Counterpoint: Why Grading the Staff and Team is Fruitless

When you were in school, you may or may not have noticed this about test-taking. I did. I paid attention to a lot that went on before, during and after tests. There's a whole separate world of information to be found when you consider more than just performance. Getting caught up in the grade alone means taking a picture of the "Daniel Boone National Forest" sign and not bothering to walk through and look at the trees.

A lot of people get tripped up thinking like that and miss something in the process.

A component of test-taking is the type of test. Is it true-false, multiple choice, essay, or a show your work kind of test. It could also be oral rather than written. You could be looking at a scantron test that has to be filled out more or less accurately, or simply a test where you circle the correct answer. Are you taking the test in the same room in which you were taught? Is this the first time you've taken the class or did you have it before with a different teacher?

There's more. Is it timed? Is there very little time allowed for each question? Does the test cover material you've gone over in class or is it more advanced than anything on your homework or in your pre-test reviews? Were you late for the test, did you oversleep, did you forget to study, or did you miss several weeks of class? Did you study the wrong material? Is the graphite in the pencil breaking constantly, did you miss a question or put an answer in the wrong place, have to find it, and correct everything after during the test? Is your professor sitting in the front of the class watching you all erase, drop pencils, and/or swear out loud, all the while keeping score on the chalkboard?

Do you get the the idea?

I'll draw some parallels to this team and season, using class and test aspects for those that can't see them from the examples above:

  • The current 4 crops of players, 1 set going through Sr Day last Saturday, have been through a different course before, with a different instructor, were tested differently, and failed more than they succeeded for 3 years.
  • They are trying to unlearn what they learned previously that now interferes with the way they should think and perform.
  • They are led by others undergoing the same process, so there is no one to turn to for help at this point.
  • The new instructor tests them differently, teaches them differently, and rewards them differently. That instructor is not responsible for how quickly the students that previously did not pass can correct themselves and get things right on the test.
  • Equally as important to the advancement of the old students are new students that have never learned this material at this level, and are still trying to acclimate to it. When some of them are forced into leadership roles because of their natural skills, it can be an even bumpier ride than expected, since they have no rudder of experience to guide themselves, much less others.
  • If their former instructor pre-determined that they weren't going to get a good grade (had a doghouse they couldn't get out of) those students will be less likely to aggressively fail, thus less likely to learn or grow as quickly as those without that conditioning.
  • The older students are akin to those who have studied the wrong material or were taught to do things in their heads, but now have to write down all of their work. They might also have missed a few key instructions/lectures, or assignments, and lack confidence or a compass in those areas.
  • Worse than all of that is they are highly likely to revert to previous behaviors and methods that do not apply to the current course work, when taking the tests in a different format. This can make it twice as long to learn from their current instructor.
  • Sometimes, what they do instinctually may get a positive result, but that can/will then reinforce a wrong method and response when the incorrect method is applied to a different problem.
  • Group projects that take several weeks to complete, will be significantly hampered by absences or people that switch groups in the middle of the project. When there's already restrictions on time, this can hamper the progress and seriously alter the results of the project, but the instructor is not going to be able to help you get it done right.

There's a lot more gray area to being tested than you might think, and a lot less

black and white.

This results of this past season of UK football are not black or white unless you're a bowl committee. You're either in or out of eligibility to those folks, sure, but an all-or-nothing attitude (or viewpoint) is treating a fresh burn with warm oil. Putting oil on a burn is just going to insulate it and allow it to do further damage. It's just not a good idea. Step away from the oil and go cool that crap off in a tub of ice IMMEDIATELY.

It seems that almost everyone that was so critical of the last staff and happy with this new one were NOT honest with themselves about what the situation REALLY was at the end of 2012. Here are a few more points that need to be made before we go back to the meat of the meal that everyone seems to have forgotten they ordered when this staff was hired---

-The amount of talent, strength, and determination of the players contributing this past season is also not as evident as it appears looking at a few plays on a lowlight reel.

-The efficacy of this offense or this defense are likewise not determined by a few plays on a lowlight reel.

-There is no quick fix to replacing your starting lineup, starting QB, and your entire defensive backfield, nor is there a magic pill that will change things midway through the season when it involves a roster of 85 scholarship players.

-What makes a freshman or sophomore QB what they look like on the field on game day is a combination of things, not simply their talent or grasp of the offense.

