This is a good week to not have a game to prepare for as the Wildcats had some personnel issues to work through as well as the mental sting of almost losing to an FCS direction school. And I am not taking anything away from EKU; they played one hell of a game and should have won, but we all know that Kentucky is more talented than the Colonels.
So what should Kentucky be focusing on during the bye week?
1. Get Back a Sense of Urgency- If there was one thing that really glaringly stood out to me in the Eastern game was the lack of urgency from the Wildcats. They didn't look prepared, they didn't look interested, and they looked stunned while EKU started winning. The fact of the matter is that UK isn't near good enough to start taking teams lightly, even FCS teams. I'm not sure if that was a failure with the players, the game plan, the coaching, or a combination of all of that, but it needs to be fixed.
Maybe the two SEC wins got to their heads a bit. There is too much talk, in my opinion, of Kentucky arriving in the SEC East and a bowl game being a foregone conclusion at this point. Nothing is given and the season is always on the verge of collapsing. The Cats haven't done anything yet and the Colonels gave them a wake-up call. Hopefully it sticks because while Auburn has flaws, they have more talent that Kentucky saw last Saturday.
2. Come on, Patrick- Coach Mark Stoops vehemently defended Patrick Towles on his radio show this week. It certainly appears that Stoops is sticking with his guy, win or lose, barring injury. This is a different approach from the one they are taking at Auburn with Jeremy Johnson and Sean White, but agree or disagree, Patrick is the guy moving forward. So those of you clamoring for Drew Barker, save your breath because is isn't happening. I love Stoops defending Towles and this sends a message to the quarterback recruits that their coach will stick by them.
But Towles has to be better than 29-of-42 passing and two interceptions against EKU. He did throw three touchdowns and looked extremely better in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter, but we have been singing the same song all season long: Patty Ice we love you, but you have to be more consistent in order to get this team to the next level.
3. The Offensive Line- After playing inspired football against the Missouri Tigers and their formidable front, the Wildcat O-line looked downright awful against EKU. Granted, the Colonels have an All-American caliber defensive player, but that was just one guy. The 'Cats were only able to rush for 55 total yards. In a game like that, you want to see your offensive line establish dominance and run the ball right at the opponent if a game like that gets close.
Instead, they had to rely on plays from Towles and Dorian Baker at the end of the game to save the day. While Jordan Swindle may have struggled at times, it looks like he is needed more than we think. The line hasn't been stable all season and that needs to be fixed.
4. Get Boom Back in the Groove- Before the Missouri game, Boom Williams was in company with guys like Nick Chubb, Leonard Fournette, and Derrick Henry when average yards per carry was concerned. His big-play ability made defenses respect him whenever he was on the field. Then, for whatever reason, things were not working out against the Tigers and Jojo Kemp carried the ball for the bulk of the game. I, along with most others, thought that the combination of Kemp and Mikel Horton would be plenty against EKU, but it wasn't so.
Boom was sorely missed out on the field. With the way the line was blocking, I cannot say for certain that he would have made an impact, but like I mentioned earlier, he's a touchdown waiting to happen. Sometimes the smallest crease is all he needs to break for 70 yards and a score. No other back right now on the team has that ability. Hopefully whatever was pissing him off is in the past. From his recent comments, it sounds as if he is ready to move on and get back on the field.
5. Cory Johnson Emerging as the Leader on Defense- It's not a secret that the best defensive player on the field for the last two games has been Cory Johnson. He's been a monster and he personally wrecked the EKU O-line in the second half, putting the entire defense on his back and stopping the Colonels from running the ball. Josh Forrest and Ryan Flannigan should be the leaders on defense because their positions naturally dictate it, but Johnson has risen to the occasion as a one-man wrecking crew and his teammates need to follow suit.
What would you like to see the team doing/improving on during the bye week?