Tag Archives: Kentucky Football

Overconfidence Killed the Cards

As one of my favorite Youtubers Spencer Owen would say, “That was a misery compiler!”  UofL once again came out and disappointed us against a subpar team who the Cardinals should have easily dispatched.  Blame who you want, but at the end of the day a loss is a loss and that goes for the whole team.

With losses now to two unranked teams (thanks, Memphis), Louisville will surely plummet out of the top 15 and possibly out of the top 20.  A team that started with so much promise and college football playoff hopes just a mere two weeks ago is now just another above average team. Where did it all go wrong?

First off I’d like to give Kentucky the credit they deserve. The Wildcats had every right to just accept the idea that losing this game was inevitable, but instead they came out guns blazing and took it to the UofL defense.

Last week I said we would have to watch out for the dangerous rushing attack of UK, and though they did rack up 243 rushing yards, no individual broke 100 yards on the day so that was a win for the defensive line. Unfortunately the secondary decided they didn’t want play football and gave up a whopping 338 yards on 16-27 passing from Stephen Johnson, who just last week against Austin Peay went 5-9 for 101 yards.  Now one of the three bombs he threw for touchdowns was undoubtedly luck with Lamarques Thomas pulling up with a hamstring injury. This injury freed up Garret Johnson for a pitch and catch touchdown, but like they say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Then, at the beginning of the fourth quarter with the game tied at 31, Dorian Baker should have been called for offensive pass interference  but instead made a spectacular grab to take a seven point lead in the fourth.  But these are just 14 of the 41 points that the Wildcats scored against the UofL defense.

The real culprit as to why the Cardinals lost this game are the Cardinals themselves.  The big difference in this game was turnovers. UK finished with two and UofL had four, including a costly fumble by Lamar Jackson that eventually lost the Cardinals the game.  And even though Lamar did throw for 281 and had 171 yards rushing, he had three interceptions to add to his costly fumble.

Jackson will still win the Heisman but this was definitely a game he will want to forget.  But not all the blame can be put on Jackson, once again we saw a Cards offensive line that couldn’t keep pressure off the quarterback, though only allowing 1.5 sacks they disrupted the rhythm of Jackson and forced him to run more than he would’ve liked.  And though Jackson did fumble and give Kentucky the last possession of the game, that possession started at their own 10 with 1:48 left in the game. Austin MacGinnis did have to kick a 47-yard field goal to win, that’s still no excuse for why the Louisville defense couldn’t get a stop on 3rd down and let Kentucky drive down the field and get into field goal range.

These last two weeks are a lot like saying, “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.”  Houston fooled the Cards when they came out with more tenacity and never let the Cards in the game.

With UK the Cards have no one to blame but themselves, they knew it was a rivalry and still they just couldn’t get the job done. Petrino has some thinking to do to get this team sorted out before its bowl game.

 

Photo: Wikimedia

Kentucky’s Defense Could Surprise the SEC

2015 Kentucky Wildcats Defensive Rankings in the SEC:

Points per game- 13th

Yards per Game- 12th

Passing Yards per Game- 6th

Rushing Yards per Game- 13th

Couple those stats with a 2016 defensive unit that will see seven or more new guys in a starting role and it’s probably fair for pundits to label Kentucky as one of the worst three teams in the SEC, right?

Wrong.

Remember, Kentucky has brought in a top 40 recruiting class the last four years. This is the year that we’ll see it all come together and find Kentucky finishing in the middle of the SEC standings, earning a bowl bid and a little more respect from conference foes.

But how? They’ve lost so much and don’t have more than one or two guys left on the defensive side of the ball that have proven anything!

Look, the ‘Cats will be without seven of their top 10 leading tacklers from a season ago. On top of that, junior defensive lineman Regie Meant, the team’s 12th leading tackler in 2015, is out indefinitely due to personal reasons. I get it.

However, Kentucky does return senior strong safety Marcus McWilson, who finished in top 50 in the SEC in tackles last season.  Beyond McWilson, look for fellow defensive backs Mike Edwards and Chris Westry, eighth and 11th leading tacklers, respectively, from last season, to be leaders in the same category.

Also, don’t forget about Matt Elam.  Elam, a 6’7”, 360-pound nose-guard, obtained a starting role last year after Melvin Lewis broke his leg against Auburn. This year, Elam entered camp as a starter for the first time in his three year Kentucky career. If Elam can learn to play a little lower and show the ability to play full defensive series’, fans will see him surpass his four-star potential and become an elite SEC defensive lineman.

The linebacker corps has also been a big question mark this off season and understandably so.  Gone is Josh Forrest. Long gone is Bud Dupree. That’s a big loss of production and leadership.

Enter Middle Linebacker Courtney Love.

Love, a junior transfer from Nebraska, will play a crucial role in the center of Kentucky’s defense.  During his first year at Nebraska, Love earned Scout Team Defensive MVP honors while redshirted.  In 2014, his second season with Nebraska and first chance to see the field, Love played in 12 games and recorded six tackles.  He’s spent a total of three years improving his game in the NCAA after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and will surely impress a lot of people.

Love will be joined by sophomore defensive end/outside linebacker Denzil Ware. Ware, a four-star recruit from the class of ’14, is coming off a huge redshirt freshman campaign, and in the Blue and White spring game, he led the defense with 10 tackles, five for a loss, and four presumed sacks (you’re not allowed to actually tackle the quarterback in spring games).

The defensive backfield was the brightest spot for the ‘Cats last season.  Despite losing AJ Stamps to graduation and sophomore Darius West to a season-ending knee injury, Coach Stoops has retained a wealth of experience and production to his already impressive defensive backfield.  That experience will help the ‘Cats push into the top half of the SEC in pass defense in 2016.

Chris Westry is arguably the most notable and exciting returner to the defensive backfield. Playing all 12 games at cornerback last season, Westry put up solid numbers, earning a spot on the SEC’s All-Freshman team. With a year of experience under his belt, Westry could prove to be one of the top corners in the SEC this year and beyond.

While the defensive backs will be tough to crack, Kentucky must produce a pass rush to be successful. Courtney Miggins must lead that charge. Even though he finished with zero sacks last season, he showed the ability to pressure on the quarterback.

Denzil Ware will also be a huge factor in the pass rush. As mentioned earlier, Ware was a terror in the Blue and White game with four sacks.

After it’s all said and done, Kentucky will finish with at least six wins this season, and the defense will be a big reason why. They may even steal a few SEC wins from teams like Florida or Mississippi State, meaning the ‘Cats could finish with a seven or eight-win season. A Kentucky team on the rise is exactly what the Southeastern Conference needs, especially an East Division that has suffered through dismal Vanderbilt and UK seasons and has seen teams like South Carolina and Missouri drop in quality recently.

E-mail Evan at or follow him on Twitter@skilliter.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons