First things first. Congratulations to Mississippi State for an outstanding game. They were determined, they were strong, and generally, they were just better than Kentucky. Anthony Dixon was just too much for us, and Kentucky's defense never could figure out how to contain him. Not only that, MSU made big plays on the downfield passing game, something that they have rarely been able to do in SEC play.
Give a lot of credit to the MSU offensive line, which dominated Kentucky's d-line all night long. Kentucky was never able to get good penetration, and it was almost like UK was playing seven down linemen instead of six, partially because of the inexplicable decision by Steve Brown to go with the nickel package all night against a team that is not exactly strong in the passing game.
I could rant and rave about this game all night, but in the end, it boiled down to game plans -- MSU had a far superior game plan on both sides of the ball, and UK was unprepared and unable to adjust. It was essentially a case of two equally talented teams, only one had better coaching. Tonight, that team was not Kentucky.
My observations follow the jump.
Morgan Newton did the best he could. He is a case study in why you don't succeed in the SEC with a freshman QB. It isn't that he was bad, he wasn't, and in some cases, he was downright great. But the little things -- the unwanted timeouts, the poor decisions, the really bad decision that forced the interception -- those things are the kind of things more experienced quarterbacks don't do often. Morgan was great -- except when he wasn't, and that was more often than not.
- Too little Randall Cobb in the Wildcat. It is not rocket science to know that Cobb prefers to run, but Phillips insisted on calling running plays from the Wildcat instead of the passes that MSU was not ready for. It was something so obvious even a guy who last played organized football at QB 38 years ago could see it.
- Kentucky's offense was as predictable as the sunrise. So was MSU's, but for some reason, UK couldn't figure it out. Example -- on the long MSU pass play for a touchdown, I looked over to my wife and said, "They will take a shot downfield on this play, just watch." Oh, to be wrong...
- Derrick Locke continues to impress despite his fragility.
- Our defensive line was pushed around from the first snap to the last.
- Our offensive line was adequate, but little more, and we did a poor job picking up the blitz.
- How do you have a player like Randall Cobb and fail to get him the football even once on the final drive of the game? I'm just askin'...
- When it counted, T.C. Drake dropped a football that anybody could have caught.
- Anybody but me missing Mike Hartline?
- Injuries were a big factor in this. Micah was a shadow of his former self, and Trevard Lindley would have spared us the nickel package on most downs.
This was a loss that we will regret. Big time. UK may still make a bowl, but it will likely be nearby, and minor. I am extremely disappointed in both the team and the coaching staff, the latter in particular. They had been doing so well, and then this.
Well, I guess we should recognize that every team throws in a clunker now and then, and that includes the coaching staff. This wasn't exactly a clunker, I guess, but it sure was one of those games that you have to search to find excuses for. Make no mistake -- UK lost this game primarily because they were outcoached and outplayed by a team of similar talent, at home, where we should win against such teams.
On the bright side, think of all the tape that Brooks will have to show to illustrate what not to do. The problem is, he will be showing most of it to his coaching staff.