several of his grabs were drive extenders as well as through diving catches. Bone has worked incredibly hard to solidify his status as the fellow outside threat along with Dorian Baker. With few passes targeted in his direction this season, Bone could have easily crawled in a hole and pouted. He did the exact opposite. His scramble movement and catch in the void of the EKU defense were demonstrations of his development and determination.

— Cory Johnson’s 19 tackles, 1 QB sack, and 3 tackles for loss was the most dominating defensive linemen performance in UK history. CJ’s last three games have been spectacular in nature and are certainly All-SEC worthy by statistics alone. CJ’s best traits are his motor and ability to split double teams. Going forward, offensive coordinators will have to scheme against the senior.

— Down 27-13, UK’s backs were against the proverbial wall. It fought back. Defensive stops and two, two-minute drive touchdowns tied the game. By doing so, Kentucky gave itself a chance to win the game in overtime. It did. It could have been worse.

— As we discussed on the podcast and posts leading up to Saturday, EKU was more talented than most expected. As I see it, this year’s EKU team is nearly the same in personnel as Mark Stoop’s first roster. In the game’s final seven minutes and overtime, Wildcat talent and player development prevailed.

— Kicker Miles Butler, have a night young man. After missing his first career PAT attempt, the backup nailed his next four with the final three being under extreme duress. Following Dorian Baker’s five-yard touchdown reception with: 57 remaining in the game, what was left of the crowd collectively exhaled as the reserve split the uprights to tie the game at 27. Then, in overtime, Cats scored on another Dorian Baker TD catch which was followed by another successful Butler PAT. As an unexpected visitor to the press conference, his post-game smile was priceless.

What does all this mean?

Kentucky is 4-1. Could easily be 0-5; however it’s not. All five games have been decided by eight points or less. Glass half-full says that the Cats are resilient and finally understand how to win close games. Question, how many tight games have you witnessed the Cats lose throughout the years? Glass half-empty thinking leads to the doom and gloom that a come-from-behind win over a 1AA team means either that the sky has fallen or that Armageddon is sure to take place within the next 10 days. I lean towards the glass half-full route.

Why optimism following a near loss against an OVC opponent? UK played Florida to a five-point loss that it easily could have won if it would have taken advantage of key plays in critical situations. The Cats beat South Carolina on the road and topped a Top 25 Missouri team. Is UK as good as it played against Missouri, Florida, and South Carolina or is it as bad as it played on Saturday verses EKU? Truth is somewhere in the middle, which is pretty darn good in my book. Florida rolled #3 Ole Miss and is now 5-0 and leading the SEC East. Mizzou bounced back following its Commonwealth Stadium loss and beat Carolina at home. This season should be celebrated to this point, not chastised due to a single flat performance coming off one of the biggest wins in the program’s recent history. It could have been worse.

Twelve games is a long season comprised of a dozen individual playoff contests. In basketball terms, or more specifically, March Madness, UK won and advanced. I understand concerns, heck above are lists of alarms. But game film from yet another close win will only assist in player teachable moments. UK will enter the Auburn game with an edge. Mark Stoops will peel Nutter Center paint of the walls throughout a couple days of corrections.

This Kentucky team’s margin of error is miniscule. Been saying that for over a month now. Throughout the remainder of the schedule, there will be more nail biters. Get used to it. That’s the nature of the game and a result of a program that is in year three of a total overhaul. Kentucky is not at a personnel level to weekly dominate opponents. Don’t work that way. Three recruiting cycles have been successful, but to get to the level of talent that is required to consistently win games by double digits takes time.

I had an uneasy feeling about this game all week. First cold weather game, coming off the Missouri win, Auburn on the horizon, and playing down a level were all worrisome. That gut feeling came to fruition. UK won, but it did so in an ugly fashion. Could that be the norm for 2015? I sure hope so, because winning ugly certainly beats the alternative. It could have been worse.


Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

48 Comments for It Could Have Been Worse; Kentucky is 4-1

  1. Stewart
    5:16 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    I’ll take 4-1 any way I can get it. The defense may have had their butts handed to them for most of the game, but they came through when they needed to. The game-winning play was a defensive one. The “Stoops Footprint” is here; I hope it stays.

    • android guy
      8:48 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      I just hope the team learned the right lesson from the game. I hope they learned, “Take every opponent seriously” instead of “We can turn it on anytime we want”.

  2. Tom Seaver
    5:23 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Freddie, these words, while insightful and enlightening, are wasted on the UK internet football coaches/basketball fans who think we should be perfect in every game because they think we should win. 4-1 is only topped by 5-0 and we were close to that. They don’t understand that over a 100 years of football, we have finished above .500 less than half the time.

    • BigBlueBoom
      11:24 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      And the reason we are in that shape is because of Homer fans such as yourself that support the program even when it’s the laughing stock of college football! Beat a couple high school talented teams and you think we have hit the big time. Give stoops another million dollar raise and dream about how good we will be “next year”!

    • UK Big Board Update
      11:43 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      BigBlueBoom aka Cats Paw is back! 2-3 < 4-1, loser.

      Good luck with your most recent sex scandal.

