Kentucky Wildcats 22 at Mississippi St. Bulldogs 28:  Postmortem

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The game was competitive. At least there's that.

Sometimes you just have to set hope aside and deal with the reality in front of you, because when hope meets reality, hope rarely survives. So it was again tonight for the Kentucky Wildcats.

As is our custom, the first thing we do is congratulate the victorious Mississippi St. Bulldogs. I said that MSU would have to bring less than their A-game tonight for Kentucky to have a chance, and they obliged. This is not to take away anything from Kentucky's heroics, but rather to point out that we all knew Kentucky isn't yet ready to win, and they proved that tonight despite an estimable effort. MSU made a bunch of really egregious errors including back-to-back major penalties that saw a starter ejected from the game, several very poor minor penalties on third and short, and still they won. So let's make no mistake here — the better team won the game.

With that said, I have to say that Kentucky really competed in this game. They competed imperfectly much of the time, and their execution was faulty and troublingly inefficient. The offense, in particular, was something I hope I'll be able to forget about sometime. But despite all the failures, despite the poor play of Maxwell Smith among others, Kentucky still managed to make the game competitive to the very end. Given the manifold weaknesses of this team, it was, in its own way, a very impressive effort.

Observations:

  • Maxwell Smith was awful. I don't have anything against him, in fact, I have had him pegged as the right guy to start. Based on this game, I'd have to say I was wrong. But, everyone has a bad game.

  • Raymond Sanders was great, but I think his cramping really hurt Kentucky. Had he gotten more touches, the 'Cats might have won.

  • The missed field goal in the first quarter was pretty significant. Kentucky would have had a chance to kick a makable FG near the end to tie.

  • Khalid Henderson had a good game. So did Bud Dupree. Neither were perfect, but both were pretty good.

  • Javess Blue is going for the UK record for dropped passes this season.

  • That first MSU touchdown was an embarrassing breakdown. I'm sure Louisville was laughing, remembering the "Stevie got loose" play. MSU's tight end got loose — because Ashely Lowery couldn't do his job.

  • The defensive line is so inconsistent, I can't help but say they didn't play well. But they did have some good moments, as well as bad.

  • The playcalling on offense was better in this game, but not much better.

  • The team gave good effort, and I liked the emotion and passion I saw. Stoops showed us a lot as well. Encouraging.

  • The onside kick was a bullshit call. I have seen thousands of kickoffs were players were more offsides than that. With that said, his body was past the line of scrimmage,and technically, he was offsides.

  • This football team needs a few more good linemen and a quarterback. That's all it needs to be competitive. There is talent here, but not enough.

  • Even after talent is upgraded next year, we aren't going to be a good team. But I think we will be a team that you must respect. This year, not so much.

This was an effort that we can be proud of in some ways, but we have to be honest with ourselves — it was rife with errors that are not really excusable in a football team. There were way too many breakdowns on both sides of the ball, and even though I want to call this a quality loss, I really can't. MSU invited us to win this football game, and we were unable to do so not because of them, but because of us. They made enough errors for us to break through, but we simply didn't have the class (in the horseracing sense) to do so.

Our talent was actually good enough to win this game, but we played too badly to pull it off. That's the takeaway from this. There is no point in sugar-coating it. We will get better, but probably not good enough this year to manage more than 2 wins, at least, not until we have an offense that can execute football plays and defense that doesn't make unacceptably foolish mistakes.

Next up: Alabama State. We might even be favored in that one, but it will be the last game this season where we are.

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