After five games, the Cats sit at 4-1 with each game going down to the wire. A few plays in each game have determined the outcome. They haven’t been consistent at all, but they’ve shown enough flashes of greatness to win games and let us believe the best is yet to come.
When bad things happen over the course of the game, I try to take a player’s perspective in the locker room: what can I learn from this situation to ensure it doesn’t happen again?
Louisiana- Explosive offensive plays
From the first snap, the 2015 season started with a BOOM. The offense we’ve been waiting to see seemed to finally have arrived. Yes, the second half was a struggle, and the Cats needed a late touchdown from Mikel Horton to get the win, but the offense proved they can threaten teams vertically. If the Cats hit two or three homerun balls against Auburn’s press coverage, momentum could put Thursday’s game out of reach.
South Carolina – Big Plays in Big Moments from the Defense
Entering the season, we thought the offense would have to outscore opponents to get wins. After arguably the best half of football in 2015, they couldn’t maneuver against South Carolina’s defensive adjustments in the second half. Instead, the defense held firm in the red zone. Three times they forced South Carolina to field goals instead of giving up touchdowns, making great open field tackles and breaking up passes in the end zone. When UK needed to stop a 2-point conversion for the tie, redshirt freshman Denzil Ware scooped a fumble and scored 2-points from 98 yards away. South Carolina’s last chance for the win was ended by an interception from true freshman Chris Westry.
The defense has proved they can make stops in critical situations. With a crazy Commonwealth Stadium crowd behind them, Auburn’s offense must be close to perfect to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Florida – The Big Game Atmosphere got the Best of Them
Undoubtedly the worst game of the season, they tightened up in the most insane stadium atmosphere we’ve seen since ’07. It was disheartening to see them struggle, although they managed to have a chance to win late in the game.
Thursday’s game will have the same, if not better, atmosphere as the Florida game. The difference to Patrick Towles, “We’ve been there before.” If any lesson has been learned, this is the most important one.
Mizzou – How to Respond
The BBN was extremely upset about the horrific play against Florida, as evidence by the empty upper corners of Commonwealth Stadium. Instead of hanging their heads, the team answered. After grinding out the first half, they made their best halftime adjustments of the season. When Mizzou tried to take away momentum, the defense came up with a big sack. The fourth quarter drive to take a two-score lead was quickly usurped by the following drive that milked the game away.
Kentucky not only proved they can handle adversity, they proved they can bring the intensity for four quarters.
EKU- How to Improperly Defend the Zone Read
There were a lot of things that went wrong against EKU. Most of them can be attributed to simply coming out not ready to play. The most worrisome was their inability to defend the zone read in the run. They didn’t stay on assignment when the QB and RB meshed, and they didn’t fill the A and B-gaps on the inside zone blocking runs.
Eastern Kentucky ran this play about 70% of the time. Auburn will run it even more. Hopefully now that they’ve seen it, they will know what to expect, rather than showing Kentucky’s defensive vulnerabilities.
In a perfect world, Kentucky has learned these lessons and will not make the same mistakes twice. But even as an eternal optimist, I know that is not always the case. Thursday’s game will be filled with stressful and dramatic moments. Here’s to hoping that when the team is under pressure, the good habits they’ve developed will be revealed.