clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

ULM Warhawks 14, Kentucky Wildcats 48: Postmortem

New, comments

Kentucky looked listless early, but manages to take down ULM by an impressive score.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The lateness of this postmortem is due to my visit to Annapolis, Maryland this weekend to watch the Navy Midshipmen play the VMI Keydets. That game was very similar to the ULM Warhawks at Kentucky Wildcats game. The Midshipmen got off to a very slow start, gave up a defensive touchdown, and then exploded to wipe out VMI by a big number.

First off, thanks to the Warhawks for the very competitive game for at least one quarter. ULM was able to move the ball very well on Kentucky, and took advantage of Kentucky’s flat offense and somewhat indifferent early pass defense to put up a 14-3 first quarter lead, and give the Big Blue Nation something to think about. From then on, it was all Kentucky, particularly defensively. However, the Wildcats did a lot of bad things in this football game. Such errors can be buried under a fusillade of big plays against Sun Belt teams, but not against SEC opponents.

Making sense of that slow start Kentucky had is hard. After a huge return by Stanley Williams on opening kickoff, the Wildcats completely failed to menace from the outstanding field position they got, and wound up having to settle for a very meek field goal. ULM picked up on the tentative effort of the Wildcats, and after a 3 and out, the Warhawks held UK and drove for a touchdown, assisted by a questionable personal foul (roughing the passer) on third down by TraVaughn Paschal.

The second ULM score came on Kentucky’s third possession when Jojo Kemp, operating out of the wildcat formation, threw a weak lob pass into a crowd that got picked off and returned to the UK 9, where ULM made an easy pitch and catch for a touchdown. That ended the first quarter and at that point in the game, the Wildcats were down 14-3 and going nowhere.

Then, on their second possession of the second quarter, Kentucky changed the game. Patrick Towles, who had been having a below-average game by his recent standards, found Javess Blue down the right sideline for an 83-yard touchdown strike. That touchdown brought energy back to Kentucky’s moribund offense, and also inspired the defense to the tune of two pick-sixes and 45 unanswered UK points.

Box score analysis

Box Score at UKAthletics.com

  • Despite the scoring, Kentucky’s defense did not have a great game. They allowed ULM 15 first downs and 264 yards of total offense. Holding the Warhawks to only 77 yards rushing wasn’t bad, though.

  • 4.7 yards per rush is okay, but against a Sun Belt team, you’d like to see that well over five.

  • UK had good run/pass balance with 29 rushing attempts and 30 passing attempts.

  • 13.5 yards per pass completion is excellent, but that was helped by a couple of big plays by Javess Blue.

  • Demarco Robinson did a great job returning punts yesterday, averaging 13 yards per return.

  • ULM possessed the ball almost ten minutes longer than Kentucky. You usually don’t see that in a game with such a lopsided score.

  • UK was 4-4 in the red zone, 2-4 for touchdowns. That’s just okay against a Sun Belt team.

  • The UK defense had six big sacks. Very good job by the front seven getting to the quarterback.

Team observations

  • I don’t think the offensive line played very well at all yesterday. They didn’t block great in the run game, and they let Towles get pressured way too many times.  Also, the number of procedure and blocking penalties were an unpleasant surprise.

  • I think UK took this ULM team lightly. They were fortunate that the Warhawks’ offensive line was so overmatched by Kentucky’s defense.

  • I think the defensive line played very well, particularly the ends.

  • The secondary was a mixed bag. They gave up a lot of yards and first downs, but they also scored two touchdowns.

  • Too many fumbles on offense, too much loose ballhandling. Another sign that UK took ULM lightly.

  • Kentucky has had three defensive touchdowns in their last two games, and they are 4th in the nation with 11 interceptions so far.

  • Too many drops of catchable balls yesterday on offense.

Individual observations

Defense

  • Josh Forrest had another really good game. Besides an interception return for a touchdown, he was in the backfield a lot, getting 2.5 tackles for loss. Defensive game ball.

