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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Mizzou in the Rear-View Edition

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The Kentucky loss to the Missouri Tigers on Saturday was a big disappointment, especially after a huge rivalry win at Tennessee. What went wrong?

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

As per usual on Tuesdays after a game, I’ll offer a few brief observations on Kentucky’s loss to the Missouri Tigers on Saturday:

  • This was one of those “so Kentucky” losses — every year we have a couple of head-scratching losses, usually attributable to a poor mental attitude going into the game. Things like overconfidence, distractions, and, as in the instant case, a lack of energy are the usual contributors. The sideline reporter for the game at Mizzou noted that Kentucky’s sideline lacked energy. I think that was true for the whole team, given what I saw.
  • This team doesn’t have an offensive identity yet. Eddie Gran is trying desperately to get this offense to balance the run and pass, but unfortunately, I don’t think his personnel will support it. The primary culprit seems to be the receiving corps — they are no better, on balance, than the Lynn Bowden-less corps from most of last season, and Terry Wilson cannot run the routes or hold on to well-thrown passes for them.
  • Continuing in that vein, Josh Ali is a good receiver, but not good enough to be the featured receiver in an SEC offense. He should be either first among equals or in a supporting role next to a guy like Bowden. Unfortunately, our WR development appears to have fallen behind, possibly as a symptom of the run-heavy last couple of years.
  • The constant threat of Joey Gatewood taking his spot is having a negative effect on Wilson. He is trying too hard, and it showed last Saturday when a bunch of his passes went high. As a former high school QB, it says to me that Wilson is pressing. In Wilson’s defense, he is refusing to throw into tight windows and is doing a good job being patient. Unfortunately, his receivers are letting him down and making him look worse than he has been.
  • Wilson’s decision-making and ballhandling on the read option is not as good as last season or two seasons ago, and too many times, we see confusion in the backfield. That shouldn’t be happening with a veteran QB. He also seems to be notably avoiding contact more than he should be considering he has a more-than-credible backup.
  • The defense was hung out to dry by the offense, particularly in the second half. Having said that, tackling was a too-frequent problem for a defense that usually does very well fundamentally. Also, the front seven struggled to get off blocks on Saturday, and in their defense, Mizzou could’ve been flagged for holds on half their plays. But you must overcome that kind of officiating on the road, and Kentucky didn’t.
  • When Matt Duffy has a below-average punting day to go along with everything else, you know you didn’t come to play.
  • Gotta give props to Mizzou — they executed very sharply on offense, stuck with their game plan, and demoralized Kentucky by being tougher than expected on defense. I thought their coaching staff took a bunch of dumb risks that gave Kentucky opportunities to win the game, but Kentucky was unable to take advantage.

I have read a lot of angry tweets and opinions, particularly about Eddie Gran, and I agree that some of the criticism is well-deserved. Gran is trying to force things that just aren’t there. This team is much better being a running, ball-control offense, and trying to force balance with an underachieving receiving corps is not working. This offensive line blocks the run way better, and both the line and receivers need the threat of a running game for play-action to work its magic. Also, what happened to the slants we ran so effectively against the Tennessee Volunteers? I can’t believe Missouri was able to take that away consistently.

I won’t wade too much into the running back debate — I think we need to do runs by committee this year and don’t agree that one of the three needs to be featured. I may be wrong about that, though.

On to the Georgia Bulldogs.

Tweet of the Morning

This is a wonderful get, the kind of tough, likely multi-year guy UK always needs to have on the roster.

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