Congratulations to South Carolina and the Ol' Ball Coach for a great second half. Despite the best efforts of USC to give the game away in the first half, they managed to capitalize on Kentucky's mistakes and put points on the board. Great effort. Perhaps this is the sign that USC fans have been looking for.
For Kentucky, it was a frustrating day. The Kentucky offense simply isn't SEC quality at this point, and Mike Hartline worked hard, but just doesn't throw the ball like an SEC quarterback. Many, many times he had open receivers only to sail the ball over their head, or throw it in the wrong place.
But lest you think I am blaming this all on Hartline, I'm not. Locke did not deliver on his implicit claim that running the football would be more effective despite many bites at the apple. Randall Cobb helped, but the loss of Dicky Lyons took the Kentucky offense from suspect to second-rate. The defense spent far too much time on the field, and it showed in the second half. Special teams were bad all day, giving up a kick return that led to a touchdown and several short punts that gave USC good field position. If Succop had been even marginally capable, this would have been a 16-point pounding.
I think that Stephen Garcia has "all SEC" in his future, as his size, arm strength and running ability reminded me as much of Tim Tebow as any player I have seen this year. UK just didn't have an answer for him, and despite getting a few sacks, the defensive line did not get enough pressure on Garcia, primarily because he is so capable with his feet. Garcia made throws that made UK's secondary look very bad, and in general, it did not play well in the second half, particularly David Jones who was burned repeatedly for big plays.
If UK is to achieve its goal of a third straight bowl, there have to be changes on offense. As it stands, with the possibility of Lyons going down for many games and perhaps even the season, UK looks incapable of putting up enough points to be successful from here on out, and even if Lyons is only mildly injured, I feel uncomfortable enough about what I have seen that I don't see another sure victory on the horizon. Having seen Hartline now for six games, I can say that he is unquestionably not SEC-quality right now now, and I don't know if we have an SEC-quality quarterback on our football team this year. Cobb is exciting, but I don't believe he is the answer -- he is just too young. Hartline may get better, but with a young receiving corps, and too much youth overall at our skill positions, Kentucky no longer looks like a sure bet to win any of the remaining SEC games, even next week when Arkansas comes to town.
Right now, I am not at all optimistic about the rest of the year. Something may change, but we have far too many offensive holes to plug in seven more weeks. We may have to cobble together some kind of gimmick offense to take advantage of where we are athletic, but the inability of receivers to get open or catch footballs, and the inability of Hartline to deliver the ball on target combined with the possible loss of Dicky Lyons Jr. make our offense look like it is on life support.
It's an awful realization that we truly do stink on offense as badly as some have said. At this point, I believe that this game removes all doubt in that regard. But who knows, perhaps I am too pessimistic -- perhaps UK will suddenly start catching balls, or Hartline will start throwing them on target. Who knows? But I do know this -- this game was a massive regression offensively. We rarely looked like a team who could score, even in the red zone.