It’s back. AAR is a military term that stands for After Action Review which we’ll use to examine what was supposed to happen and what actually happened in Kentucky’s 29-13 loss at Auburn. We’re proud to partner with the Kentucky Army National Guard for all AAR’s this season. A message from the Kentucky Army National Guard:
The Kentucky Army National Guard is YOUR Kentucky home team. The Soldiers of the Kentucky National Guard are your friends, neighbors, coworkers and classmates. We are from each county in Kentucky and we stand together to support our fellow Kentuckians in times of natural disaster and civil unrest. We also serve our nation at the direction of the president should the need for national defense arise. Soldiers in the Kentucky Army National Guard are able to take advantage of opportunities in education with trade skill training, student loan repayment and up to $60,000 in tuition assistance to state public universities while serving part time. Do you think you have what it takes to be a member of our team? For more information about joining the Kentucky Army National Guard, Text “KYGUARD” to 95577. Live Here, Serve Here, Kentucky Army National Guard.
Looking back at my How Kentucky Beats Auburn post, Kentucky failed to accomplish some of the goals, which led to its loss at Auburn. Let’s take a look:
Rush for over 200-yards. The Cats rushed for 140-yards off 40 carries. An average of 3.6-yards is not the recipe for a win for a team like Kentucky that has lived off the running game. Saturday was actually a tale of two halves. The first half was typical Kentucky. Its offense was staying on schedule by running the football. The Cats went away from that tendency in the second half and was often behind the chains after passing on first down.
Terry Wilson complete 60-65% of his passes. Wilson threw for 239-yards while attempting 37 passes, completing 24 for an average of 64.8%. He also threw a touchdown as well as an interception. Kentucky accomplished this goal.
WR’s win 1-on-1 battles. There were instances when the Wildcat receivers won these contested plays, but the second half saw the group failing to separate from an untested Auburn secondary. I realize there are frustrations in the passing game, but football takes all 11 players executing on the same page. With little threat of a deep shot, Auburn was able to cheat more defenders in the box which resulted in UK averaging 3.6 yards per carry on the ground. Football is a circular game.
Prevent LB K.J. Britt from accumulating 10 tackles. Britt finished the game with 11 stops. We talked at-length about the AU linebacker corps. They exceeded lofty expectations by shutting down Kentucky run plays before they got started beyond the line of scrimmage. Owen Pappoe racked up 9 tackles and was active against the pass as well.
Win first down. Again, tale of two halves. First half, yes. Second half, not so much. Kentucky rolled when living in 2nd and 5’s or better in the first half. It got off schedule in the 3rd and 4th quarter.
Keep Bo Nix in the pocket. Nix ran for 35-yards but Kentucky did a good job keeping the sophomore in the pocket. However, Nix improved greatly from his freshman year to his sophomore season opener by accurately attacking the Wildcat secondary which was expected to be a team strength. Nix finished the noon kickoff by going 16/27 for 233-yards and 3 touchdown passes. Most of his completions were in the pocket. WR Seth Williams proved why he’s arguably the best receiver in the SEC by snagging 6 passes for 112-yards and 2 touchdowns. Williams won the 50/50 balls. The Cats didn’t have an answer for the Nix to Williams connection, especially in the red-zone.
Don’t bite on the flashy lures. I thought UK did a good job with this. It maintained gap integrity and wasn’t fooled by motions and misdirections for the most part. Auburn focused on attacking the edge in the run game which negated NT Quinton Bohanna and the interior defensive line from making a lot of plays. QB Bo Nix was the Tiger’s leading rusher with 35-yards. The Cats held AU to 91 rush yards off 30 carries. That’s good enough for 3 yards per attempt.
Be ready for tempo. Tempo didn’t bother Kentucky. Auburn’s speed at the receiver position and a heady quarterback did.
Win first down. Surprisingly, Auburn only ran 57 plays for 324-yards. Points off turnovers and a botched fake punt provided the Tigers with a shortened field in which it took full advantage.
Be clean on special teams. Auburn caught the Cats on a fake PAT after its first score and UK had a fake punt that was unsuccessful that gave the Tigers excellent field position.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Simply stated, a team can’t expect to beat a Top 10 team on the road after losing the turnover battle 0-3 and going 1/3 in the Red Zone. An untimely Wilson third and goal interception followed a replay driven missed call on the Christopher Rodriguez touchdown. The Wildcats could have gone into the locker room at halftime up 14-8, but instead trailed 8-7. Down 15-13, Wilson fumbled on the 23-yard line which was followed by a Nix to Williams touchdown. Demarcus Harris fumbled in the fourth quarter which pretty much sealed the Cats fate.
All things considered, Terry Wilson did some good things. His mistakes can be cleaned up. Kentucky getting off schedule in its first two offensive series in the second half was a precursor for the game’s final outcome. The Wildcats have to go back to what its best at; running the football. 140-yards was significantly less than expected, especially when facing a reconstructed defensive line.
Kentucky ruled the Time of Possession with a 38:29 to 23:31 margin. It outgained Auburn 384 to 324. The Cats were efficient on third down after converting 12 of 19 attempts compared to AU’s 4/10. The Red Zone was again a driving factor in the outcome. UK was 1/3 inside the 20, Auburn was much more effective by scoring three touchdowns out of four chances.
Kentucky will go back to work. The Cats have Ole Miss next Saturday. The Rebels have an amped up offense. It rolled up 613-yards and 35 points against Florida. Lane Kiffin’s team also gave up 642-yards and 51 points to the Gators. With an all-SEC schedule, there’s no time for moping after a loss. The Wildcats need a bounce back performance in its home opener.