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Kentucky Wildcats 14 at Louisville 32: Postmortem

Teddy Bridgewater ran and passed and generally killed the Wildcats.
Teddy Bridgewater ran and passed and generally killed the Wildcats.

Sometimes writing postmortems is easy. Last season for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, it was as easy as pie. We almost never had anything really negative to say, and mostly, all there was to do was praise the opponent for a good try and laud the Wildcats victory.

But football postmortems have always been more challenging, and this year is no different. Congratulations to the Louisville Cardinals for thoroughly dominating Kentucky in the 2012 Governor's Cup. The Louisville offense rolled up an impressive 466 total yards almost equally split between passing and running. Teddy Bridgewater was just too much for Kentucky, as he completed 19 of his 21 attempts for 232 yards and an 11 yards/catch average. If the Cardinals had not put the ineffective Will Stein in at QB halfway through the third quarter, those numbers, and the score, would likely have been more lopsided.

This game was very much as many Kentucky critics scripted it, except that the defense was even more insipid than UK detractors had a right to expect. The Kentucky offense looked competent at times, but even when it was rolling along, they couldn't seem to resist the urge to turn over the football, twice in Louisville territory and both times in scoring range. The Wildcats tried a number of trick plays, only one of which was successful and one of which resulted in a Cardinal touchdown after a fake punt went for naught.

The positives:

  • The Kentucky offense wasn't completely unfortunate, producing a solid if unspectacular 373 total yards. Maxwell Smith passed for 280 yards, mostly on short routes underneath. Hard to say if the Louisville defense was the reason, but they return good numbers from a quality defensive squad, so I'm going to give the credit to Kentucky's offense.
  • Special teams played very well, recovering an onside kick and pinning Louisville inside their own 20 yard line three times. Kickoff coverage was excellent. The only dark spot on special teams all day was a missed field goal by Craig McIntosh that was easily in his range.
  • The Kentucky receivers looked good at times, as did CoShik Williams.
  • When the offense ran fast, they were very tough and put Louisville on their heels.
  • Smith was mostly a cool customer in the pocket, and despite a lot of pressure, did a very good job overall.
  • Very little of the playcalling was head-scratching, but I thought the constant looking over to the sidelines took the offense out of their rhythm. I believe this offense is most threatening when they play really fast.

The negatives:

  • Losing to Louisville is the biggest negative there is.
  • The Kentucky defense was unable to stop Louisville in any aspect. The much-vaunted defensive line rarely put any pressure on Bridgewater, and the linebackers and secondary could not cover the Louisville receivers.
  • Tackling on defense was legitimately horrible. Too many arm tackles to list, and far too many cases where the defender would hit their man solidly, then forget to wrap him up.
  • Kentucky lost sight of the football on several occasions, resulting in big plays.
  • The Wildcat offense fumbled the ball in or near the Louisville red zone twice, once on the 5 yard line.
  • Pass coverage was a soft zone that the Cardinals exploited at will. No Kentucky player came within a mile of an interception at any time.
  • The offense struggled to pick up Louisville blitzes, and Smith was sacked twice and hurried many times.
  • Overall, Kentucky looked overmatched. If they are overmatched against Louisville, it's hard to imagine that they will match up well against any but the very worst SEC teams.
  • Fumbalaya. Fumbleruski. Fumble, fumble, fumble. If these guys played for coach Herman Boone, they'd be removing his foot from their hindparts and demonstrating how fast they can run.
  • The fake punt was a joke. It was a bad call, and poorly executed.
  • La'Rod King must play much better than this. Martavius Neloms also. These two seniors played like freshmen.

I think, but do not know, that Louisville executed extremely well on offense. It could be, but isn't necessarily the case, that they would shred up some pretty good defenses, of which Kentucky is definitely not one. If that is the case and it wasn't just the terrible defense UK played making the Cardinals look like worldbeaters, the Wildcats may have a chance against teams that are less accomplished offensively. Teddy Bridgewater looked like a Heisman Trophy candidate against Kentucky, and it's hard to tell whether that was mostly because of the defense, or if Louisville's offense is really that good. I'm leaning toward the former, because UK made so many obvious mistakes that are easily fixed.

There is no doubt that the UK offense looked better against the Cardinals than at any time last year, despite the fact that they only put up 14 points. The Wildcats fumbled away at least ten points, and missed an easy field goal for another three, which would have made the score much more competitive. So I'm not willing to give up on the offense quite yet, they didn't look horrible, but neither did they look like an offense that is a threat to win many SEC games.

Defensively, all I can say is that there is no place for UK to go but up, unless they are going to try to dig through bedrock.

That's all I have. Next week: Kent St. Golden Flashes come to what promises to be a largely deserted Commonwealth Stadium.