Few things sting like the loss to a bitter rival, and Kentucky and their fans..."/>
Few things sting like the loss to a bitter rival, and Kentucky and their fans..."/>

Kentucky Wildcats Football: The Morning After UofL


Few things sting like the loss to a bitter rival, and Kentucky and their fans are feeling the pain this morning. The Louisville Cardinals came into Lexington on the heels of a loss to FIU and ended up knocking off the Wildcats 24-17. Kentucky will now begin preparing for what is sure to be an ugly conference slate.

So What Happened?
The Louisville gameplan was not creative or unique. Charlie Strong’s Cardinals came into Commonwealth Stadium and punched Kentucky in the mouth with a dedicated running game and an aggressive defense. Despite losing starting quarterback Will Stein, the Cardinals relied on a strong running game to exact their will on the hapless Kentucky defense on their way to out-rushing Kentucky 181 yards to 35 yards for the Wildcats. An early La’Rod King fumble turned the momentum in a game that felt eerily like the Tennessee contest last season. The Kentucky offense could not put together any semblance of a rushing attack due to pressure caused by Louisville, and the Kentucky defense could not stop a one-sided ground game or cover the receivers when Louisville took their shots. This game raises several red flags for Kentucky fans going forward.

Room For Improvement
-The Coaching staff has got a lot of thinking to do. I’ve been firmly on the Joker Phillips bandwagon in the past, but I have to say I’ve got one foot off the side after last night. The biggest problem in this game wasn’t that Kentucky lost to a better team, it was that the Wildcats lost to a worse team that was coached properly and took it to them. The conservative play-calling of Randy Sanders has finally gotten to me as the Wildcats ran draw after draw on third and ten. I’ll give Rick Minter a little bit of a mulligan for this game, but you cannot have your defense completely embarrassed by a team of this caliber. A ten year old knew what plays they were running before the ball was even snapped. The team has now looked uninspired and come out of the first half flat in almost every game of the past two seasons. This staff is going to have to get the team ready for the SEC or I seriously doubt they are employed come this offseason. You have to beat the teams you’re supposed to beat.

-The Kentucky offensive line has some issues. The unit was clearly overrated by everyone (including myself) coming out of the offseason. The injuries to Center Matt Smith and Tackle Billy Joe Murphy have probably not helped matters, but the three returning starters and the fifth year senior (Jake Lanefski) that are playing have no business getting owned by a defensive line like Louisville. This is three straight weeks where the Kentucky O-line has been dominated by a sub-par team and I’m tired of making excuses for them. The running game was non-existent and Newton did not have time to try to throw the ball deep because he was hit almost as soon as he finished his drop. This unit has a lot of soul-searching to do, and I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t time to bench some seniors and see what some of the younger guys can do.

-Josh Clemons finally hit a wall, but I’m going to credit his poor performance to the fact that he had nowhere to run because of the offensive line’s terrible game.

-The defensive line can now be piled in with the offensive line as a vastly overrated unit coming out of the offseason. Louisville has the worst offensive line that this team will play in the 2011 season, yet the Kentucky defense was still man handled on rushing attempt after rushing attempt by them. The unit could not get any pressure on the Cardinals quarterbacks without the linebackers blitzing and this is beginning to feel like the same old song from last season as well.

-The defensive backs were one of my concerns heading into this game and they were unfortunately a disappointment. With two fifth-year seniors in the backfield, there is no excuse for a true freshman to be connecting with another true freshman for long gains and touchdowns. The Cardinals did basically take Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton out of the game by sticking to the boundary passes, but sometimes your cornerbacks just have to make plays, and Kentucky’s didn’t.

The Bright Spots

-Morgan Newton actually had a very solid game. Despite him throwing the ball away on fourth down and essentially gift-wrapping the game for Louisville, he was able to hit receivers in stride on intermediate routes and long passes in addition to making things happen with his legs. Once the coaching staff realizes that the designed runs for Newton don’t work and he’s much better improvising, we should see some additional improvement there. Morgan is getting better each week and that’s as much as you can ask for.

-E.J. Fields finally made an impact on the field and a guy that we’ve mentioned extensively in the podcasts made the most of his opportunity. He was a consistent threat for the Kentucky offense and he caught the ball every time it was thrown to him. We may have seen the first glimpse of a promising future for Fields.

-The linebackers were very solid again this week.

Game MVP for Kentucky WR – E.J. Fields

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