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Kentucky vs. Louisville: Postmortem

Some things went right, but a lot went wrong. Still, I think we see signs of improvement overall.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Kentucky fans, the Wildcats just made too many mistakes to win the football game yesterday against the Louisville Cardinals. The Wildcats continued their improvement from the first game until now, however, and absent the turnovers, probably played their best game of the year overall.

What went right

  • First of all, the defense went right. I am still of the opinion that Louisville is legit on offense, and for the first half of this game, Kentucky dominated their offensive line and completely stifled their running game. Not only that, the secondary played surprisingly well. There were a number of occasions when Bridgewater had time, but didn't have any receivers open.

  • Special teams were very impressive. Kentucky had some nice kickoff returns, and was deadly on both kickoff and punt coverage. I just love to see how much special teams has improved from last year. Even as bad as they played last week, there is no comparison.

  • Jojo Kemp went right. He was seemingly unstoppable late in the game, but it is also a fact that is the point at which the defensive line was the most tired. I'd like to see him get carries earlier in the game.

  • Ryan Timmons is another player that had a big day, and needs to get the ball more. When Kentucky did get it to him, he made plays.

  • Forcing turnovers. Kentucky continues to force fumbles and that's good. They only forced one today, but they got the ball.

  • Kentucky did a great job getting off the field on third down in the first half, but really didn't do well at all in the second half. Credit the Cardinals for a good adjustment, and razzies to the offense for not giving them enough rest.

  • Penalties were much improved, although it was hardly a clean game.

  • I thought the offensive line played fairly well, with exceptions. Darian Miller unacceptably gave up a sack in the second half that was pure lack of effort.

  • I have to give Whitlow some credit, he really did a pretty good job in relief. Yeah, there was that really bad interception, and the fumble. But he shook those off and did some good things.

What went wrong

  • Dropped passes were a huge problem in this game, and they have been an issue in every game so far to some extent. There were a total of eight dropped passes, and that's the most I can ever remember for a Kentucky team. I have no idea what was throwing them off, but dropping that many passes all by itself is enough to cost you the game. Javess Blue had four drops all by himself.

  • If that were the only big negative, it would be more than enough to explain the margin. But unfortunately, the butterfingers extended to ball carriers as well. Three times, Kentucky fumbled the football. Once was a legitimate takeaway by Louisville from Jalen Whitlow, just a great defensive play. The other two turnovers, one fumble and one interception, were inexcusable, and both of them cost UK at least a field goal each.

  • The defense wore out way too quickly, but that was mostly a function of the offense's failure to run enough plays and give them some rest. Still, you are going to have those situations arise. We need to get deeper on defense, or the Wildcats are going to get worn out.

  • Third down conversions: 0-13. That has got to improve, because you can't win games that way.

  • I thought Neal Brown called an overly conservative game. I don't think he's comfortable with the 2-headed quarterback, but the thing is, Whitlow is just not a good passing QB, and the Air Raid is a passing offense.

  • Kentucky has to get more creative on stunts and blitzes. We just aren't seeing enough of those for my money.

  • Am I the only one who is suspicious of our conditioning? Guys look tired to me. Perhaps Erik Korem's conditioning program needs more time to work than just one summer.

  • Our defensive backs are just too small. We have to recruit bigger guys in that position.

  • While on the subject of defensive backs, we need to press the wide receivers more. Too many soft zones for my money, and Louisville really exploited them, particularly on out routes.

  • Time of possession was extremely loipsided, with Louisville having almost ten more minutes possessing the football. That's the biggest stat in this game, because as good as the defense was, it was on the field far too long to be effective over an entire game against an offense like Louisvilles.

  • The defense can't keep dropping balls thrown right into their chest.

  • Tackling was much better, but we still had too many arm tackles attempted.

  • Fred Tiller has got to see the ball. He was largely responsible for that Senorise Perry 27-yard run to the corner of the end zone in the second half. You have to stay in your lane, and Tiller didn't. The defensive lineman also couldn't get off the block, but Tiller has to step up and stop that play.

    Jason Hatcher also blew it on that play. He didn't know where the ball was and ran impotently into the backfield, creating a huge hole for the Louisville back. He has an excuse, though, as a true freshman.

  • Letting Louisville drive 99 yards down the field is just not acceptable.

Summing it all up

We have to think that this game was an overall improvement from the Miami game. Kentucky played a much stronger foe, who really put a lot of pressure on the defense and the defense mostly responded well. I was very concerned about the defensive line after the Western Kentucky game, but the last two games have put some of those fears to rest.

We have to get more out of the offense. This offense has plenty of firepower, and coming up with only 16 points against the Cardinals is not acceptable. Yes, Louisville has a solid defense, but this Air Raid offense is should put up way more than 16 points, even against good defenses. Execution errors are by far the biggest problem, and the staff has to get those under control.

We are still not a very good team, but I think we may be better than people believe, and as equivocal as that sounds, we just have to find ways to execute more sharply on both sides of the ball. I don't know if we can improve enough in-season to upset any ranked ball clubs, but the unranked guys will have to worry a bit, particularly when coming to Lexington.

With all that said, I liked the way the guys competed. My measuring stick for this team, or one of them anyway, is that they be competitive in every game. I thought they weren't against Western Kentucky, but they were yesterday, and against the Miami (OH) RedHawks.

So even though we lost, I fully expected to lose. Louisville is a better football team, and everyone who saw the game yesterday knows that. Whether they are as good as they are ranked is a subject for another article, but whether they are or not, they are significantly better than Kentucky.

Having said that, I saw enough in this game to give me hope, even a little confidence, that this Kentucky program is on the right track.