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Point/Counterpoint: The 5 issues facing UK Football

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

Coming off the most frustrating performance of the season, it’s time to forego the niceties and get real with this Kentucky football team. Midway through the season, they’re 4-2 and two wins from a bowl game. They’re also 4-6 plays away from being 6-0. There have been flashes of brilliance and unforgivable errors, both of which were clearly on display against Auburn. Six games in, I’m still trying to figure out how good this team is.

Since Thursday night, I’ve been going back and forth on a few of the issues facing this team and since I’m tired of debating myself, I put those thoughts on paper — err, screen — this afternoon.

POINT: Shannon Dawson’s playcalling with two minutes left was baffling

Down three with 2:12 left, Kentucky had a chance to tie or win the game. After the offense clicked into gear in the second half, things looked promising, too. Towles easily moved the ball down the field and just as you started to believe the Cats could pull off the upset, Boom Williams ran two yards on an inside draw on second down. The intent was to catch Auburn off guard with the run and set up Austin MacGinnis for the game-tying field goal, but the Tigers stopped Williams short and two frustrating plays later, the game was over.

I can see what Dawson is trying to do, but why abandon the passing game that worked so well that drive, especially for a run up the middle when you have little time and no timeouts to spare? Dawson took a lot of heat for the call and his slighty smart-assed response of “If it would’ve worked, it would’ve been great” didn’t help. 

COUNTERPOINT: He’s clearly not afraid to take a chance

After the first of many deep balls against Louisiana Lafayette, we learned that Dawson clearly isn’t afraid to take a chance. For the most part, Dawson’s playcalling has been solid, and it’s worth pointing out that he’s learning on the fly after Dana Holgorsen called the majority of plays at West Virginia. If anything, that inside draw call will be a learning experience for years to come.


Photo by UK Athletics

POINT: The drops — namely by Dorian Baker — are becoming costly

Look, I love Dorian Baker. You love Dorian Baker. The football gods really had some fun when they put him together. Big, strong, and freakishly athletic, Baker has accounted for some of the most impressive catches of the season; however, he’s also accounted for some of the most costly drops. He’s not alone; while Kentucky’s receiving corps is as strong as it’s been in recent years, the receivers had a major case of the butterfingers on Thursday night, with several crucial drops, including one by Baker in the end zone that could have given Kentucky the lead. There were more by Jeff Badet and Boom Williams, but unfortunately, it’s Dorian that’s earning a reputation as a repeat offender.

COUNTERPOINT: Drops can be corrected

You take the good with the bad, and without Baker, Kentucky probably have lost the Eastern Kentucky game. Drops are incredibly frustrating, but can be corrected by, you know, HANGING ON TO THE BALL. At the beginning of fall camp, Garrett Johnson — solid, reliable Garrett Johnson — started the practice of doing 20 pushups whenever a receiver dropped a pass. If that’s still going on, at least our wide receivers will have buff triceps.

© Kim Klement

© Kim Klement

POINT: The kicking game has become a liability

Special teams get a raw deal. When they do their job well, they never get the credit they deserve, and when things go poorly, they take all the heat. Still battling a groin injury, UK’s kicker Austin MacGinnis was able to kick filed goals on Thursday, but the kickoff duties went to redshirt freshman Miles Butler. Butler struggled Thursday night, with no touchbacks and Auburn starting most of their drives outside their 30-yard-line. Auburn’s returners totaled 155 yards on returns to UK’s 18. Ouch.

Senior punter Landon Foster isn’t faring much better. Foster, once so reliable, averaged only 35 yards per punt Thursday, looking like a shell of his former self. There are few better people in this world than Landon Foster, who has made this program proud in so many ways; however, his performance on the field lately is disappointing.

COUNTERPOINT: There’s nowhere to go but up

Thankfully, Mark Stoops told reporters today that MacGinnis will be back for kick-offs against Mississippi State, so that hopefully solves that problem. Meanwhile, Foster is trying his best to concentrate on the second half of the season, taking on a self-imposed Twitter ban:

You got this, Landon.

© Mark Zerof

© Mark Zerof

POINT: Kentucky squandered away two winnable games

Kentucky made so many errors in the first half of the Auburn game that a comeback was nearly impossible. The fact that they battled back and had a chance to win the game in the final two minutes and messed that up was the cherry on top of a shit sundae. Kentucky was a few plays away from beating Florida as well, a loss that still stings even though the Gators have been one of the surprises of the SEC so far. Take away some of the blunders against Florida and Auburn and Kentucky could be 6-0 right now; however, had the ball bounced the other way a few times, they could also be 0-6.

COUNTERPOINT: Those games were winnable

Two years ago, Kentucky wasn’t in a position to win any SEC game. The talent level was that low. Last year, the Cats got their first SEC wins under Stoops, but mentally and physically collapsed during the second half of the season. This year, Kentucky has fielded the better team in every game they’ve played with maybe the exception of Florida. In four instances, talent has been enough to overcome errors, and twice, it wasn’t. Once you put the disappointment aside, the fact that each game thus far (and, in my opinion, the rest of the season) has been winnable is a testament to the progress Mark Stoops and his staff have made.

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

POINT: Kentucky hasn’t played a complete game yet

Here’s a rough list of when the Cats have played well this season:

  • First half against Louisiana Lafayette
  • First half against South Carolina
  • Second half against Florida
  • Second half against Missouri
  • Second half against Eastern Kentucky
  • Second half against Auburn

My point is, Kentucky has yet to put together a complete game. In every single outing, at least one unit has underperformed, whether it be the defense, offense, or special teams. Fortunately, four times out of six, Kentucky has done what they needed to do to escape with a win.

COUNTERPOINT: Kentucky hasn’t played a complete game yet

Can you imagine how good this team could be if they strung together two good halves of football? The thought alone gives me goosebumps. While the upcoming gauntlet of Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Georgia is daunting, it’s followed by three winnable games against Vanderbilt, Charlotte, and Louisville. Kentucky just needs two of those to get to a bowl, but if they can finally turn in a complete performance, there’s no one left on the schedule they can’t beat.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

46 Comments for Point/Counterpoint: The 5 issues facing UK Football

  1. Dude
    8:13 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    Some folks should probably just have a good cry about it.

  2. Stickman
    8:15 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    The point to which there is no counterpoint:
    We have heard all of this “We weren’t even in the position to win an SEC game two years ago” “We were only 2-3 plays away from some big wins” “There is nowhere to go but up” bullshit about UK football for the last 500 years or so.

    Let’s concentrate on what we’re good at–Basketball, and leave the other stuff for other schools.

    • Ha!
      8:28 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      2-4 in a basketball conference with the “mastermind Petrino” leading the way? LOL.

      And you are owned by UK in basketball…. I guess YOU should stick to women’s soccer and leave the other stuff for other schools. 😉

    • ukcats42301
      8:28 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      You go ahead and concentrate on basketball we don’t need football fans who only jump on the bandwagon when we are winning!

  3. inside info2
    8:18 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    During practice there is a whole period for the receivers to practice catching balls one-handed. Hopefully they will continue to get better throughout the year. I give them credit though, they make a lot more difficult catches due to the inaccuracy of the pass than they do drop balls.

    • Bluegrass
      9:23 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      Maybe they should spend more time on catching with two hands. One handed catches make highlight reels. Two handed catches win football games.

  4. Moto
    8:24 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    Towles Kentucky 200 pass attempts 7 INT
    Prescott Mississippi St. 225 pass attempts 0 INT

  5. Homesick
    8:26 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    Your characterization of Dawson’s remark about the running play as “smart-assed” reveals how little you know about football. Also continuously remarking on dropped passes does the same. It’s very, very difficult to catch a football in a crowd especially knowing as soon as you touch someone is trying to take your head off. This is an extremely difficult sport to play so give the young players some breathing room w/o constantly harping on the negatives. The team is improving gMe by game and year by year. Stoops and his staff are doing a great job.

