Understanding there is a basketball scrimmage tonight, I’ll make this short and to the point. For brevity, film evaluation ends with 2:55 remaining in the 3rd quarter. From that point on, the game was over.
After painstakingly rewatching the game, the following are observations:
— 1st down plays were problematic and significantly diminished UK’s opportunities. This trend started when the Cats were flagged for illegal formation on its first play of the game.
— For the greater portion of 3 quarters; on 1st down Kentucky was called for two penalties, dropped four passes, and threw one interception.
— Boom Williams displayed patience as he awaited blockers to open run lane avenues. On more than one occasion, the key block was thrown by true freshman CJ Conrad. This was displayed on the near 1st quarter touchdown as well as throughout the three quarters of evaluation.
— CJ Conrad has entered the world of being a “special” football player and perhaps UK’s most dangerous offensive weapon. He blocked, caught, and competed at an extremely high level. Perhaps he can become a team leader as his example should be the standard for the roster. Compete.
— After the film evaluation period, Drew Barker was effective by going 7-9 as true freshman RB Sihiem King showed flashes.
— Kentucky won the first quarter, 10-7. While having offensive success, the Cats were countering MSU’s blitz packages with draws, timely passes, and behind Boom Williams’ extraordinary effort. However, the above mentioned drops and penalties handcuffed sustained success.
— Patrick Towles was pressured for most of the evening. MSU’s first QB sack occurred during a LB and Safety blitz. Boom accurately picked off the most danger-close defender, but safety tackled the QB. Unaccounted for defenders are the QB’s responsibility. Throw away or hot route is the preferred method of response.
— In the 3rd quarter, MSU missed a FG. Unimaginably, UK was still in the game only down 28-13. Completions to Conrad, Baker, and Boom maneuvered the football down the field. Garrett Johnson had yet another explosion play followed by CJ Conrad’s near score as he dragged Dog defenders to the 7-yard line. This is where the game changed.
— On 1st and goal at the MSU 3, Ramsey Meyer’s critical personal foul (punch) call moved the Cats backwards. This cannot happen. Miss. State was inevitably going to win the game, had the better team. But composure penalties are game changers. The drive ended with an Austin MacGinnis field goal.
— However, the prior third down and goal play summed up the evening. A difficult, yet catchable touchdown pass was dropped. The catch/drop wouldn’t have mattered. Jordan Swindle was called for holding. To recap, 1st and goal on the 3. Two red-zone penalties and a missed touchdown pass opportunity. Thus was Saturday night in Starkville.
— Upon further review, Nose Guard Matt Elam didn’t exactly dominate the middle of the line of scrimmage, but perhaps we saw what he’s able to contribute to DJ Eliot’s defense. At times, he stood up the center. That was a positive. He’s not built to sack the quarterback to make an abundance of tackles. Elam is still a work in progress. Farrington Huguennin’s effort is to be commended.
— On more than one occasion, the UK defense was misaligned. One particular instance resulted in a Dak Prescott touchdown. Six defenders were lined up on the left side of the field. Prescott recognized, ran to the opposite side, touchdown Bulldogs.
— Cats missed Jason Hatcher. Not only in pass rush, but his ability to defend the pass in the flat area. Kentucky is just not talented enough to pressure the quarterback with three or four defensive linemen. Not yet. In order to compete in the SEC, the Cats have to attack. This scheme is high risk/reward. I foresee more Nickel/Dime packages in the future. Auburn and Miss State have exposed pass defense warts.
— Derrick Baity played extremely well for his first outing. Going against the league’s best QB and grown man receivers, Derrick battled. He and Westry are going to be a dynamic combination. I’d hope that’s the CB duo we see from this point on. As Mark Stoops indicated in his Monday press conference, thousands of reps were given to certain players. At some point in time, enough is enough when lack of production is the continual outcome. That time is now and perhaps should have been earlier in the season.
— With 3:12 remaining in the first half, Dak Prescott led the Bulldog offense to two touchdown within a span of two minutes. The ease of the two drives were troubling.
— The first of the two started with 3:12 on the clock, Dogs crossed the goal line with 1:34 left in the 2nd quarter. The drive consisted of five plays of which every snap resulted in ten plus yards. Touchdown pass concluded the scoring drive.
— Following a Patrick Towles interception, Miss State took over on its own twenty yard line with 1:12 left in the half. On its first play, AJ Stamps missed a tackle on the sideline, result was a sixty yard gain. The Dogs were in business after just one play. Josh Forrest did sack Prescott, but the next play resulted in a Miss State touchdown.
— Before the tape stopped at the end of the third quarter, UK did have two drive stops.
— CB Chris Westry, CB Derrick Baity, S Mike Edwards, and S Darius West played a large portion of the 2nd half. The freshmen foursome competed. The rookies fought. Trial by fire, but proud of their effort.
— Somehow, some way, UK has to find a way to pressure opposing quarterbacks. Prescott’s vision wasn’t impeded nor was he consistently influenced in the pocket. Realize that Dak is Dak, but Auburn’s Sean White also was given time to go through progressions.
What does all this mean?
For the second straight game, Kentucky lost composure in the closing minutes of the first half. Cats have given up 17 points against Auburn and Mississippi State. The game offered opportunities, but Kentucky didn’t capitalize. QB Dak Prescott is the best football player that Kentucky will face in 2015. If anyone tries to compare opposing QB’s to Prescott, just stop. The fifth-year senior was superb.
— As a college football team, MSU may be the best that UK will face in 2015. Its roster doesn’t include a stable of four and five star players, however the Bulldog roster is the best coached and developed in the league. The veteran team also plays with extreme intensity and a boulder size chip on their shoulder. Simply said, Mississippi State was more physical and tougher than Kentucky. Respect.
— Melvin Lewis and Jason Hatcher were missed. Their presence wouldn’t have changed the game’s outcome, but could have helped it to not appear so easy for the Dogs. With the Volunteers coming to town, Kentucky has no other option but to get back to work. The SEC is unforgiving as UT presents many of the same matchup problems as did Miss State. Cats are 4-3.