It feels really good, and I mean really, really good to win the Governor's Cup two years in a row. I have to admit, UK looked better on paper in this game, and first games of the season are often where that matters the most, before experience, coaching and overall comfort with the game begin to take hold. Here are some overall impressions of this games statistics that got left out of my earlier effort:
- The statistics of this game will not make anyone fear Kentucky. Yes, we looked good on defense, but Louisville's ineptitude on offense was a big part of that. Cantwell had a really bad day, and Louisville did not go back to plays that were working often enough.
- The special teams were truly special. Absent one out of bounds kick by Masthay and Seiber missing a very makable field goal, UK was perfect on special teams, getting good returns on punts and the one kickoff by Lyons, and Masthay's 78-yard crush of a free kick after the Hartline safety allowed UK to pin Louisville inside their own 20. I can't remember that ever happening on a free kick from the 20 in any game I have ever seen. Masthay also punted the ball very well.
- The penalty for not allowing sufficient room for the punt reception that Lyons fumbled was a correct call. Many Louisville fans have bemoaned that call by claiming the Halo Rule is no longer in the game. That's true, but that rule enforced a 2-yard zone around the receiver that the defense wasn't allowed to violate. The new rule simply does away with that automatic zone of exclusion and allows the officials to judge when the punting team is interfering with the reception. The fact that the football either touched or just missed Bilal Powell's helmet is all the evidence one needs to know he interfered with the fair catch. Powell was less than a yard away from Lyons, and whether he was moving one way or another is utterly irrelevant. Lyons could not move forward under the ball without running over Powell, and that was why he fumbled.
- Is Louisville's defense good, or is Kentucky's offense just inept? Probably a combination of both, just like the other side of the coin. But there can be no doubt that Kentucky's defense made many more big plays.
- The path to six wins just got much easier. The question is, can we find a path to the scoreboard on offense (thanks ESPN)? The offense can only claim direct responsibility for 3 points, and that is reason for concern.
- DeMoreo Ford can't get healthy fast enough for me.
- Matt Roark needs to learn to use his size like Chichester. Believe it or not, it was Roark who blocked the Louisville field goal attempt.
- Look for a lot more Randall Cobb in the next few games.
- Mike Hartline showed more poise than I expected, and a weaker arm than I hoped for.
- Can Steve Kragthorpe survive the calls for his head? I really don't know. They may not be fair, but they are certainly loud and getting louder by the minute.
- Our linebackers can play better. They had 12 tackles among all of them, with Micah Johnson leading with 5.
- Kudos to Brooks or to the 'Cats themselves for not rubbing it at PJCS. I love teams that act like they've been there before, even when they haven't.
- I expect Louisville to improve, a lot. There is nothing wrong with Cantwell that a few games and some practice can't solve, and their defense is so much better than last year that the offense won't need to be that great. Let's be honest, we didn't sack Cantwell but twice. He had enough time to be effective, but he just had a bad day and Kentucky's line had a great day slapping, tipping and generally harassing his passes. He has a long throwing motion, but so did Woodson. He just needs to learn when to throw hard and when not to.
- Seven tackles for loss is a really good statistic. Keep that up and UK will be one of the best defenses in the nation.
- 4-16 (25%) in third down efficiency. Not good at all. For comparison, last year our third down conversion rate was 48%.
- Kentucky had 6 pass breakups compared to Louisville's 1.
- The UK O-line surrendered only 1 sack.
- Brian Bennett of ESPN was unimpressed with the Louisville effort:
It was one of the ugliest and most inept losses in recent program history. Revlon doesn't make enough lipstick to gloss up this pig.Ouch.
So where does UK go from here? Well, the path to 4-0 going into the Alabama game in Tuscaloosa seems very dooable. But as good as Alabama looked against previously #9 ranked Clemson, UK is going to need to find a ton more offense than they had today, and step up their defensive effort even further. Possible? Sure, but next week, we will know a lot more about this team than we do this week.