    • DesignatedDrinker
      8:36 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      Calling a 2 yard draw and then a 30 yard bomb when you need a first down shows how little Dawson knows about football, or inexperienced he is, possibly. You can say “if it had worked” after every single play that didn’t work. And if it was easy to run and catch passes then everyone would want a scholarship to do it. Instead of getting in bar fights and playing BB guns on campus or getting unsportsmanlike penalties for spiking the ball after a first down, maybe Baker should spend more time catching the ball. Criticism is ok and productive, unless you’re too immature to handle it.

    • Brian
      8:47 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      Man, for a guy who’s “inexperienced, never called a play, and knows so little about the game of football”, Dawson sure does get lucky when it comes to finding a job. Talk about ‘falling up’…..

      I think you may be full of shit, DesignatedDrinker……

  6. ME
    8:29 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    I recall Badet dropping one pass, but there may have been another. The pass he dropped was luckily dropped otherwise it would have been more costly than the Boom draw, time-wise, as he would have been dropped immediately.

    • Dusten
      9:16 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      I remember the play you’re talking about. I looked at my girlfriend and told her it was a great thing that he didn’t catch that.
      There was another play earlier in the game when he was crossing the field and Towles threw it a bit behind him and he couldn’t pull it in. More of a bad pass than a drop, though.

  7. KevinM
    8:32 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    I like our pattern of having good 2nd halves. Now, if we can come out of the gate fast we can right the ship.
    Beating MSU would correct everyone’s attitude towards this team. We have to score more w/less mental mistakes.
    We’ll need 33 points to beat MSU this week….a tough task.

    • SCCat
      9:10 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      I agree – a win in Starkville completely turns the tides of perception, and we will have to score in the 30’s to get it.

      MSU Secondary can be exploited; hope like hell we can do what we need to on D to contain Prescott. They have beaten up on a couple non conference teams since beating Auburn 17-9. I don’t know if we can hold them under 20 at their place.

      I like the CATS to win 33-28. I still believe.

    • Dusten
      9:19 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      I like the positivity, guys. Everyone had us beating Auburn and losing to Miss St. If we pull off the upset (and I feel more comfortable in the underdog role anyway), than expect the bandwagon to start wobbling again (which I’m fine with). (I like parenthesis)

  8. WeareBBN
    9:03 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    There was nothing wrong with the play calls. Boom is the one guy that could explode for a TD and the world knew we were passing so it was worth a shot. We did not run out of time, we ran out of downs. The bomb was open just not executed, guy was open just missed by inches. I love how a few short years ago we would know coming in, Auburn-lose by 30 plus, UF-lose by 30 plus. 4 wins was a great great season. Now everyone is upset because we lost by less than a TD in both games. That alone shows what a great job this staff and these players have done. Plus this is young talent we have making young player mistakes. I love what the staff and players have done and am proud to back them as a season tix holder.

    • SCCat
      9:12 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink


      4-2 after 6 and I don’t see a game left on the schedule where we cannot compete. I am a content football fan. Really would love a big road win in Starkville to set up a MONSTER Halloween game at home.

    • Dieter
      10:25 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      Agree 100% SCCat!

    • CardinalPimpMachine
      10:53 am October 20, 2015 Permalink


  9. SCCat
    9:22 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    I have confidence this team can go 4-2 in the second half as we have in the first; and start to move into the spot that Carolina is vacating as a player in the East for a few years to come.

    Next week in Starkville is big, but honestly if we beat Tennessee, it’s probably bigger in the scheme of things.

    Establishing ourselves as a “legit” East threat would mean going 4-2 at least on that side…even if we lose both West games.

    Can’t wait to see how it plays out – loving this football season!

  10. Dawson
    9:31 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    Dawson throws the ball downfield, automatically making him the best OC we’ve had in years.

    • The Professor
      11:11 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

      To consistantly throw the ball down field you need an offensive line that can give you time for the route to develop. We don’t have that against SEC teams yet we continue to try which leads to too many sacks and incompletions. We pay Dawson $500,000 per year and as this article points out he has little experience and is learning on the job. His play calling directly led to the Florida defeat and severely crippled our chances against Auburn.