    • Booby Petrino
      9:42 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      Lol yup the troll cats paw is using my old name again. What a loser.

  3. Redneck Cat Fan
    5:25 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Why ain’t we like Alabama yet? Stoops is on the hot seat in my opinion. This is on you Mitch. And Obama.

  4. 4-1
    5:46 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    4-1 indeed. Not good enough for some, though.

    Sat next to an imbecile last night (10th row behind the UK bench, mind you) who was bent on yelling for Drew Barker the entire game, and took it upon himself to tell Patrick Towles how much he sucked. No doubt in my mind Towles could hear it.

    Had enough of it and said something to the jagoff in the 4th quarter, right before the big comeback led by PT. Nothing like almost getting into a fight with a fellow Kentucky “fan.” So happy to watch this jerk eat crow at the end of the game.


    • Platinum Unis
      5:56 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      We most certainly have our fair share of dumbshit fans. Unfortunately for the rest of us, they make the most noise.

    • KT
      11:08 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Ugh, that sucks. What a dumbass and to yell at our qb in the middle of the game like that is retarded and detrimental to the team. The way that game was going Barker might have come in and been decapitated or thrown a pick 6 that could crush a dude’s confidence for the future. Glad I wasn’t there I might have punched the guy.

  5. samewell happens
    5:55 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Freddie or somebody can someone post last years offense sats from the first 5 games i thought we might be better this yr but i don’t think we are thanks.

  6. glenn
    6:08 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Seems to me like injuries have really mounted. It looked to me like Flannigan re-injured his shoulder. Not sure what happened to Garrett Johnson. Jeff Badet seems to land on the ball after every diving catch. Half of the O-line is injured. What happened to MacGinnis? Don’t think I heard Denzil Ware’s name.
    EKU played out of there minds and UK played uninspired football to say the least. I’m thrilled we won and will take an ugly win any day.

  7. glenn
    6:12 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    I should have said EKU played out of their minds.

  8. FernCreekCat
    6:38 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    The biggest mistake our coaches made was telling everyone how much the subs would play. Naturally hearing that our players thought the game would be a cake walk. Our players did not respect EKU. Maybe Coach should take the Lou Holtz approach and describe all opponents as the Green Bay Packers.

    • Dude
      6:40 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Not a bad take, actually. Good call.

    • Tommycatsfan
      8:03 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      This is a great point. What kind of dumba*s staff announces all week how the subs will play in a game?
      Stoops is a decent recruiter but he and his staff do questionable things/calls during games.

    • Bear Bryant
      11:51 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Totally True…..

  9. wildcat502
    7:20 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    My concern is the players playing down to their competition. They did in the first game and again against Eastern. They are not that good yet and it almost bit us Saturday. They showed us during the last 3 drives, on both sides of the ball, that this game should not have been close. When they HAD to play, they did. We need to play at this level for a complete game.
    I understand it takes 5 years to build a program, the players need to understand this as well as our fans. Were 2 years from that point. Now lets go out there, cheer for our team and lets put complete games together and win several more games. There isnt a game left on our schedule that we cant win.

    • CatsfaninFL
      7:32 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      I believe the term you are looking for is ‘youth’.

  10. Ha!
    7:27 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    We played when it mattered most, but I think we seriously need to be looking at the coaching staff and preparation for the games….ALL games. Stoops may not be the man we need for the program we’re hoping to have.

    • bob
      8:07 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Man, if it weren’t for Stoops we would not have the talent we have over there. We have not had this type of talent since Bear Bryant was here. We have lots of nationally recruited players who are just Freshmen and Soph. Give him time. We are 4 and 1. We were 5 and one last year before the wheels came off. Go back and look how many times we have been 4 and 1 in UK history. It’s not often trust me.

    • Ha!
      11:15 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      This Ha! impostor is merely trolling. You’ll be able to tell my posts from the fakes. Trust me. 😉

      2-3, and 1-7, bitch.

  11. Tommycatsfan
    8:08 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Is Maggard paid by the word? Geez Louise. Getting through his diatribes is getting labor intensive. He is so smart about everything, why isn’t he coaching somewhere? Just sayin…..

    • SMH
      8:47 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Yet, you sat there and read it all. Not looking all that smart, yourself.

  12. bob
    8:10 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    The most disappointing thing to me was for 3 and 1/2 quarters we could not run the ball. Our running backs were Schooled by Easterns backs. We ran with the determination of a total slacker. We got breathed on and down they went. Horton runs hard about one out of 15 tries. Jo Jo always follows up a reward by turning in a deuce. No excuse for this performance.

  13. Freddie
    8:33 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Tommycatsfan, I don’t get paid by the word, but maybe I can negotiate that into my next KSR contract. Thanks for reading and the suggestion.

  14. Kevin C.
    8:38 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    We were 5-1 last season, before Stoops got his big raise….then lost the last 6 games, most in blowout fashion. When we’re officially bowl eligible, there will be reason for optimism.

    • Ha!
      11:28 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Weak argument.

      You must not have paid much attention to last years second half of the schedule.

      at LSU Tigers (where they NEVER lose at home)

      Mississippi State Bulldogs (stayed competitive with a team who has a Heisman candidate QB and were rolling)

      at Missouri Tigers (Two time SEC East Champs, lost a close, ugly game)

      Georgia Bulldogs (Some of the best RB’s in the nation, just ask UofL)

      at Tennessee Volunteers (I’ll admit they shit the bed on that one)

      at Louisville Cardinals (12 future NFL players, lost by 4 on the road)

      ….but I guess I’m just a homer.

  15. Let's Hope
    11:30 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Let’s hope that last night was simply overlooking an opponent and our kids getting the “big head”. Let’s hope that a FCS team didn’t expose how weak our team really is. The Auburn game will tell the story.

    • Brian
      11:36 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Yeah, because USCjr, Florida and Mizzou didn’t…..

  16. leon singleton
    11:43 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

    Due to the EKU football player being killed Kentucky played like they where at a funeral.

    • Bear Bryant
      11:54 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      Sad but so true…

    • RockyMountainWildcat
      11:55 pm October 4, 2015 Permalink

      What a classless post. A kid died under very tragic circumstances, and you want to make a horribly unfunny joke about it? Sit the next few plays out, mouth breather.

    • Optimistic Cat Fan
      6:48 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      I was right there with your comment until you threw in the sarcastic comment mouth breather. With all due respect, your comment about mouth breather was also offensive. It implies that you are smarter even superior to the original poster. Not that anyone cares about my situation, but…I can’t breath through my nose very well and not at all in the prone position. I need a cpap machine to force air into my lungs every night to stay alive. I have a full face mask because the air needs to travel into my lungs through my mouth. Yes, I’ve checked into alternatives, operations etc. Your comment made your point until the insult. Maybe you should take a few plays off as well.

  17. Edward
    5:00 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    Thanks Freddie Maggard for all your hard work here. I look forward to reading your football reports.

  18. Radmankd
    6:18 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    My big concern is we didn’t come out in the second any different. Halftime didn’t get us going. ????
    Sorry, but can’t get super excited about Towles second half. Receivers bailed him out with all kinds of tough catches. Inconsistency continues, and still does not “throw receivers open”. I believe Freddie these were your areas that needed to improve.
    I’ll be in my seat every game cheering them on. However, I’m concerned with injuries/depth issues. Agree our margin for error is small and looking smaller as we head into second half of season.

  19. Harry Clarke
    7:58 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    The Alumni Band was awesome…what a great night!

  20. Dustin
    8:18 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    4-1, we need to be very happy about that right now. In years past we would be 1-4 or 0-5 playing the same schedule up to this point. The meat of our schedule is coming up with Auburn, Miss St, Tennessee, & Georgia in consecutive weeks. I think we have a shot at beating them all (at least a puncher’s chance). We could lose all four, and even if we do, stay behind this team. We should be favored in the last three games of the season. Lose the middle 4, win the last 3, and this team is 7-5 to end the season, and bowl eligible. I think any reasonable fan would have taken that record before the season started.

    Football programs take years to build unlike basketball programs where one good recruiting class can turn you into a title contender. Stoops has the football team headed in the right direction. Support these kids and the coaching staff.

    • android guy
      8:51 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

      Good post. In that four-game stretch, if we can go 2-2, we should call it a victory. We should beat Auburn and Tennessee, but we’ve lost to UT a lot of times when we were the better team. It’s a huge stretch.

  21. Sylvester Shnitz
    8:19 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    Towels showed that this is his team. Beating Eastern will be seen as more impressive as season goes on. As Drew Franklin pointed out, Eastern has several players who consistently produce huge bowel movements. Coach Stoop did a masterful job in game planning ans execution

  22. Bull
    8:38 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    Any team in the country has to win a game or two on talent alone, can’t be at your best for 12 games in a row. Very few times do I remember UK having enough talent to do this. Many times we have done as EKU did Saturday, play inspired and a little over their head just to not be able to close the deal. Good to be on the other end of one. GO BIG BLUE.

  23. android guy
    8:48 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    This is a weird season. We’re one play away from being 5-0, but four plays away from being 0-5.

  24. BlueBloodtoo
    10:30 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    The thing I’m wondering here is, if these guys have the moxy to put it together when the chips are down, why can’t they do that the whole game? Why wait until the last minute to play your best football? Shouldn’t you be playing with that intensity the whole game?!

  25. I love
    11:22 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    as a Cats fan coming here and still seeing people not giving credit to a great EKU team that is well coached. They were top 20 in the FCS the day they played you and have players with FBS play. Just because a team is FCS doesn’t mean they don’t have the capability to keep up with an FBS team.

  26. theWilkman
    11:31 am October 5, 2015 Permalink

    No team plays their best all the time. Even Ohio St. almost lost to IU. We gutted out a win, and there were plenty of teachable moments from it. Ultimately it may work out better to have that ammunition going into the bye week to keep them on task than if we had beat them by 3+ TDs.

  27. Souf beach lou
    12:10 pm October 5, 2015 Permalink

    It also could have been better. Way way better. I am sick to my stomach seeing where Florida has ended up just outside the top 10 and here we are still wondering what to make of this team. We should have beaten florida.