It seems that I have been writing the same story for the past three seasons of following Kentucky football, but it’s time to turn the page. And so should Mitch Barnhart and the University of Kentucky Athletic Association in regards with the search for a new head coach. But first, let’s take a look at why we are saying this yet again today.
You would think that when two 0-7 SEC team play, you would have a somewhat close and entertaining game, right? Wrong. Playing under a one hit wonder coach, the Tennessee Volunteers bullied and embarrassed the Kentucky Wildcats who were playing to send Joker Phillips out with a win. Instead of taking home what should have been a winnable game, Kentucky, plagued by missed opportunities and bad play-calling, had their teeth kicked in by Tennessee 37-17.
But it did not have to be that way. Two times, in a 20-14 game, Kentucky marched into the Tennessee red zone, only to bumble and stumble out of what should have been 14 points and ended up with just three. Kentucky was down 20-14 at the time and could have had back to back possessions for touchdowns closing out the second and beginning the third quarters. What could and should have been 28-20 Kentucky was lost in the reality of two sacks of Jalen Whitlow in the red zone and Kentucky settled for a measly 3 points and still trailed 20-17. Six Tyler Bray completions later, and Tennessee made Kentucky pay for the missed opportunities and took a 27-17 lead.
In the second quarter, Kentucky had a fourth and inches at midfield with Patrick Towles in at QB. Instead of the QB keeper with the 6’4 Towles, which had a 98% chance of succeeding, Joker called for a run by Raymond Sanders, who lost his footing and two yards on the play. Facing a 4th and 1 at the Tennessee 32 in the fourth, Jonathan George was stopped for a yard loss. And then there was the dropped passes. Lots of dropped passes.
And once again, another embarrassing stain on the Joker Phillips resume which saw him inherit a four time bowl team and limp out with a 13-24 record. And unfortunately the program is left with more questions than answers.
For example, despite a wasted season in which Phillips was seemingly pressured to take the redshirt off of Patrick Towles, we really don’t know that much about Towles. Towles looked brilliant against Mississippi State, got hurt and missed the next two games, and then found himself in a bizarre shared time split with Jalen Whitlow which often resulted in taking out a red hot Whitlow and throwing Towles into the game and often interrupting the whole flow of the offense. Florida proved week one that the dual QB thing did not work, and Will Muschamp quickly named a starter and Florida is in the national title hunt.
Joker really could not decide what to do with the two QB’s and his dual QB system probably cost Kentucky more points than it generated. And as a result, we still don’t really have a feel of what Patrick Towles can do after a wasted freshman season.
This kind of uncertainty spread to Kentucky’s play-calling over the past three seasons as Kentucky seemed to run when they should pass and pass when they should run. And after three seasons, there are still more questions than answers on this young roster. The next coach has some huge decision to make with possibly three talented sophomore QBs (if Smith redshirts) on the roster.
But I’m not going to bash Joker and his coaches anymore. They are finished and will never impact the future of Kentucky football anymore. Now the heat turns to Mitch Barnhart, who at least in the public eye as shown as much indecisiveness and uncertainty concerning the football coach search as his team has shown on the field.
But after today’s game, in which Kentucky was held to 17 points by a historically bad SEC defense, Barnhart much realize that REAL CHANGE is needed at Kentucky and if it is not made with this coaching hire, his job may be the next one on the line.