-This entire team, or what was left of it by the time the season started, was the sum of its last 4-5 years of training, not merely the last 9 months.

-Drastic changes in scheme on both sides of the ball will lead to mistakes being made, missed assignments, and poor performance randomly during games as players revert to former muscle memory (which we already know didn't cut it last year) during stressful situations.

It's not like this wasn't discussed at length before and during the season, but for some reason now it's forgotten. How is that possible?

SO how did UK get where it wound up? Here's a breakdown by game of results:

WKU - New wine is put in old wineskins and old wine is put in new wineskins simultaneously. The old players had a rough time adjusting to the new schemes. No question about it. The new players were young all year, getting better at times and then taking a step back, so cut and paste this into the rest of the games on this list. WKU was solid and experienced, and this was their biggest game. They practiced for UK the whole preseason. UK still had its shoes on the wrong feet at game time and was not taking WKU seriously until late. Lost by a score.

Miami OH - Why did things look as good as they did against the Redhawks? Uh, maybe because they didn't win a game all year. Why didn't UK look better? Maybe because the staff still didn't have the whole package in for various reasons. The offense alone was a hybrid most of the year. What worked against Miami was a mixture rather than a true Air Raid offense.

UL - Big stage, playing the #7 team, and it was a tale of woah. The offense did nothing of note in the first half except drop passes and fumble, while the defense forced a "high-powered" offense into 4 play drives throughout the 1.5 quarters. UK makes adjustments at halftime on offense and has a great drive going when their starting QB is hurt. Red-zone INT ends the drive. UK leaves 22 points on the table and loses by 14 due to turnovers, dropped passes, and poor red-zone execution. No one expected a win here.

Florida - NO O. Plain and simple, after a trick play, the Gators defense galvanizes and the UK offense freezes. The D makes a stand early in the 2nd quarter, and the offense goes 3 and out. A big play, bad punt by UK, and a great catch put Florida up 14. UK again can't execute in the red zone, and can't take advantage of a huge take-away by the defense or score in the red-zone, leaving another 17-21 points on the table in this one. The Cats' defense is on the field 17 minutes longer for the game than the offense, roughly 8 minutes each half, yet still holds the Gators to 3 points in the 2nd half. Kentucky loses by 17. No one expected a win here.

@ USC - 4 big plays given up by UK of 22 yards or more help the Gamecocks to a 21 point lead. The Cats D is on the field for 9.5 minutes more than the O before Whitlow leads Kentucky on a TD drive of nearly 7 minutes. The D steps up again, forcing a USC punt, but UK goes 4-and-out, leaving the door open for a late FG to put the Cats down 17 at the half. The UK offense overcomes a 20 point deficit and a T-O-P deficit of 6.5 minutes in the first half, to get within 6 points in the 4th and end the game +2min in T-O-P. The UK special teams get a take-away that leads to the 2nd of 3 of the Cats 4th quarter TDs. Giving up a couple big running plays allows the Gamecocks to push the lead out too far, and the Cats lose by 7 at one of the toughest venues in the conference. No one expected a close game here.

Alabama - The UK defense looked impressive for the first 20 minutes with Eric Dixon forcing two fumbles, recovered by Williamson and Tiller, limiting Bama to 3 points until the 10 minute mark of the 2nd quarter. To this point the Cats T-O-P was -7 minutes, at the half -10 minutes, and -12 min by the time they began their 2nd possession of the 3rd quarter. They scored on a big play from Smith to Blue midway through the 3rd. That's the extent of it for the Cats. T-O-P in favor of the Tide by 12 minutes. No one expected a win here.

@MSU - I'll say it up front. No one should've expected a win here. Hoped maybe. MSU was 4-3 and improving in SEC play, having played Auburn to the wire at Jordan-Hare and keeping pace with a snapping back #10 LSU (who just lost a close game at #9 Georgia) for 3 quarters. The fact that UK was within 29 yards and 7 points of a victory at the end of the game, doesn't change where they were before the game. How close they came to victory is a sign of improvement, not a sign of failure, especially when you consider Alabama only scored 20 points on the same Bulldog defense.

