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Kentucky vs. Missouri: A Definition Game

Kentrell Brothers takes down Dorian Baker during last year’s game. Photo via Mark Kauzlarich

Kentrell Brothers takes down Dorian Baker during last year's game. Photo via Mark Kauzlarich

Kentrell Brothers takes down Dorian Baker during last year’s game. Photo via Mark Kauzlarich

Two games with first half dominance followed by a second half of hanging on for dear life. One game of offensive struggles accompanied by four quarters of defensive accomplishment. Opening game missed field goal and a point after attempt verses a 3/3 night with a special teams blocked FG. Who is this team? How would you define the 2015 Wildcat football team? I’ve been asking myself those questions all week.

Saturday’s game against the back-to-back SEC East champion is much more than a home conference matchup. There’s more on the line than a W or L. Following last week’s Gator let-down (an understandable overreaction by the way), the BBN is demanding to see offensive improvement. Even though UK thrived in two out of the three phases of the game (defense and special teams), fans want to see touchdowns, not field goals. Commonwealth Stadium was ready to roar, the team provided too few of moments in which it could release.

While the Cats’ defensive prowess and effort were appreciated, there was an undeniable urge to collapse the goal posts and put an emphatic end to the 28-year embarrassing losing streak. That didn’t happen. Disgruntled fans left Commonwealth Stadium wanting more. Others unfortunately left and may not return. Annually, the Wildcat football team gets four weeks to impress in order extend its season into November. Fair or not, that’s a Lexington reality. Madness campout starts next week. Focus will begin to shift. The football team just doesn’t need to win on Saturday, it needs the WOW that will entice fans to return to Commonwealth Stadium.

Getting offensively right” will not come easy. Missouri is the SEC’s top rated defense and is allowing 9.7 points through three games. Defensive end Charles Harris is next in the long line of Tiger elite pass rushers. Linebacker Kentrell Brothers leads the nation in tackles. Cornerbacks Aarion Penton and Kenya Dennis are dangerous and arguably one of the SEC’s Top three CB combinations. Missouri is riding an eleven game road winning streak. Teams led by Gary Pinkel have won five out of the last eight division titles in both the Big 12 and SEC. To say that beating Missouri is going to be difficult would be a tremendous understatement.

However, there are cracks in the Tiger armor. In SEC ratings, Missouri is dead last in both total and rushing offense.  Last week’s 9-6 rock fight win over UCONN was ugly. But Mizzou isn’t above winning in that manner. Quarterback Maty Matthew Mauk is experiencing some of the same indictments that Patrick Towles is currently going through. Actually, in the first three games, the junior was replaced by true freshman Drew Lock. His absence wasn’t permanent, acting as a either a wakeup call or to simply help Pinkel prepare for the future. The return of running back Russell Hansbrough may ease Missouri’s offensive woes. Regardless, UK’s opponent is far from an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination.

How Kentucky Wins

Simple, keep Maty Matthew Mauk in the pocket. His elusiveness, especially in the fourth quarter, has been the demise of many opponents. With a 17-4 record as a starting quarterback, he is best described as a winner. Improvisation is his strongest attribute.

Score early points. Patrick Towles and the UK offense desperately needs wins. Each first down and each explosive play can be considered a win. First quarter success will influence the cautiously optimistic fans back into a pre-Florida temperament. If Kentucky’s offense staggers out of the gate, boo birds will start chirping.

Protect the passer. Coach John Schlarman’s meeting room walls probably need to be re-painted after Monday’s film session. Mizzou leads the SEC in tackles for loss. Linebackers Kentrell Brothers and Michael Sherer are active, disruptive, and cerebral defenders. With a recent history of producing NFL defensive lineman, the Tigers will present all kinds of problems at the line of scrimmage. Defensive ends Charles Harris, Marcell Frazier, and Walter Brady are relentless off the edge. Inside, Josh Augustus, Terry Beckner, and Rickey Hatley are powerfully imposing. An improved and efficient performance by the Wildcat big fellas is non-negotiable.

-Catch the dag gone football. No more wrist watches or nicknames. When opportunities are presented, UK receivers will need to make plays. I’m not talking circus catches, but more so basic and fundamental grabs. There is zero doubt that Kentucky is talented and extremely well coached at receiver. On Saturday, potential has to meet production. The proof is in results.

Have a lead going into the fourth quarter. “Mizzou Made” is a program slogan that describes overall player development in Columbia. However, the Tigers have won many games in the fourth quarter due to a steady and opportunistic defense, as well as poised quarterback play from Mauk. Mauk may be inconsistent in the first three periods, but in 2014 he led the SEC in quarterback efficiency rating in the final quarter. Missouri expects to win and understands how to do so. Extending and then overtaking games in the final period have proved successful.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

A Season Defined

There’s no dancing around the issue, Patrick Towles has to play better than he did against Florida. With a similar experience against Missouri, public outcry for backup Drew Barker may develop into a legitimate quarterback controversy. Patrick needs to play composed and provide a calming presence to his teammates. But most importantly, he needs to be consistent. Erratic offensive execution against a defense of this stature could lead to disaster.

