There were many unknowns heading into the first game of the season. Before the game I wrote about the five things we will learn from the team after seeing the team take the field. Some of the questions produced positive results, while others led to disaster.
Can Kentucky Score?
Kentucky scored 21 points in the first quarter for only the eighth time in school history. 35 points by halftime should be enough points to get you a win. Ahead of the season Freddie projected they would consistently need around 32. It should have been enough, but it wasn’t. They needed at least one second half scoring drive, but failed to keep the ball out of the opponents’ hands.
How Potent is Gran’s Rushing Attack?
Answer: Not even close
All indicators — multiple elite running backs, a skilled interior offensive line, an offensive coordinator that previous coached running backs — pointed to previously unseen success in the running game. Instead the Cats only rushed for 96 yards. To put that 96 into perspective, Kentucky rushed for less than 100 yards only three times last season.
It was an abysmal performance. If UK ran the ball well, they could have possessed the ball long enough to keep Southern Miss’ offense off the field and off the scoreboard. Instead of piecing together long drives, they only ran 14 plays. Their performance on the ground was inexcusable and must dramatically improve.
Is Drew Barker the Answer?
Answer: Most Likely
Barker started strong, throwing for 4 touchdowns and almost 300 yards in the first half. Nobody in the SEC passed for more yards in week one. A high risk, high reward player, if he can mitigate mistakes and take care of the ball, the signal caller will not be the root of this team’s problems.
Was Shannon Dawson that bad?
He’s probably getting more credit than he deserves for orchestrating the comeback, but his team did score 44 points and post 520 yards of offense. He was smart enough to keep it simple, recalling how Kentucky could not repeatedly stop the run, leading to USM’s first SEC win since 2000.
Is the Front Seven that Bad?
Answer: Kind of
This answer is more complicated. When an opponent rushes for 262 yards, the brunt of the bales should be placed on the front seven. However the offense should not have kept them on the field that long, and not everybody in the front seven played poorly.
Matt Elam held his own for 60 snaps and was the best defensive lineman on the field. However, the other two defensive lineman cannot get pushed off the line of scrimmage and lose containment so easily. Jordan Jones had 19 tackles; Courtney Love had 9 but could he took on too many blockers. Kobie Walker had a great first game in the stat sheet but he played like an undisciplined freshman, failing to contain the outside far too often.
There were some bright spots, but some positions cannot replicate their week one errors.