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Kentucky 21 @ Auburn 14: Postmortem

I knew we had a shot at this game.  I said it early in the year, and I believed it coming in.  This UK team, despite it's issues, is a very tough out for any team not named Alabama or Florida in the SEC.  That's real.  That's the truth.

I want to thank Auburn for their effort.  This is a big loss for them, and the rest of the season does them no favors.  But they played hard, if imperfectly and with a ton of terribly costly penalties that are usually the province of Kentucky.  I'm not going to blow sunshine up their hind parts -- for some reason, the roles were reversed this week and it was the Tigers who shot themselves in the foot.  Auburn had a chance to win this game, and they surrendered it with a whimper, rather than a growl.  Gene Chizik will have a lot to talk about after this one.

But for the Wildcats, it was a much-needed victory after a very tough four-game stretch that saw them lose their All-American cornerback and starting quarterback to injury, and prompted Rich Brooks to start a true freshman at QB in an SEC road game against a team who has a 15-game winning streak against the Wildcats.  I'm going to say it is an understatement to say that the Wildcats had the deck stacked firmly against them.

Let's be honest -- the defense really was the difference in this game.  Against the #2 offense in the SEC, Kentucky played about as well as it is possible to play against them defensively.  UK denied Chris Todd, a Kentuckian from Elizabethtown, any hope of having a good game.  Todd helped out a lot by making pretty much nothing but poor throws, and UK made the Tigers pay by playing solid defense.

I can go on and on and on, but I will settle for bullet points, as usual:

  • Morgan Newton may not have done that much, but he showed why he was such a highly touted player with his strong arm and powerful body.  He is a freshman, and it showed.
  • Will Fidler gets the game ball, not because of any amazing stuff, but because of the circumstances in which he managed to excel.  He showed terrific leadership, and made a huge drive-saving fourth-down play that I will remember a long time.
  • Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke don't need game balls -- they could win it every game.  They do what they do, and frankly, they did it tonight.
  • How much better is Randall Burden with Paul Warford on the field?  Amazing.
  • Micah Johnson is a creature from another world.  He is like the alien in Predator -- indomiatble.
  • Winston Guy needs a butt-kicking.  He hits a guy, but refuses to wrap them up.  If I'm Steve Brown, I'm going to go all Coach Boone on his butt.  He is way too good to be giving up big plays when he hits hard but fails to finish.
  • Our D-line has played better, but to their credit, they rarely lost containment.  That's why Auburn had very few big plays.
  • Chris Matthews is getting better every game.  He is on the same path as Stevie Johnson, only a little earlier.
  • Sam Maxwell is a stud.  He made so many great form tackles, open field an otherwise, I lost count.
  • Our special teams made two mistakes, and about five great plays.  On balance, I'd say that is pretty good, most games.  But both their mistakes resulted in an Auburn TD -- the missed blocking assignment on the field goal, and the pathetic Ryan Tydlacka punt.
  • The most unspoken great player in SEC history, at least the part I remember, is John Conner.  He just de-cleats people when he blocks.  I wish he could play for UK forever.
  • The UK offensive line might be the best in the league.  Senior O-line players make one heck of a difference.
  • Kentucky had one (1) penalty.  With a freshman quarterback, or with a long-time backup.  That's gobsmacking.

That's enough.  Add your observations to the celebration.

Is this a great weekend or what??  Go, 'CATS!