    • ukcats42301
      3:00 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      I agree about Dawson. I can’t count the number of times me and other people in my section have yelled, THROW THE BALL DOWN THE FIELD!! in seasons past probably all the way back to the Woodson years and even then Joker didn’t call enough vertical pass plays when he was OC. Think back to the Ron Hudson OC years, having Lorenzen run the option! Compared to that I’ll take Shannon Dawson any day. He is learning as he goes sometimes on how best to attack SEC defenses but he’ll get there.

    • theWilkman
      9:48 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      Hey professor, his playcalling also led us to win 4 of our games on last-chance drives. It goes both ways.

      Some of his calls have been legitimate head scratchers, but going by record he’s batting .667. I’ll take it.

    • The Professor
      4:58 pm October 20, 2015 Permalink

      We did win on some last second drives but why all of a sudden did the offense work when it had not for 55 minutes? We started taking what the defense gave us and threw 5-10 yeard passes and moved the chains. EKU does not count. We struggled the whole game with a subdivision club. We should have hung 50 on them.

  11. funkymonkey
    10:25 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    our OC not too creative I know that,… no trickesh plays,… not even a flea flicker or reverse etc. LSU WON on a trick play, you gotta keep the defense honest.

    • The Rest of the story
      7:26 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      It is called having the balls to do it. I feel both Stoops and Dawson have shown to lack that at critical times. Too many times settling for 3 instead of going for 6. Playing not to lose Will cost this team 3 or 4 more defeats.

  12. Ron Tillman
    11:36 pm October 19, 2015 Permalink

    So is this the Big Freddie Blowhard Effect? Every frickin’ football
    post has to be a novel that would have Proust himself running
    screaming from the room? THIS IS AWFUL.

    • Tim Ralston?
      12:11 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      Tim Ralston October 19, 2015 at 8:37 am | Permalink | Reply
      Wow. KSR actually found someone who is more arrogant and long-winded
      than Freddie Blowhard. Impressive. I’ll take Jonathan Miller *any day* over
      this big steaming pile of self-promotional pablum.

      U mad about something, bro? Do all those “ready-words” make your tiny brain hurt? Is your comprehension level sub-coloring book?

    • ukcats42301
      2:47 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      I like this article because she tells things as they truly are and doesn’t sugarcoat. She calls out people who need to be called out. I get frustrated by players who celebrate a first down or who catch the ball one handed when they don’t have to and then turnaround a drop a td pass or don’t fight to take an INT away from a defender, namely #2 or Badet “clocking in” on his watch when he catches a pass when we are still down 2 scores. No one needs to be showing off, showboating, grinning and winking period. Turn these L’s into W’s and win the east or go to a semi prestigious bowl then you can show off otherwise work on fixing your mistakes a little more and a little less on what you’re going to do after a making a catch for 1st down in the 1st qtr or celebrating an incomplete pass as if it was you who broke it up when in reality the receiver just dropped the pass.

  13. Alice
    12:31 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    We finish the season 5-7 (with the only remaining win against Charlotte), and miss out on another bowl opportunity. The lions’s share of the 2016 recruiting class decommits and the wheels fall off the bus. That’s why they needed to win one of either the Florida and Auburn games to change the outcome of the season.

    • Ha!
      1:10 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      Quite the imagination you’ve got there. Keep dreaming, Tard boy.

      In reality, however, your team is 2-4 in a basketball conference.

      Oh yeah, hey, make sure you tune in to Good Morning America tomorrow morning – its gonna be fun!! 😉

      Karma, linebeard.


  14. Wildcatwill
    12:37 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    Is it possibly time to start looking at changes in the coaching staff. I mean if these constant drops the past three three years are an issue maybe it’s time for a new WR coach. The same issue with the Oline, I don’t think Neil Brown did us any favors with hiring his guys. We might want to add a Special Teams Coach as well…..

  15. BenHur
    1:14 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    F-in Card fans all over this comment section.

    • Brian
      1:17 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      It’s okay – the whole nation is going to be laughing at and/or be utterly disgusted with them this morning… 😀

  16. Echo1
    5:43 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    Dawson is atrocious at late game play calling. I’m not necessarily calling for him to be fired, but I am calling for him to grow a pair.

