Having just returned from a family meeting, it feels like a great burden to have to write this. Despite a game effort, Kentucky fell for the 25th straight time to Tennessee.
Congratulations to the Volunteers, who now join UK at 7-5 for the season. Tennessee played a very good football game, and Montario Hardesty was the realization of my worst fears about Kentucky coming into this game. The Volunteers played determined, if not particularly inspired, football. In the end, they were just a little bit better than the Wildcats.
What we saw tonight is what we have seen for the last four years -- a lack of true depth at positions killing us. What killed us tonight was the injury to John Connor, which resulted in Moncell Allen trying to replace him. Moncell did his best, but when it comes to blocking, Connor is the very best in the SEC. That's why Randall Cobb was less efficient in the second half. That's why Joker Phillips went more to the pass. That's why Derrick Locke saw far less of the football. Without Connor to block for them, the going got much tougher.
I must say that I am quite depressed to have lost this game. I really thought we had a chance to win in overtime. But for one of the few times this year, UK could not avoid either penalties or turnovers, and as we all are aware, Kentucky has a relatively small margin for error against the more talented SEC teams, of which Tennessee certainly is one.
More after the jump.
Many of you will be jumping down Phillips' throat for not running more of the Wildcat, but it was far less effective in the second half due to the absence of Connor. My bigger complaint was that every Wildcat play seemed to be a Randall Cobb run, and you would think that Kentucky could mix that up with more Derrick Locke.
But truth be told, Randall Cobb was not at his best tonight. He made several questionable decisions with the football, and uncharacteristically fumbled the football twice. He did score a touchdown and made several big plays, but it just seemed to me like the edge was not really there for him. Maybe it was, and he just didn't play to the top of his ability, but in the end, the result was the same.
The real problem with this game was that Tennessee dominated both our offensive and defensive lines. Our defensive line has been weak all year, but tonight, it was simply not up to the task. Hardesty ran through them like a hot knife through butter. It has been a recurring problem for the Wildcat defense to be weak against the run, and given the talent we are graduating, I don't have much hope for a strong defensive front next year. But that is for later.
Here were my other observations:
- Morgan Newton was simply not up to the task tonight. He did his best Mike Hartline impersonation by throwing the football over everyone's head.
- Sam Maxwell disappeared after the interception. Where did he go?
- Great game by Micah Johnson. He seemed to be in on every play. But he could not cover the tight end at all.
- The pressure on Crompton was simply not good enough.
- The defense, overall, was poor. Tennessee pretty much did what they wanted. The only way they didn't was when they got a penalty or a big negative play.
- The Kentucky offense was very predictable, and I think we did not give Locke the ball enough in either half.
- Special teams play was generally not very good. Tydlacka made a couple of very poor punts, UK kicked a ball out of bounds or line drives that could be returned on kickoffs, and just generally did not do that well. The only bright spot was Randall Cobb's punt returns.
- UK's passing game was almost non-existent. I can remember Cobb catching a couple of balls, and Matthews catching one long pass. But did any of the other wide receivers ever catch a football?
- How many times must Wildcat fan's hearts be broken before we dispose of this particular nuisance?
Well, that's about all I have for now. I haven't looked at the stats, and I haven't really looked at anything else. The game (what I saw of it) was largely lost on penalties and turnovers, something that Kentucky has feasted on for most of the year. It was bound to catch up to us sooner or later.