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Tennessee Volunteers 27, Kentucky Wildcats 14: Postmortem

Kentucky ends the season on a low note, dropping its last game at home to rival Tennessee.

Dyshawn Mobley grew up a lot tonight, and is ready to make an impact next season.
Dyshawn Mobley grew up a lot tonight, and is ready to make an impact next season.
Andy Lyons

Once again, Kentucky comes up short. Mercifully, this is the last football game of what has been an absolutely miserable season. Not as miserable as last year, mind you, but pretty darn miserable. The only good thing to be said about this year's team is that it at least appeared to try for most of the games, and were competitive in several that they shouldn't have been.

Congratulations to the Tennessee Volunteers. They were not very good this year, but make no mistake, they are significantly better than Kentucky, and they proved it on the field tonight. They deserve the win.

For Kentucky, they played hard and were competitive, but they were as ever — unable to move the ball, sustain drives, or stop the passing game even against a very poor passing team. In short, Kentucky was inept, and suffered the fate of an inept team, as they have 10 other times this season.

There's just nothing really good to find in a 2-10 season, teamwise. This football team got and stayed in its own way the entire year to an almost comical extent. It is maddening to be a football fan and see a team do that, and it's even more maddening when the coaching staff can't seem to coach them out of it.

With that said, the staff came into a bad situation and did improve it a little, although not by nearly as much as we might have hoped. I suppose that's pretty unfair, though, as this was Stoops first year on the job as a head coach, and nobody is born with the ability to come in as a coordinator and turn around a historically unfortunate football team like Kentucky.

It's pretty much impossible to hold him accountable for a lot of the problems, and it's certainly not fair to do so in his first season with very few of his own recruits. What I have loved about Stoops is his passion, and his unloading on this ridiculous officiating crew tonight only endeared him to me more. With that said, Stoops has to up his game, and so does the staff. There were far too many brain-dead calls this season, as well as a lot of sideline confusion that resulted in a bewildering number of substitution infractions and undesired timeouts. Staff communication has simply got to get better.

What depressed me tonight:

  • The offensive line. Ugh.

  • The bad officiating. Ugh.

  • The poor play in the defensive secondary. It wasn't always poor, but we just managed to give up too many big plays.

  • The defensive line's inability to get off blocks. Kentucky got zero pressure on the quarterback tonight.

  • Special teams play was still pretty poor. There were a couple of good plays, but overall, it wasn't good enough.

Now that I've vented my spleen in misery, let's look at a few of the things that can give us some hope:

  • Dyshawn Mobley, Jeff Badet, Jason Hatcher, Jojo Kemp, Blake McClain, Jaleel Hytchye, Bud Dupree and several other players not mentioned all played hard, played pretty well, and will get better. Most of them will be around for several years to come.

  • Help is on the way in the form of guys like Braylon Heard, Drew Barker, Blake Bone, Stanley Williams, Thaddeus Snodgrass, Cory Johnson, Nick Richardson and many others are only going to improve both the talent level and depth of the program.

  • Fan support was pretty good for such a dismal season, but it could have been better for a first-year coach trying to turn around a program that has lost its way.

  • I was really impressed by Dyshawn Mobley tonight. He and Jojo Kemp really give Kentucky good replacements for Raymond Sanders and Jonathan George.

  • Mark Stoops and his staff will get better at their jobs, and that is no small part of why we didn't win more games. It's understandable — head coaching is hard, and a first-year head coach that has never had the job before is even harder.

  • The schedule next year cannot possibly be as brutal as this season. It will still be really difficult, but at least it won't be over-the-top obscenely ridiculous like this season.

That's about all I have. Now comes the really tough part — the off-season where Kentucky has to find a way to get better, and address the problems that have bedeviled them this season. That's going to be extremely challenging, and I wouldn't be surprised to see several other players moving on to other places. If there is one thing that Stoops is deadly serious about, it's upgrading the talent level.

So as we mercifully end this long football season, let's keep our heads up and keep the faith in the staff and players to do the work in the off-season that's required to get better, and get competitive.