Missouri - UK's offense drove the field right away, but once again couldn't finish the deal in the red zone, settling for a FG. Special teams turned the Tigers over immediately, but the Cats went 3 and out. The defense limited Missouri's first 2 drives, then UK managed 9 yards on 8 plays and a 13 yard punt to give the Tigers a short field at the UK 30. They take the lead at 7-3. 4 plays later, the Cats let Mizzou block a punt and recover it at the 4. 14-3 Missouri. UK then gained 32 yards on 15 plays to end the half, while the Tigers put up 2 more TDs on long drives of 10 and 15 plays. After a great drive and a TD to begin the 3rd, the Kentucky defense forced a 3 and out to sustain the momentum. Then the offense gave it right back to Missouri at the end of an outstanding play. 3 plays later it's 35-10. UK scored again in the 3rd, but gave up 13 in the 4th. No one expected a win here, but the team took a big step backward.

(Stats rarely tell the whole story, and this is one game where they flat out deceive. UK had more first downs, more completions and passing yardage, won the turnover battle on paper, and had greater T-O-P by 15 minutes. Missouri only gained 57 more yards overall, but the final score was 48-17.)

With this loss the air went out of the tires. UK no longer had a shot at bowl eligibility and you could see it in how they carried themselves. Only a few of the seniors asserted themselves the last few weeks. The same missed assignments that hurt them at key times early, became more frequent. The injuries to Smith and Whitlow affected the game plan and the timing of the offense in more than one way.

@Vandy - Once again, UK errors, though some of them rare, robbed the Cats of momentum and points. The UK offense and special teams should be credited with all 9 of Vandy's first half points, after a blocked PAT killed momentum and gave Vandy 2 points, and an INT deep in UK territory gave the Commodores a short field for a TD after the defense forced 3 straight punts. Even after a 27 yard punt and another INT in the 2nd, the defense held. The offense did fine up to midfield, then fall apart trying to get into FG range. The 3rd quarter brought more self-inflicted wounds. UK got the ball first and retreated 16 yards before punting. Vandy started at the Cats 41 and the defense turned them over on downs. Kentucky drives to the 'Dores 28, but turns the ball over on downs. Vandy possesses the ball for 12 minutes of the 4th scoring 2 FGs and a late TD to soothe Franklin's ego.

Frankly, the defense had to have been disheartened by the offense in this one, just as in the Missouri game before it. They handed 9 points to the 'Dores in the 1st and whiffed on at least 6 of their own in the 2nd, and 6 more in the 3rd. UK should have been up 19 points heading into the 4th quarter the way the D was playing. Do that and the 4th quarter is played much differently on both sides of the ball.

No secondary from here forward. It was a problem for UK all year, as evidenced by the long plays and big plays for TD.

@Georgia - No one expected UK to win this one. 3 turnovers and 10 first downs for UK. Big plays, a fumble recovery at the Cats' 17, and a sustained drive made this one 21-7 Georgia before the 2nd quarter. (Even with big plays and short drives for half of their scores, the Bulldogs had a 10 minute T-O-P edge in this game.) At 28-7 Kentucky's offense drives the field but whiffs from 1st and 10 from the UGA11 yard line, settling for a FG. Another 10 play drive by the Bulldogs, but the Cats D turns em over at the goal line. The Cats gain 3 yards and punt. 1 minute, 2 big plays, and 57 yards later, it's a Georgia TD. 35-10 at the half. Exactly like the Vandy game, UK got the ball to start the 3rd and retreated 14 yards before punting a mere 28 yards (as in the game against Mizzou) to set the Dogs up on a short field. Next play from scrimmage, after a decent kick return, Sanders fumbles and Georgia recovers. 2 plays later it's 49-10. The Cats drive the field again with a strong drive and fumble after reaching the UGA 6. After the Bulldogs score 10 more, Kentucky manages another score late against the 2nd and 3rd string of Georgia. 21 points handed to the Dogs in this one. 11 more left on the table. 31 point differential at the hands of the offense. Georgia didn't need the help. Should have been closer to 38-28, which is better than I expected.

