What you are about to read isn’t pretty, but the truth will set you free. When 5 and 4 star players play a bunch of low rated 3 star players, you have to admit that stars matter. The talent gap that I saw Saturday night was wide and deep.Tom Leach believes that Alabama may be the best team we've seen at CWS.
First, let me point out that Wamarsh's excellent article analyzing Kentucky's improvement over 2012 is well worth reading. And second, what Mark Stoops had to say is very telling about him as a coach.
I think we’re making progress, but I don’t think anybody cares. The record is what it is. - Mark Stoops
Kentucky was out-manned across the board at every position and the final score reflects it. I'm not sure what UK fans expected, but there is a lot of armchair quarterbacking, second guessing, belly aching and whine and cheese going on at all the forums. What the heck did these people expect? A win?
Football is won or lost in the trenches and the level of talent, compared to Alabama's, was woeful. Our offensive line and our defensive line are simply not SEC caliber. Combine that with two quarterbacks who are not SEC caliber and you get a disaster. Alabama earned 35 first downs compared to Kentucky's 13.
For me, the tone for the whole game was our first pass of the game. Demarco Robinson dropped an easy pass from Whitlow on 2nd down. Whitlow followed that with a bad pass to Ryan Timmons on 3rd down and we had to punt. We are now 8 of 44 on 3rd down conversions over the last four games. Alabama ran 80 plays compared to Kentucky's 52. Kentucky had to punt on its first seven possessions: 6 in the first half. Alabama held the ball for 35:59 minutes compared to Kentucky's 24:01.
Were it not for the two Alabama fumbles in the first quarter, the spread would've been 14 points larger. In spite of the beat down, those two fumbles were forced by the UK defense. Yes, Alabama torched Kentucky's defense, but I thought our guys played hard. They were simply out-manned by the #1 team in the nation. Even with that, Stoops wasn't pleased.
— Heard through the grapevine on Saturday night three interesting tidbits from the UK-Alabama game:
1. The locker room at halftime was not a pleasant place to be in. One person who has been around the program a long time was in the vicinity and said to me, "there had to be paint coming off the walls after Stoops got done with them." I am not sure any of the coaches in their hearts of hearts thought that Kentucky had a shot at winning the game. But they did think they would play better and could keep the game within a 20 or so…losing Whitlow hurt but so did some stupid penalties and decisions. That was apparently expressed…aggressively…at halftime.
2. There were some strong words on the sidelines between Stoops and Defensive Coordinator DJ Eliot. I witnessed a bit of this myself and to be fair, this is not uncommon in any football environment. But Stoops was not happy with some of the defensive alignments and personnel packages that were being utilized, especially in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. This was expressed in a very public, and loud way. I like that fire from Coach Stoops and can understand his frustration. He is a defensive guy and UK got manhandled on that side of the ball. Some of that was to be expected, but some clearly frustrated him.
3. There is still a strong sense of optimism around the program. While the coaches sounded down after the game (why wouldn’t they), the optimism is still there. Players heads are not down, the recruits are still saying they are all in and there were compliments from the other side. Nick Saban told at least two folks I spoke with, "give these guys a couple of recruiting classes and this will be a completely different deal." Nearly every former player I ran into thinks Stoops is going on the right path and as one said to me, "they don’t make errors that can’t be corrected with more coaching and better personnel." The next six games are big, but I am still on board, and more importantly, so is everyone else that is actually making this thing happen. - Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio
Kentucky is the only team to hold Alabama scoreless in the first quarter. Of course, Alabama helped with the two fumbles. Kentucky forced Alabama to punt on its first series which was only the second time this season for the Tide.
With only a few exceptions, the offense was awful. However, we did score in the 3rd quarter for the first time this year. The offense certainly did not help the defense stay off the field.
You know you're in trouble when your first year (frosh and JUCO) players are the best players on the team on offense. Stoops and his staff have been trying to put lipstick on an offensive pig all year long.
Here's the ugly stats.
Rushing Offense: 150.8 (83) down from 162.2 (71) 2012 Rank 138.75 (87)
Passing Offense: 201.5 (94) down from 226.6 (71) 2012 Rank 176.25 (102)
Passing Efficiency: 133.90 (60) down from 138.85(54) 2012 Rank 108.62 (111)
Red Zone Offense: 78.9% (87) down from 78.9% (t-84) 2012 Rank N/A
Scoring Offense: 21.8 (103) down from 23.0 (97) 2012 Rank 17.92 (116)
Total Offense:*352.3 (101) down from 388.7 (84) *2012 Rank 315.00 (113)
Tackles for Loss Allowed: 35 (t-63) Rank is up from 30 (t-71) 2012 Rank N/A
Sacks Allowed: 2.67 (t-97) down from 2.40 (t-90) 2012 Rank 2.17 (75)
Time of possession: 26 (117) down from**26 (114) 2012 Rank N/A
3rd Down Conv. %: 25.7% (119) down from 27.6% (117) 2012 Rank N/A
4th Down Conv. %:*69.2% (17) down from*72.7% (t-11) 2012 Rank N/A
First Downs: 103 (t-106) down from 90 (t-105) 2012 Rank N/A
Let's be blunt here. Our offense stinks and it isn't coaching. It's execution. The dropped passes and the poor throws are not the coaches' fault. I just don't see any real leadership on the offensive side of the ball. While Whitlow gave some hope as a dual threat, Smith can only offer up a passing game that is weak at best.
Rushing Defense: 213.3 (108) down from 196.2 (98) 2012 Rank 161.25 (62)
Passing Defense: 224.0 (t-60) down from 195.0 (24) 2012 Rank 229.75 (57)
Scoring Defense: 29.3 (86) down from 25.6 (59) 2012 Rank*31.00 (85)*
Passing Efficiency Defense: 149.93 (108) down from 147.95 (101) 2012 Rank 146.56 (100)
Passes Intercepted: 1 (t-119) down from (t-117) 2012 Rank N/A
Tackles for Loss: 3.5 (119) down from 4.0 (t-114) 2012 Rank 4.42 (105)
Sacks: 2.00 (t-53) down from 2.40 (t-32) 2012 Rank 2.17 (49)
Total Defense: 437.3 (95) down from 391.2 (59) 2012 Rank 391.00 (59)
3rd Down Conv. %: 42.7% (92) down from 36.1% (41) 2012 Rank: N/A**
4th Down Conversion %: 83.3% (t-118) down from 80.0% (t-115) 2012 Rank: N/A
First Downs: 131(t-86) down from 96 (t-41) 2012 Rank: N/A
Turnover Margin: +0.2 (t-56) improved from -.2 (t-83) 2012 Rank N/A
Kentucky's defense isn't as bad as it looks and the reason for the awful numbers is exhaustion. Our offense does not provide any relief and it clearly shows up in Time of Possession. Alabama scored on their last eight possessions.
Net Punting: 35.10 (103) improved from 34.00 (108) 2012 Rank 39.46 (18)
Punt Returns: 7.82 (57) no change from 7.82 (60) 2012 Rank N/A
Punt Return Defense: 9.31 (82) down from 6.90 (t-58) 2012 Rank N/A
Kickoff Returns: 24.78 (25) up from 24.43 (26) 2012 Rank N/A
Kickoff Return Defense: 18.28 (16) down from 17.50 (t-11) 2012 Rank N/A
Early in August, Neal Brown talked about his expectations:
Plays per game: 75
3rd Down Conversion Rate: 48%
1st Down yards: 4 or more yards
Saturday's plays: 60
3rd Down Conversion Rate: 25.7%
1st Down yards: 55% - 4 or more yards (12 of 22 attempts)