I really don’t like this part of the job. But, I have a responsibility to be objective in personnel and team assessments. Against Florida, nobody in Commonwealth Stadium wanted to win more than Patrick. I’m pulling for him to play well on Saturday. I’ve done the same for every Kentucky quarterback for several years now. A long time ago, fans called for my benching and at times, called for my head. I understand criticism and scrutiny. It’s not fun. Quarterbacks receive too much praise and criticism. However, empathy doesn’t trump reality, football is a game measured by wins and losses. Nothing else matters. It should, but it doesn’t.

A win on Saturday means a 3-1 September. With a likely win over EKU, the Cats would be 4-1 going into its Thursday night matchup against Auburn. With Vanderbilt and Charlotte remaining on the schedule, bowl eligibility would then become a likelihood as well as a new minimum expectation.

A Missouri loss pushes the Cats to 2-2 with three games left on its schedule in which it will be considered a favorite: EKU, Vanderbilt, and Charlotte. Thus, the Cats will have to pull off at least one conference upset and beat Louisville in the season finale. Not an impossibility, but definitely more challenging than the scenario that starts at 4-1.

Every game is a must win. In essence every Saturday defines a season. I get that. But Kentucky vs. Missouri goes beyond that. The Wildcats are favored at home against a ranked SEC opponent. Even Oscar Combs would struggle to recall the last time that has happened. Opportunities were there to beat the Gators; UK simply didn’t exploit them.  he same will happen on Saturday. It’s time for the Cats to stop knocking on the opportunity’s door and kick it off its hinges. Against Missouri, the BBN wants to be Shown. 

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

34 Comments for Kentucky vs. Missouri: A Definition Game

  1. catfan4life
    8:42 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    Good post again Freddie. I have been pulling for Patrick to do well every game and will be again tomorrow. So far Stoops hasn’t used the bench to help him improve his game like most coaches do. I realize each game this season needed someone who wasn’t a first timer out there. Perhaps this game won’t be either, but why wouldn’t it be appropriate for Drew to get in the game and get a snap or two even if it is a hand off or tuck and run. I feel he should have been in every game so far to get some feel for it. If he had perhaps the heat wouldn’t have been so great on coach and player.

  2. RightForTheFight
    8:43 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    “It’s time for the Cats to stop knocking opportunity’s door and kick it off its hinges.”

    This should be on the locker room wall.

  3. Billy Hill
    9:19 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    Does anyone seriously think Stoops has the skill to get past this? He better hope luck is on his side, that’s the only way he wins. If the other team screws up more then he does, he wins. He has yet to have a dominating victory.

    • Or
      9:24 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

      We coulda hired Petrino.

      Nah, he hasn’t won shit lately.

    • CardFan502
      9:31 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

      The good news is I’m watching this Virgina-Boisy State game, and Virginia sucks. We should destroy them, just like we did last year!

    • cig107
      10:15 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

      Why wouldn’t he? He’s made way more good decisions than bad in his time here in Lexington. Made quite a few great calls this year already actually.

  4. Andy
    9:34 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    The Oline better get their shit together esp Jordan Swindle. Towles also needs to make better decisions or he will play himself out a job pretty soon. Just take a look at Jeremy Johnson from Auburn. He is now benched for a red shirt freshman. If we can’t hang 20, we are in serious trouble.

  5. Elmer Skaggs
    10:19 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    I would rather lose with Coach Stoops then win with any other coach.

    • Detours
      11:28 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

      You should have a great season then according to your reasoning. GO TIGERS !!!

    • Ha!
      12:08 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      In other news, Louisville is 0-3. Successful season so far!!

  6. cat scat
    11:53 pm September 25, 2015 Permalink

    Tigers by tree-fiddy!!!! Towels keeps his dancing with the stars happy feet and continues to have panic attacks costing the kitty cats the game.

    • Wait
      12:08 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      Bro, I thought you were a fan? Cat shit.

    • Detours
      12:18 pm September 26, 2015 Permalink

      Towles won’t finish the game and Mizzou will break the hearts of the WildGnat Nation. In other news the WildGnats are hoping to have a better season than UL. GO TIGERS !!!

    • Detours
      12:27 pm September 26, 2015 Permalink

      I’m not a fan of UL, but I will bring them up in every post I make! We have a must-win game against Samford, but I’m too concerned with UK. I hate being little brother, and I especially hate that I have to pretend I’m not a fan of UL.

    • Ha!
      4:29 pm September 26, 2015 Permalink

      Bro’s….imma ‘fraid the Mizzou Tigers are gonna kick our butts today. The only good thing is that we might have a better record than little bro by the end of the season. Let’s pray n hope they dont whip our butts like they did last year. Dayum….imma cuck boi and imma tired of being owned bro.

  7. Linda Shnitz
    12:32 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    Got to win to keep the trolls away

    • Brian
      12:40 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      No way, they make KSR too much money.