UT - The down year the Vols were having coupled with Sr Day gave people some hope in this one. Many expected a victory. With the injuries and suspensions, the lack of a secondary, and the nagging injuries at QB, I just didn't see it happening. That it seemed that it was within reach turned out to be a mirage, like many of the previous games. Big plays and a missed FG by Mansour gave UT a 14-0 lead heading into the 2nd. Nestled in there was a Smith led drive that fizzled at the Tennessee 38. A Lowery interception and 26 yard return is wasted by the offense, even after a 1st and 10 at the UT 27. Another big play caps a 98 yard drive right after UK fails to take advantage of the turnover. Cats make it look like a game at 20-7 with 2 minutes left in the half. The 3rd quarter appears to be a punt fest until the Volunteers score on the 6th possession. The Cats come back like gangbusters the next drive with a lot of participation, including a 53 yard run by Mobley. However, a 7 play, 76 yard drive ends once again in the red zone with no points, this time at the 1 yard line. The defense stands tall on the next series and turns the Vols over at the UK 11. The Cats' offense stalls after a quick first down. The defense holds. 3 and out for UT. Kentucky's punt returner lets another punt hit and roll inside the 1, however, the offense puts together a stunning 99 yard drive this time to make the game 27-14. the defense forces another punt, the Cats again do not catch the punt, and it's downed at the 6. Smith fumbles to end the drive 2 plays later. There were 16 points left on the table by the Kentucky offense in this one, makes this a game were the secondary intact. No way to know how UT would've responded to the scoring (no way to know how UK would respond to their own scoring either).

So that leaves us where we expected to be, except that most UK fans weren't honest with themselves from the start. EVERYONE said they wanted to see the Cats competitive and to not give up, including the coaches. They all set the bar pretty low (to be even more honest). Given the way UK fans were towards Brooks when he came in, I never got on the staff for setting it so low publicly, even though I know they set it higher with the team. They also said they wanted recruiting to improve.

What we saw is a team that never completely gave up and was very competitive at times with a few of the better teams in the conference. What we've seen from day one is that recruiting has improved. Ummmmm … bullseye.

Now, having met everyone's expectations, how in the SAMHILL did they grade out at anything below a C if not a B or an A for doing better than meeting, and in some cases (recruiting overall and competing with USC on the road) completely exceeding expectations???

If you want to grade the execution below C level, I can buy that on offense. The defense improved in spite of the stats (blown up completely by offensive stagnation and turnovers (being nice), and the Alabama and Georgia stats). Improvement is above C level. We're not grading based on how good Alabama is here. That's ludicrous. UK was not even MSU or Vandy when the staff walked in the door for crine-out-loud! So let's get a little bit real!!

When you look at the D in games where they weren't desperately trying to fill holes due to injuries and suspensions, the gameplan was sound and the defense kept the Cats in the game, giving them a chance to win. When they were short in the secondary, discipline, as a rule, broke down quite a bit as players tried to compensate for gaps in experience and ability around them.

The offense never could overcome their deficiencies. The line never mastered downfield blocking. The receivers dropped a lot of passes and ran a lot of weak routes, not taking advantage of their blocks. The QBs missed a lot of reads in the option and in pass progressions, trying to make big plays instead of taking what was given them underneath quite a few times. The worst part of all of it was that they never did it at the same time. It seemed like there was a new mistake on every play for a while. That DID get better. It was good enough to see the offense put up some points on people that you wouldn't expect them to score on.

What that tells us is that the system CAN and DOES work, even in the SEC, even without 4 star talent, even without veteran leadership, just not as consistently when the people running it are not experienced much less not RECRUITED specifically to run it. This system is the polar opposite to the one the last staff was attempting.

SO, what we have here, if everyone is honest with themselves, is a program with a bright future, unless we piss in the punch and are too hard on the staff. Just like people stunted the growth UK achieved under Coach Brooks by how they disparaged him and rode him his first three years instead of having any understanding of the situation, the same thing can happen with Coach Stoops. It's tough enough when you have to overcome poor officiating, favorable scheduling for other schools, a lack of comparable in-state recruiting numbers, and a significantly reduced revenue stream compared to your SEC competition. Don't make it worse by beating a horse when it's pulled up.

There's a lot of potential, but UK doesn't have the luxury of wasting ANY OF IT, if fans want it to be a real contender in the years to come.

Instead of whining about what's behind us, grading those who aren't your students, and telling everyone what a disappointment you experienced, you SHOULD BE planning for the spring, preparing to greet the new recruits when they step on campus, and building people up/encouraging them for the season to come. If you're not helping, you're wasting momentum. If you're wasting momentum, you're hurting the cause. After all, it's not "AW, AW UofK." It's "ON, ON UofK."

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