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After Action Report: Norfolk State at Kentucky

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It's always nice when your team starts the season 2-0, regardless of who they play, but in Kentucky's case, it is particularly sweet after practically every blogger or non-Kentucky based pigskin prognosticator predicted the Wildcats DOA on the scene this year.  "No Woodson, Burton, Tamme or Little?  Back to the basement, UK."  That may still happen, but as Juba said in Gladiator, "...but not yet.  Not yet."

First of all, I want to address one thing.  I forgive UK fans for their outburst of "boo's" in the third quarter when Hartline took the field on offense instead of Cobb.  But it better never happen again.  That was unacceptably rude and unsportsmanlike, and we do not want to become Louisville.  So if any of the boo-birds happen to read this mild reproof, do so secure in the knowledge that next time it will be a tirade of Biblical proportions.  Don't do that -- ever.

Moving along to the football game, I want to give my general impressions of the game without an in-depth study of the stats.  I watched the first two quarters last night, and the last two this morning (thanks ESPN 360).  Here's how the game looked to me:

  • Randall Cobb is a great asset, but he is not ready to be a starting quarterback in the SEC.  Hartline is farther along, but has a very different skillset.  The two could be a poor man's version of the Chris Leak/Tim Tebow QB duo that won the BCS championship game in 2006.
  • Mike Hartline got robbed several times by dropped footballs.  He wound up looking inferior to Cobb, but he made some very good throws.
  • Hartline needs to learn to be a more fearless runner.  He has said that he doesn't like to run, but he needs that dimension in his game this year.
  • The offensive line did not dominate the line of scrimmage until well into the second half.  That is not promising against a team like Norfolk State.
  • The wide receivers did a much better job blocking downfield.  Some players still took plays off, but overall it was much better.
  • The defense sleepwalked through the first half, but completely dominated the entire second half.  Why?  But nevertheless, the second half was an entirely dominant defensive performance.
  • I liked what the UK running backs did today.  When they had holes, they hit them, hard.  Unfortunately, our O-line is still not getting it done between the tackles.
  • I am still wondering why we don't run more plays at the edges.
  • Trevard Lindley played a poor first quarter, but after that, he was super, as was the rest of Kentucky's defensive backfield.
  • The linebackers played a better game this time.  Micah Johnson, Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams all had big plays.
  • Kudos to Brooks for refusing to tack on meaningless points at the end.  Classy stuff from a classy coaching staff.  What do you think Steve Spurrier or Urban Meyer would have done?
  • Tim Couch is a rookie at color commentary, and it showed.  Still, The Deuce is astute at analysis, and made a couple of really sharp comments.  He just needs to switch to decaf, I think.
  • Brooks will have plenty of things to fix on the offensive side, but on the defensive side he just needs to knock some heads together.  The UK defense is really good -- they just need to take every opponent seriously.
  • Kyrus Lanxter did some really good things out there today, especially with downfield blocking.
  • Special teams continue to impress.  One punt coverage breakdown is all I could find to criticize.

Overall, this was a solid if relatively unimpressive game for Kentucky.  Against an opponent like this, UK should never have split time of possession with them equally in any half, and that statistic alone is troubling.  Hartline still needs work on his passing, and the receivers are still showing their youth and inexperience.  Brooks has got to find the right mix of Cobb and Hartline, but that is not a bad problem to have.  Cobb needs to get more reps at receiver as well -- Fidler seemed pretty competent in that last drive, even though he didn't throw a pass.

I love the potential in this team on offense.  We got a glimpse of what a deep stable of running backs can do to a team when they begin to wear down a defense, and it is encouraging.  Somewhere along the line, UK needs to develp a vertical game, which is currently missing.  The coaching staff also needs to get our receivers to hang on to the football -- Hartline would have been much more impressive if E.J. Adams hadn't dropped that slant route in the second half, which would have surely led to a touchdown.

But overall, a solid effort.  There is work to do, but when isn't there?