OK, folks, I finally think I have my thoughts together after last night's ginormous (yeah, I know it's not a word) victory against Arkansas.
The first thing that struck me is that, in the macro sense, the game went almost exactly as I predicted. The Cats played a bend-but-don't-break style of defense, the difference in talent between our two teams respective line players manifested itself, the only thing that really held back McFadden was something other than the UK defense, and our offense was too multidimensional and the Hogs offense too one-dimensional for them to win. Even the score I called was close. But what the hell was that play supposed to be in the first half that resulted in a Woodson fumble and Arkansas defensive touchdown?
The game was riddled with mistakes by both sides. Alfonso Smith virtually assisted in the tackle of André Woodson for a safety, and after the touchdown on the ensuing free kick gave the Razorbacks an 8 point lead, and I began to despair. At that point, our offense had not made significant progress in three straight possessions, and every possession it seemed Arkansas was running 7 or 8 play drives. This was settling into a war of attrition, the Hogs keeping our verticals in front of them and Woodson getting more and more pressure from the defense.
The only thing that was truly working for us at that point was the run, and after Arkansas got that lead, we began to exploit Arkansas' defense by running between the tackles, which naturally opened up our passing game. Arkansas then proceeded to make several incredibly bad errors, roughing the kicker on a FG attempt (why in God's name would you even try to block a Seiber FG? He is completely inept right now) which resulted in a Kentucky touchdown. After holding the Hogs to a 3-and-out, we marched to just outside the red zone and Arkansas gave us not one, but two free plays, the second of which we converted.
Why the Cats won
- We persevered. We had every reason to give up after the free-kick touchdown, but we absolutely did not.
- Leadership. Rich Brooks and André Woodson demonstrated leadership that we can be proud of. Brooks fixed our broken O-line at half time, and Woodson continued to show the poise that makes him now a legitimate name in the Heisman trophy discussion.
- Defense. Our much-maligned defense was stout against the two best backs in the SEC, and arguably in the nation. No, we couldn't stop them, but we kept them out of the secondary a lot more than anyone expected. The two picks of Dick passes, one of them an absolutely awesome play by Marcus McClinton, made up for our lost fumbles.
- Running the football. Joker Phillips is, as we all know, a genius, and his adjustment at halftime to run the ball down Arkansas' throat worked beautifully. It totally changed the momentum of the game.
- Derrick Locke. Lock was simply incredible. I have no words for what he did -- a true freshman in his first SEC game, and he ran roughshod over a tough defense at a critical point in the game with all other backs injured. My game ball belongs to him. Simply brilliant.
- Many weapons. The Cats have the most balanced and potent offense in the league. Period.
- The Trevard Lindley touchdown. Changed the momentum 180 degrees, and it carried over past half time.
Why the Hogs lost
- Darren McFadden's heat exhaustion. With him at 100% the whole game, I'm not sure the game turns out this way.
- Casey Dick's haplessness. Arkansas will not succeed this season with Dick playing the game like this. He had plenty of time all day, we didn't get but one sack against him, and he often couldn't make any play when his primaries where covered.
- Lack of offensive balance. No explanation needed.
- Failure of the defensive line and linebacking corps. Arkansas' defensive line is way more talented than our O-line, but they allowed Kentucky's backs to rush for 170 yards, most of it in the second half.
- Mental mistakes. Both teams made a lot, but the Hogs made more, and it cost them.
What this means
- Darren McFadden's Heisman Trophy candidacy has taken a serious, perhaps fatal hit.
- Houston Nutt's reign in Fayetteville may be over after this season.
- The Hogs are in deep doo-doo in the West, and now have to work hard to reach post-season play.
- The Cats are in the Cat-bird seat in the East along with Florida. Who would have believed that at the beginning of the year?
- André Woodson is now a legitimate Heisman contender, if a long shot.
- Kentucky will have a say in who wins the East.
- Kentucky is almost assured of its second bowl in a row, and now must be considered an outside threat for a BCS position.
- Kentucky may be ranked ahead of Georgia when we go to Athens. Has this ever happened before in the last 30 years?
- Kentucky's defense is rapidly improving, and is now good enough for us to have a shot at anyone, even LSU.
- The Wildcats are 4-0, 1-0 with a road victory in the SEC. It may go downhill from here, but folks, this is as sweet as maple syrup.