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Central Michigan disrespect of Kentucky key to Wildcat's 27-13 victory


All it took was a big show of disrespect from a MAC team to get the Kentucky Wildcat’s season off on the right track.  Facing a 4th and inches from their own 35, the Central Michigan Chippewas woke up a slumbering Wildcat team.  The Chippewas were stuffed and Kentucky responded with 21 straight points and Kentucky improved to 2-0 with a 27-13 win.  I don’t know why it took a slap in the face to get this team started, but it did.

Last week, Kentucky was saved by their defense,  This game started out as a reversal.  CMU had no problem at all on their first two drives moving the ball at will through the air against the Wildcats.  Couple that with the fact that the arm tackling of last season was back and CMU racked up 146 yards of offense in the first quarter.  Kentucky managed to stall the first CMU drive withing the 5 for a FG, but Ryan Radcliff hit Jerry Harris for a 24 yard TD pass.   Kentucky’s demons from last year,penalties and poor tackling reared their ugly head as the defense looked frighteningly as bad as last years.

Kentucky’s offense looked stuck in the same pattern as last week however,  Morgan Newton completed a couple of early passes and appeared to hit Matt Roark on a nice TD pass, but Roark could not hold onto the ball and dropped it,  Craig McIntosh nailed a 41 yard FG.  Kentucky’s second drive was punctuated by a dropped LaRod King pass on third down and the Chippewas led 10-3 after one quarter.  The numbers were ugly as CMU had 146 yards to Kentucky’s 27 and the Chippewas controlled the ball for 11:09.

This disturbing trend continues in the second quarter as Kentucky defenders let Zurlon Tipton get loose for a 36 yard gain on a 2 yard screen pass.  The only thing stopping Central Michigan so far themselves as they were victimized by a dropped 3rd down pass and had to settle for a 30 yard FG to take a 13-3 lead.   The appearance of Randall Cobb seemed to inspire Kentucky as LaRod King has a nice 46 yard catch, but that drive stalled due to a sack and some questionable 3rd down playcalling.  Craig McIntosh booted a 45 yard FG and Kentucky remained in striking distance at 13-6,

The game seemed to take a turn as Danny Trevathan picked off a Radcliff pass and returned it to the CMU 10, but it ended up being wasted.  Morgan Newton badly overthrew a wide open LaRod King in the endzone and Craig McIntosh shanked a gimme FG. Kentucky’s defense finally showed up and Kentucky moved the ball deep into CMU penalty before half but Morgan Newton then an interception at the one yard line.

At this point, despite stuffing the offense for no gain, Kentucky was content to let the clock run out at the end of the first half.  Kentucky had timeouts to burn and could have forced a punt from the CMU endzone but did not.  Calls like that start to bring the decision making process of Joker Phillips to question.  Too many things could have happened with forcing an endzone punt like a blocked or shanked kick or a good punt return.  And as of now, Kentucky is not playing well enough to not force a play like that.   To say the opening six quarters of Kentucky football has been frustrating is an understatement.

That frustration did not look to disappear as Raymond Sanders fumbled the opening kickoff return and Central Michigan was in business at the Kentucky 40, putting the pressure on the defense.  The defense forced a three and out, forcing a punt and you could get the felling that the defense was finally back into gameday form with four solid possessions in a row, allowing just 16 yards on 11 plays. The question now shifted to Kentucky and its offense.

Unfortunately there was no answer for much of the third quarter but then Central Michigan had one of the biggest coaching snafus in quite a while.  CMU, showing no respect whatsoever for the Kentucky offense, went for it on a 4th and 1 from their own 35.  That play was stuffed and on the very next play, Morgan Newton hit a wide open LaRod King for a 34 yard TD pass which tied the game at 13-13.    Kentucky got the ball back and Josh Clemons ripped off a dazzling 87 yard TD run with put Kentucky up 20-13 with :30 left in the 3rd quarter.    Kentucky then played some smashmouth football driving the ball 85 yards and scoring on a Morgan Newton bootleg on their own 4th and one play.  On that drive, Kentucky racked up 81 yards on the ground.

Just when you think that the Chippewas were going to make it interesting, Randall Burden picked off a Radcliff pass at the Kentucky 21  and returned it 32 yards to the CMU 47.

The big question for me is why it took a call to the Wildcat’s manhood to finally wake this team up?  Kentucky was being pushed around for two and a half quarters but the call was definitely a gamechanger.  Kentucky was a totally different team from that moment on and you can argue that this could have turned around the Wildcat’s season.  Maybe you can’t coach a team to make them find their identity.  Sometimes they have to pull together and find it on their own.

A star was born for the Wildcats today.  Josh Clemons is a dynamic back and after his big play, Raymond Sanders stepped it up as well. Clemons finished with 126 yards on 14 carries. Sanders averaged 7.8 yards a carry and LaRod King finished with 100 yards receiving on 5 receptions.  Morgan Newton was a more poised QB after that call and seemed take wake up out of his decision making funk.  Even the injured offensive line responded and Kentucky was able to play smashmouth football and dominated the game from that point on.

After getting owned by the CMU offense the first three possessions, Kentucky shut Central Michigan down completely.  Danny Trevathan continued to play like a man possessed with yet another 10 tackle performance.  Central Michigan had 213 yards of offense on their first three drives and managed just 170 yards on their next TEN drives and came nowhere close to denting the scoreboard again.  I don’t know about you, but the third and fourth quarter for Kentucky took the taste of a horrid first half out of my mouth.

For that reason, I am not going to nitpick.  I will say that Kentucky left at least two touchdowns on the field with Roark’s dropped pass and Newton overthrowing King.  That said, Kentucky’s offensive execution has got to get better.  Kentucky was pushed around by a Sun Belt team for three quarters and a MAC team for a half.  This is not going to fly in the SEC.  But I am going to be optimistic and not say anything about Kentucky’s woes.  And I feel a lot better about our matchup going into next week versus Louisville.  I am going to give Kentucky a pass the rest of the week, but a slow start versus the Cardinals will not be tolerated.

Heads up, UK fans.  I think this Wildcat team just found themselves.

For complete game stats, go here.  Photo courtesy of the Lexington Herald Leader.

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