    • ukcats42301
      6:11 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      I know it has to be excruciating for all fans because I know it is to me when the game is under 2 mins left and we are trying to score a td or get into good enough field position for a FG attempt and you see players walking back to the huddle all non chalantly like we have all the time in the world left and the game is in the 1st qtr! It’s happened during Florida,Eastern,Auburn,Louisiana Lafayette Why?? Have the coaches not told them when they are in their 2 minte offense you run back to the huddle after a play is over.We waste too much time during our “hurry up” offense!

    • theWilkman
      9:49 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      His “atrocious” late game play calling has led to 4 wins, 2 losses. Not sure if you know what “atrocious” means.

  17. Steve
    7:14 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    I agree with the earlier post, our receivers have helped Towles all year. He can hardly hit a moving target. Let’s not forget about our non-existent return game. Ryan Timmons was supposed to be a big get for Stoops and all he does is fair catch every punt. He’s waving his hand before the ball is even kicked.

  18. memphis wildcat
    7:26 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    How good is this team? It is the best team UK has fielded in the last 7 or 8 years and one of the top 5 in the last 30 years. It is also better than what most of us thought it would be at this point in the season. I don’t remember anyone predicting the cats to be 4-2 and only a handful of plays away from 6-0. I am currently watching the ole miss fan base melt down because a few weeks ago ole miss was “headed” to the National playoffs but now has 2 losses. Ole miss could still make it to Atlanta if they win out. Btw, ole miss has never been to Atlanta so how can they expect a national championship when they have never been to the sec championship? Coach Freeze is the best thing that has happened to ole miss in a long time and the fans need to chill. Same here. Getting to a bowl is what is important…any bowl. Ironically just getting to a bowl would have made most of the UK fan base happy prior to the start of the season and now thats not enough? If UK cant get two more wins, i will probably pile on but until they dont i will enjoy watching the most competitive team that has been fielded in over 5 years….when was the last time uk was in every game until the last series?

    • Dieter
      10:33 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

      Totally correct. With limited success has come incredibly overblown expectation. Getting to a bowl, any bowl, should still be the top priority and could only be considered an overall success no matter what happens in individual games.

  19. Poppschmidty
    7:29 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    I noticed there’s not a “point/counterpoint” on Towles’ decision making…dead horse at this point?

  20. bosshogg24
    8:03 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    Mrs. Tyler, that is the best article you have ever written! Play calling has led to the two defeats, the coaching staff is under performing. UK needs to forget the deep balls, go to a shorter game and only worry about getting 1st downs! UK continues to beat themselves in every loss!

  21. Hire you as a Coach
    8:07 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    I think you should join the coaching staff. Excuses about everything that went wrong, statements that UK should have won all of their games, and criticizing both coaches and players.

    Counter point on drops can be corrected. Really? When is this going to happen? Stoops told UK fans that his receivers were just so awesome coming into this year.

    Keep drinking the blue Kool-Aid. Full house crowd at Commonwealth. Season ticket holders paying big bucks and K fund, while Stoops give others tickets for a reduced rate of $20 to fill the stadium.

    UK football is smoke and mirrors.

  22. Dangers
    9:57 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    A lot of people here are finding a lot to criticize about the best UK team we’ve had in years. I know that a couple of the games have been close losses and a lot of mistakes, but keep in mind that we have a relatively young team and somewhat inexperienced coaches. The mistakes just mean that they haven’t come close to their peak yet, so there’s no need to throw them under a bus just yet. Some of you guys are just so impatient.

  23. sardiscat
    11:54 am October 20, 2015 Permalink

    Mrs. TT: How about finding out what the defensive staff is hoping to accomplish by running the defensive linemen onto the field at the last possible moment. Sometimes they don’t even have time to get completely set. They proceeded to get zero pressure on Auburn’s QB during those first two TD drives, maybe because they were sucking wind from the 50 yard sprints they were running immediately before the snap? The goofiness sure didn’t fool the Auburn QB, who was slicing UK up like he knew what UK was going to do in advance.