  8. ColoradoCat3
    1:31 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    win, and I see 8-4 in our future. Lose, hopefully 6-6.

    • The Rest of the story
      8:49 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      8-4 is totally unattainable. 6-6 is as high as can be achieved with this team and the sporadic play of Towles. Wish I could be more optimistic but leadership from him is so lacking. I really hope I am wrong but going back to last season there has really been no improvement at quarterback.

    • SCCat
      11:22 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      What makes you say 8-4 is unattainable when we are 2-1? Do you really think Louisville is better than we are? Do you think Auburn has shown they are better than we are? Do you think Missouri has shown they are better than we are?

      Lot of football left to be played and plenty of 50/50 games out there. One of them is tonight – really important to get over the hump tonight! Let’s go Big Blue!

  9. average fan
    7:54 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    This game will tell us how good Stoops and Dawson are at coaching. Playing Florida, a team that is very similar to Missouri, a week before, should let them know exactly what needs to be worked on in order to beat Missouri. Defense and offense are almost mirror images. We better come out and know how to attack on offense against a great defensive front and contain a running quarterback. We saw them both last week…

  10. Old White Guy
    7:54 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    Freddie, fantastic post. Thank you for writing on this site. You are easily the best this site has to offer. I appreciate your objectivity and knowledge.

  11. Megan
    8:52 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    Anybody else bothered by the notion that our game today is make or break, that the entire season comes down to this?

    It’s almost like an ultimatum from KSR. If we don’t win today, we don’t turn the corner this year. If we go 2-2, we’re giving up on this team and this coach. Jeez.

    • CATandMONKEY
      9:13 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      Not really bothered nor encouraged. If we lose today how confident are you that we will beat Georgia, Auburn, MS State, Tenn or even Louisville?
      I will be more concerned about how we play. If we score 45 and lose on a last second 55 yard FG then I may still have hope.
      If we eek out 100 yards on the ground, 100 in the air, get racked with 70 penalty yards at crucial moments and only put 17 points on the board, Matt and company will essentially be barking up the right. tree.

      Personally would prefer a win of any type today. It changes the program’s momentum for the better and most importantly, keeps the fanbase on board .

  12. The Other Old White Guy
    9:06 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    I hate these bloated, arrogant, self-satisfied fluff pieces full of
    words with very little meaning, and schmaltzy cutesy sayings
    like, “Against Missouri, the BBN wants to be Shown”. Oh, gag.
    Just crawl back to whatever knot-headed hole you came out of.

    • CATandMONKEY
      9:17 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      How is this a fluff piece? I agree that the phrase you chose to be offended by is not particularly great but this piece easily stands up to ANYTHING written in the CJ or Herald leader.
      You also wrote ” gag”. Greetings from 1981.

  13. John
    9:34 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    Has he cut his hair yet?

  14. Steveinbama
    10:21 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    Pretty much nailed it Freddie. Miz is not a pushover, but they are vulnerable. The ‘cats need to show some killer instinct and get this one in the win column.

  15. Huh?
    11:03 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    How is it that UK is a 3.5 fav over Mizzou? I’d take the points and Mizzou given Uk’s lack of offense. Does Stoops play Barker in second half if we continue to struggle? Why not? Urban Meyer doesn’t hesitate to shake things up

    • 8 god
      11:14 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      Urban Meyer can move his All-American QB to wide receiver, bench his star backup, and still have a national championship winner under center. So there’s that.

    • SCCat
      11:26 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

      the fact that Vegas has us as a favorite in this game should tell you that despite the fanbase feeling like the sky is falling – outside objective bookmakers realize we have a dangerous team who can compete and win every week.

      Not going to predict this – but if FL beats TN today, and we win tonight – the whole deck is reshuffled. We have a good football team – let’s get out there today and win a big game.

  16. SinceStollField
    11:20 am September 26, 2015 Permalink

    It’s hard to imagine the offensive line making a huge improvement in one week, so it looks like another game of heavy pressure on Towles. Hope Dawson and Towles are ready this time. Isn’t the Air Raid offense designed to succeed even if you are getting whipped up front? Don’t you throw it quick or dump it off and let your athletes make plays?

  17. UK Tight Ends reception
    3:43 pm September 26, 2015 Permalink

    I am glad KSR has Freddy Maggard. The football coverage has gained much needed credibility. His insight is thorough and based on knowledge of someone that has been there.
    This post, shares his opinion on the state of the program and what is needed for this team to be successful for today’s game and the rest of the season.
    But therein lies the rub. His observations are exactly what other fans posted after the Florida game, but they were eviscerated, accused of not being a true fan, or being a troll.
    I suppose timing is everything.
    The offense has a chance to change everyone’s perception today. This game is huge, no doubt about it. PT’s career may well be defined in this game. The rest of the season starts today, this game determines where the program goes, or does not.
    Go Cats, bring this one home.

    • Sir Edmond
      5:49 pm September 26, 2015 Permalink

      This is very true. I was labeled a troll because I said basically the same thing.