Well sports fans, unfortunately, the 2010 UK football season ends in a losing effort, bringing the Wildcat's record to 6-7, their first losing season since 2005. My sincere congratulations to Pitt interim head coach/defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who had his team ready to rumble. And considering the upheaval and uncertainty surrounding the Pitt pigskin program (after running through two coaches in two weeks), Bennett should be awarded the key to the city for the exquisite job he did preparing his team for battle.
Although Kentucky backup QB Morgan Newton played admirably, UK simply could not overcome the loss of starting quarterback Mike Hartline, and a couple of typical Kentucky mistakes, both special teams related.
For the game particulars, follow me as I make the jump:
As noted, UK quarterback Morgan Newton, while not spectacular, used both his arms and legs to move the chains, which is really all that can be asked of a guy who hasn't played a meaningful snap in a year. As expected, Newton's down-field passing was not sharp, effectively taking one of UK's most potent weapons, wide receiver Chris Matthews, out of the game.
Newton finished the game 21-36 for 211 yards (10.0 yards per completion). Newton had at least two on-target drops, one a sure touchdown to Matt Roark. Newton rushed for only a net 18 yards on 12 carries, but gained a total of 37 positive yards.
I have to add -- I was disappointed in not seeing redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Mossakowski get at least one series to toss the ball around a bit.
Randall Cobb, in what was probably his last game as a Wildcat, played his usual stellar game. Cobb rushed for 23 yards on three carries (7.7 yards per carry), and caught five passes for 52 yards (10.4 yards per reception). Cobb also set a new SEC all-purpose yardage record with his 204 a-p yards in the loss, raising his total to 2,396 yards on the season.
If only all of UK's players, now and in the future, played with the same passion and intensity as Cobb, the on-field results would be so much more satisfying. Cobb has been the bell cow for this team for three years, and his absence, if he indeed leaves for the NFL, will be felt both on the field and in the locker room. Never has there been a more versatile player wear the blue and white, but most importantly, Cobb's leadership and is not the kind easily replaced.
Outgoing senior Derrick Locke rushed the ball 12 times for 71 yards (5.9 ypc), and caught six passes for 61 yards (10.1 ypr). Locke ran the ball downhill all day, but his efforts weren't enough to overcome the mistakes made by the special teams and defense. As is true with Cobb, Derrick Locke will be sorely missed next season, for he has been a steady producer, both as a runner and ball carrier, for four years. Not seeing him in the backfield next year will be a strange sight, indeed.
Senior wide receiver Chris Matthews caught four passes for 28 yards (7.0 ypr). As mentioned above, Matthews was "ham strung" a bit by the inability of Newton to be accurate with his long-range throws, but as he has done all season, he effectively blocked for the ball carriers. Matthews, who led the SEC with nine touchdown catches this season, is to be congratulated on the leap in production he made from his junior to senior year.
"The Turtle," aka Moncell Allen, ended his solid UK career by scoring the 'Cats only touchdown on the day, a one-yard first half run. Allen, asked to move to fullback this year to replace the irreplaceable John Connor, didn't balk at the notion of changing positions, and excelled at clearing the path for Locke, Cobb, Raymond Sanders, and Donald Russell (who's transferring). A key cog to UK's future football fortunes, sophomore wide receiver La'Rod King, had a productive three catches for 42 yards (14.0 ypr). If Cobb opts to play for pay next year, King will be hot target numero uno for whoever is playing quarterback for the 'Cats in 2011. The 6-5 King has what every coach looks for in a top flight wide out -- great hands, length, and a long, quick gallop -- and should give the 'Cats an all-SEC-type of receiver to throw to in the coming years.
Junior linebacker Danny Trevathan was his usual beastly self, recording an extraordinary 11 solo tackles, 12.5 total tackles. But, one great LB does not a great defense make.
Even though there were some solid individual performances by Kentucky players, the 195 rush yards Pitt running backs Dion Lewis and Ray Graham ran for went unmatched by the UK offense. That, coupled with a blocked UK punt, giving Pitt possession on the UK 10 yard line (which became seven points for Pitt), and a botched fake punt, giving the ball to Pitt on the UK 35 yard line (which also became seven points for Pitt), resulted in the 'Cats losing their second straight bowl game.
All-in-all, not a good weekend to be a Wildcat fan, but do remember this one thing -- One of the great aspects of sports, is that there will always be more games. Next year is another season, and another reason to believe in blue.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats!