I know the casual observer will look at today’s game and say “That’s Kentucky football” and move on. And to do so is to undermine what Mark Stoops has been doing at Kentucky. After Joker Phillips was fired, Stoops has had to build Kentucky from the ground up, brick by brick. And if you watch the fight and fire this team has, you will see the foundation being built. But before Kentucky can knock off a top ten team like Missouri, they have to be able to beat themselves and the unforced errors this team seems to make on a consistent basis. Help is on the way in the 2014 class and even though it does not show on the scoreboard, this team is getting better. But for now, they continued to be a team that will shoot themselves on the foot on any given opportunity. And that showed in today’s 48-17 loss to Missouri.
One of the stories of the season has been missed opportunities and Kentucky let two of them get away early. After stopping Missouri on their initial drive, Kentucky drove all the way to the Missouri 5 before the drive stalled. Once again, Kentucky looked good outside of the redzone, with Jalen Whitlow ripping off a 25 yard run and connecting with Jeff Badet for a 14 yard gain. After the drive stalled, a Joe Mansour FG gave UK an early 3-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, AJ Legree did a great job forcing a fumble that UK recovered at the Tiger 44. UK went backwards on the drive and went three and out. Kentucky’s defense played inspired however as the offense fizzled. Kentucky then gave the Tigers a break with a 13 yard punt by Landon Foster. Missouri took advantage of that gift and three plays later, Maty Mauk found Dorian Green-Beckham for a TD that put the Tigers up.
The Wildcat gifts continued as Foster’s punt to start the second quarter was blocked and the Tigers took over at the four yard line. Henry Josey took one play to plow into the end zone and just like that it was 14-3 Missouri.
Kentucky squandered two opportunities and got 3 points. Missouri took advantage of two opportunities and got 14. That is the difference between the number eight team in the country and Kentucky.
Another big difference was the work in the trenches. Missouri at this point was manhandling both lines and sacked Whitlow on back to back plays early in the second quarter. And on the next possession, when Kentucky tried to put the pressure on Mauk with six rushers, the secondary was exposed. Mauk hit a wide open Bud Sasser for a 29 yard play to the UK 12. Two plays later Green-Beckham grabbed his second TD of the game and it was 21-3 and the Tigers could seemingly name their score.
And even when Kentucky seemed to grab a break, they just could not. Kentucky seemingly had a fumble on a punt return that would have given them the ball deep in Tiger territory, but an illegal formation penalty wiped it out and Kentucky had to rekick. Lest you forget, this is the second time in three games that a penalty on special teams wiped out a huge play. The other was the offsides kick call against Mississippi State, although I still insist that was a dreadful call. Regardless, a possibly game changing play is negated by a penalty.