Kentucky Football: Operation Endure

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Baby steps, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation. Baby steps.

Slogans and moral victories aside, Mark Stoops and his staff clearly arrived at Kentucky with eyes wide open. That hasn't stopped this staff from holding the team accountable. Improvements this year have taken the form of baby steps and the stats show it.

As I pointed out in my preview of Thursday's game, there is a talent gap between the Bulldogs and the Wildcats, but as many pointed out, this was a winnable game. John Clay tells the story better than I possibly could. The fact is neither team is very good. Mississippi State gave the Wildcats plenty of opportunities to win, but Kentucky's mental mistakes did not allow them to take advantage. Kentucky's defense needs to come out ready to play in the first quarter of every game and I feel that's just not happened except against Louisville and Alabama. I don't count the Miami game. It serves no purpose. I would be surprised if we see the much needed cultural shift before next spring with two Stoops recruiting classes on the roster. There is more than one reason for optimism.

Here's our NCAA stats after this past weekend's games.

Offense:

Rushing Offense: 152.1 (85) down from 150.8 (83) 2012 Rank 138.75 (87)

Passing Offense: 196.3 (95) down from 201.5 (94) 2012 Rank 176.25 (102)

Passing Efficiency: 128.63 (72) down from 133.90 (60) 2012 Rank 108.62 (111)

Red Zone Offense: 80.0% (80) down from 78.9% (87) 2012 Rank N/A

Scoring Offense: 20.6 (104) down from 21.8 (103) 2012 Rank 17.92 (116)

Total Offense: 384.4 (104) down from 352.3 (101) 2012 Rank 315.00 (113)

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 38 (t-46) Rank is up from 35 (t-63) 2012 Rank N/A

Sacks Allowed: 2.43 (t-83) up from 2.67 (t-97) 2012 Rank 2.17 (75)

Time of possession: 26 (118) down from 26 (117) 2012 Rank N/A

3rd Down Conv. %: 25.0% (120) down from 25.7% (119) 2012 Rank N/A

4th Down Conv. %: 72.2% (9) down from 69.2% (17) 2012 Rank N/A

First Downs: 123 (t-114) down from 103 (t-106) 2012 Rank N/A

As I said last week, our offense stinks and it isn't coaching. It's execution. The dropped passes and the poor throws are not the coaches' fault. With both quarterbacks injured, the offense just isn't getting it done. And, it doesn't help when the receivers can't catch the ball with any consistency. Kentucky can't convert on 3rd down and it shows in our time of possession.

Defense

Rushing Defense: 204.6 (101) up from 213.3 (108) 2012 Rank 161.25 (62)

Passing Defense: 234.1 (69) down from 224.0 (t-60) 2012 Rank 229.75 (57)

Scoring Defense: 29.1 (t-76) up from 29.3 (86)) 2012 Rank 31.00 (85)

Passing Efficiency Defense: 152.15 (111) down from 149.93 (108) 2012 Rank 146.56 (100)

Passes Intercepted: 1 (t-121) down from 1 (t-119) 2012 Rank N/A

Tackles for Loss: 4.1 (114) up from 3.5 (119) 2012 Rank 4.42 (105)

Sacks: 2.29 (t-43) up from 2.00 (t-53) 2012 Rank 2.17 (49)

Total Defense: 438.7 (93) down from 437.3 (95) 2012 Rank 391.00 (59)

3rd Down Conv. %: 45.2% (104) down from 42.7% (92) 2012 Rank: N/A

4th Down Conversion %: 66.7% (t-98) down from 83.3% (t-118) 2012 Rank: N/A

First Downs: 155 (t-61) down from 131(t-86) 2012 Rank: N/A

Kentucky's defense is a mixed bag with a bunch of mental mistakes like Williamson's missed assignment. As you can see, there were some areas of improvement.

Turnover Margin: +0.1 (t-57) down from +0.2 (t-56) 2012 Rank N/A

Net Punting: 36.11 (t-84) improved from 35.10 (103) 2012 Rank 39.46 (18)

Punt Returns: 7.62 (t-69) down from 7.82 (57) 2012 Rank N/A

Punt Return Defense: 8.57 (72) up from 9.31 (82) 2012 Rank N/A

Kickoff Returns: 24.0 (27) down from 24.78 (25) 2012 Rank N/A

Kickoff Return Defense: 17.9 (12) improved from 18.28 (16) 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

Actual

Saturday's plays:75

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 25.0%

1st Down yards: 53.6% - 4 or more yards (15 of 28 attempts)

For more detailed stats of the game, you can go to the UK Athletics site.

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