Well, that was impressive, save for the first quarter.
Congratulations for the Miami Redhawks for giving it their all, and making us sweat in the first quarter. Miami has a new coaching staff and a bunch of new players, so they can be forgiven for struggling in the first game of the year. I appreciate their effort, and applaud the clean game that they played with very few penalties and good sportsmanship.
What was good
Offense --The offense, from the second quarter on, was incredibly impressive. The o-line started opening up holes, and protecting the quarterback the way that a senior-dominated O-line should.
Mike Hartline was very impressive. He was poised, he was efficient, and he made good reads after he got a feel for the Redhawk defense. His deep ball was much improved, and even though he still threw a couple of those nasty floaters that I really hate, most of his throws were on target and in good spots.
Randall Cobb was simply terrific. It has been a long time since I have seen a player with such incredible economy of motion. He isn't that quick or that fast, it's just that his body and mind seem to be in such perfect harmony that no effort is wasted, no motion is discordant, no move is ineffective. He is an unusual player, gifted with almost perfect body control. Every move he makes is graceful and efficient. It's almost like everyone else around him is moving in slow motion, or is somehow seeing two of him.
Cobb was indomitable today, and the rest of the SEC should fear him.
The running game, particularly Derrick Locke and Moncell Allen, was great. A lot of that was due to some gaping holes opened by the o-line, but Locke's speed is undiminished despite a serious knee injury and Allen is just a bruising runner who made a lot of yards all by himself. Alfonso Smith also had a good game, but he was less impressive than the other two.
Defense -- The defense was sound, and even though they allowed a few big plays, they weren't bad. They did, after all, achieve a shutout, and I don't recall (and don't feel like looking up) when the last time UK shut out anybody.
I liked what the secondary did after the first half, and the defensive line played very well against the run, as did the linebacking corps. Micah Johnson made an impressive pass breakup in the second half, and overall, I was very happy with the defensive effort. Of course, Trevard Lindley was what he is expected to be -- an All-American. He could have had three picks today, but wound up with only one, and scored a touchdown off that one. Hard to complain much about the two that got away.
What was not so good
Special teams -- Special teams scared me. Kickoff coverage was pretty good, but the kickoffs themselves were not great. Once again, Lones Seiber missed a
short 43 yard field goal. That has got to be corrected.
Punt coverage was not as good as kick coverage, although Ryan Tydlacka kicked the ball very well, including a clever short-field kick that pinned the Redhawks inside their 20.
The defensive line, particularly on the edges, did not impress. UK did not get enough pressure on the Redhawk quarterback, even though the Miami o-line was very young and inexperienced.
The offense did a very poor job of picking up blitzes, which is a problem Rich Brooks identified about a week or two ago. That is a disturbing blind spot, and if UK can't get that problem solved, Hartline is going to have to throw a lot more balls away than anyone wants.
Overall, I was very pleased with the offense, and happy (but less so) with the defense. Hartline has clearly improved a lot, and Randall Cobb has become a major threat no matter where he is on the field. Chris Matthews is looking like the kind of player that can help us become a serious threat in the SEC east. If Hartline can learn to keep the ball down a bit and the offense can pick up blitzes better, this is a team that could make some noise in the SEC this year.
One thing I can say with confidence -- Kentucky is much, much better, overall, than last year. I know this is just the first game, but it is clear to me that this is a team which is competent, and deserves to be in the SEC.