  • Matt Elam had a very good game. He was disruptive on the line, got a couple of tackles and deflected a ball that wound up getting picked off for a touchdown.

  • Ashely Lowery had another good game, and he’s been having a number of them lately. 3 solo tackles and 4 assists.

  • J.D Harmon had a good game, but he’s lucky not to have been ejected and suspended for what looked to be a pretty clear targeting foul.

  • Nate Willis does not seem to be all the way back from injury.

  • TraVaughn Paschal just keeps getting better. He made some mistakes, but he played well, as did Khalid Henderson. Both wound up with 4 solos, 2 assists and one TFL each.

  • Both Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith were dynamite all day.

  • Blake McClain continues to get better. He was very good last year, but he’s noticeably better this season and it’s exciting to think about how good he’s going to be.

Offense

  • Javess Blue’s one-handed touchdown grab would probably have been enough for the game ball, but he also had an 83-yard touchdown. So he gets it by a narrow margin over "Boom" Williams.

  • Williams lived up to his name yesterday. He wound up with 104 yards on 7 carries and a touchdown. His average per touch was almost 15 yards, and that doesn’t include a 75-yard return on the opening kickoff. He wound up with 179 all-purpose yards.

  • Patrick Towles effort yesterday was herky-jerky. He looked as taut as a piano string out there, made one or two bad throws, and just generally didn’t play his best. 216 yards on 16/28 passing against a Sun Belt team is not going to put the fear of God in any SEC squad.

  • Blake Bone had a big day. I’d really like to see him play more, he seems to always draw a pass interference whenever we go to him, or catch a touchdown. He almost made one of the most impressive catches of the game, but it wound up out of bounds. He just keeps getting better.

  • Jojo Kemp had a forgettable game, and we’ll just leave it at that. So did Braylon Heard, who didn’t play much and only got three attempts all day.

Special teams

  • Landon Foster put nine kicks inside the 20-yard line yesterday. That’s a heck of a performance.

  • Overall, special teams performed well. They did allow one good kickoff return, but otherwise, coverage was excellent.

Tying it all up

The score somewhat covers up the kind of game that Kentucky played, which was just not tight enough. There were far too many dumb mistakes on both sides of the football, and I think the defense yielded way too many yards through the air for such an inefficient offensive team as ULM has been this year. Kentucky didn’t exactly make them look like CFB Playoff contenders, but they surrendered as many points as Arkansas State to the Warhawks.

Offensively, Kentucky struggled in the run game and was just adequate in the passing game. If you leave out the big plays, the Wildcats were shockingly inefficient against a good but not great ULM defense. The Wildcats managed only 15 first downs against the Warhawks and were actually way behind in time of possession, and converted only one of twelve third downs. Kentucky had a number of big plays that made it all look okay on paper, but if you watched the game, you had to come a way feeling a bit like the offense was playing their first or second game rather than their sixth.

But having said all that, you had to be impressed with the defense for much of the game. The defensive line played particularly well, and the secondary, despite yielding too many yards, mostly did a very good job. It’s exciting to imagine this defense next year with the additional depth and experience, but they are very not bad this season. In fact, Kentucky is a comfortable fifth in scoring defense in the SEC right now, ahead of LSU, Tennessee, and even Mississippi State.

You can easily see why the Wildcats are 5-1 right now, but they are still a bit inconsistent and rough around the edges. The big-play ability that Kentucky has keeps them in games that they should possibly lose, and can outright destroy teams that should be in games tough with them. It’s an interesting and eclectic combination, something we haven’t exactly seen here in a while. 2007 had that same kind of big-play ability, but lacked the explosive defensive play. The best way, perhaps, to describe this Kentucky team in general is explosive on both sides of they ball. They are not consistent, but they can kill you with big plays at any time on either side of the ball.

Next up — a trip to Baton Rouge to mix it up with the LSU Tigers.