We all know how frustrating the game this past Saturday was, but it’s time to move on...on to Tennessee.
In order to beat the Vols, several adjustments will have to take place.
First off, defense.
Against Mississippi State, the Kentucky Wildcats defense gave up 438 total yards (344 passing and 94 rushing) while allowing quarterback Will Rogers to complete 36/39 passes, which translates to an SEC record 92.3% completion percentage.
With all due respect to Rogers, he didn’t have to make tough throws at all. It seemed as if Mississippi State completed 5–10-yard passing plays all night. I know the Kentucky defense has some holes to fill right now with the continued absence of nose guard Marquan McCall and defensive tackle Octavious Oxendine, but that is no excuse for sitting back in a zone all night letting Will Rogers look like a Heisman candidate.
Another thing on the defensive side of the ball was the poor open-field tackling by the secondary. Kentucky’s corners and safeties hardly ever broke down to make a tackle, instead they would continue to run full speed ahead and get blown by.
And lastly, the seldom quarterback pressure. Kentucky got to Rogers a couple of times in the first half but opted to rush three most of the second half, which we can all agree helped him complete all but three of his pass attempts.
Then there’s the offense. I’m as big of a Wan’dale Robinson fan as anyone, but he is getting too many targets too frequently right now. Anyone who has watched Kentucky play this season knows there is at least a 50% chance the ball is headed Robinson’s direction any time Levis drops back to pass.
And you can bet your hard-earned money the Tennessee defense will be expecting just that.
At the same time, you can’t blame Liam Coen and Will Levis for wanting to target Wan’dale any chance they can get. He is by far the best receiver on the team, and Kentucky is still building a solid, multidimensional wide receiving core.
Obviously, Will Levis’ three interceptions can’t go unnoticed. He has gone through spurts all season where he makes poor decisions and throws behind receivers. Also, if you noticed, the passes thrown by Levis that were tipped at the line of scrimmage against Mississippi State were on line to go right to a Bulldog safety or linebacker.
Saturday nights in Starkville are well known for causing an all-systems failure performance by a Kentucky offense, which leads me in to running back talks. I know Chris Rodriguez has a serious fumbling problem, but Kentucky’s offense still goes through him in my eyes.
Part of the reason for Levis’ poor performance Saturday was that Kentucky couldn’t establish the run game. Every time the RB’s got something cooking, something bad happened. Kavosiey Smoke has done a good job this season, but Chris Rodriguez brings something different to the offense when he is on.
I’m confident that the coaching staff and players will tighten things up just in time for the big rivalry game this Saturday night in Lexington. It’s always tough playing a team that feels like they have something to prove, and this week, that team is Kentucky.
The season can go one of two ways depending on how the Tennessee game goes. Either the Cats will still be on track to make a New Year’s Six bowl, or they will be sputtering into Nashville thankful that Vanderbilt is the next team on the schedule.