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Kentucky Wildcats 10 at Missouri Tigers 20: Postmortem

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Kentucky failed to take advantage of opportunities yesterday, and Missouri played disciplined football to come away with the victory.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Well, Kentucky fans, the Wildcats once again failed to covert a winnable game into their sixth victory. It was much more understandable against Mississippi State last weekend than it was this weekend, but that scarcely matters. I still think, personally, that Kentucky will find some way to get it done, but I could be blowing sunshine up your collective backsides, too.

Congratulations to Missouri for what was certainly their best game against SEC competition. Their maturity really showed through in this game, as Mizzou was very disciplined on defense and avoided big mistakes on offense. Maty Mauk had his best game this season against tough competition, and Kentucky really had no answer for his dual-threat ability yesterday.

Overall, and I think we all saw the same game — the broad strokes are that the defense played well and the offense played very poorly. Kentucky only managed 258 yards of total offense, 100 on the ground and 158 through the air. This was a frustrating game in the sense that the Wildcats have looked better against better teams than Missouri, but I think the youth of this squad is really showing up on the road, where they have had nothing remotely resembling success since the game against Florida in the swamp.

Having said that, there were some positives to take from this game. Kentucky rose up defensively and played perhaps their best defensive game of the season against quality competition. Of course, we do have to point out that Missouri has been pretty challenged offensively all season, so it’s not as if we just shut down Auburn or something. Still, I think the defense took a step forward overall, while the offense took a step back.  What we needed was for both to step up.

Box Score

Team observations

Offense

  • Towles threw six times in first half. Kentucky’s passing game has been what got us five wins. We abandoned it for almost the entire first half. I think you have to dance with who brought you, and Kentucky didn’t do that today.

  • Dropped passes. Ugh. Javess Blue dropped two, Boom Williams, Ryan Timmons, Garrett Johnson all droppd one.

  • The quarterback designed runs were really handled by Mizzou. You have to give their defense credit for getting that assimilated in film sessions, and execution-wise, they were always keeping an eye on him. Very mature play by the Missouri defense.

  • I thought the offensive line was a tale of two halves when it came to pass blocking. They were very bad in the first half, but much better in the second. I didn’t think they blocked the run well all day, but we do have to give Missouri’s defense credit.

  • Kentucky got into way too many third and longs. That’s a big reason why Kentucky went 2-16 in third down conversions.

  • Kentucky had way too many drive-killing penalties, from false starts to holding. That’s another big reason why the Wildcats wound up getting so far behind the chains they couldn’t convert.

  • Missouri dominated time of possession, 34:15 to 25:45 for Kentucky.

  • Negative plays also hurt the Wildcats. Credit the Tigers defense for really good play.

  • Why didn’t we move the pocket more? When UK moved the pocket, it seemed that Kentucky had better opportunities.

  • Neal Brown needs to find more creative ways to protect his quarterback. If it takes keeping a tight end out of the pattern, then do it.

  • The swing passes worked better against Mizzou. We just didn’t execute them well enough.

  • Why didn’t we use more play action? When we did, it seemed to work.

  • Pass protection was improved in the second half, but not by enough. Kentucky gave up three sacks. Still, Towles had time to make plays and just didn’t.

Defense

  • Mauk great game, but it was his legs more than his arm that hurt Kentucky. The reason that happened was because Kentucky allowed him to get outside all day, instead of forcing him inside where there was help.

  • The defense really stood tall in the second half. If there are any bright spots here, special teams and the defense, particularly against the run, were two of them.

  • The defensive secondary started well, had a bad second quarter, and then played pretty well in the second half. Overall, I think we have to be happy with their effort.

  • The defensive transformation between the first and second half was remarkable.

  • The secondary was much better in the second half as well.

  • Tackling was just terrible all day. We tackled well in the first half of the season, and now, it’s like we’ve forgotten how.

Special teams

  • Mizzou special teams killed us. Give them a lot of credit, their punter kept UK bottled up all day, and their kick coverage was great on kicks and punts.

  • Demarco Robinson dumb decision to take it out of the end zone in the first half cost us very poor field position. But he did much better in the second half both on punt and kickoff returns.

  • Special teams for Kentucky weren’t bad. That was really nice to see. Punt coverage was mostly better, but still the Tigers broke a long one. But the on-side kick worked well. We’ve been beating Craig Naivar’s brains out for the last couple of games, I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that he had special teams well prepared yesterday.

  • Landon Foster had a very good kicking day. He did his job well.

Individual observations

Offense

  • Patrick Towles was awful. His decision-making was very poor. Just didn’t have it today, and Mizzou had a lot to do with that. But he missed a number of easy throws that he just has to make. he also underthrew everything.

  • Great game by Boom Williams, but he has to learn how to carry the football right. He nearly fumbled away the football on an important play in the second half. Also, Williams has to learn to run downhill more, not side to side. He missed several opportunities for big plays trying to go east-west. That’s a holdover from high school that will hopefully be less and less of a problem as he gets more experience.

  • Patrick Towles interception was a really bad throw among a bunch of pretty bad ones. Towles threw maybe five balls on target all day.

  • Ryan Timmons was not near the factor he needs to be in the offense.

Defense

  • Bud Dupree had a really good game. He is a freak, making plays from the backside and running down skill players.  The guy is amazing.

  • Khalid Henderson dropped a likely pick six. Intolerable. you have to make plays to win football games on the road, and Kentucky just didn’t make any. He makes that play, Kentucky has a real chance to win the game. Mark Stoops hurled his headset across the stadium after that drop.

  • Josh Forrest was bad in the first half, but he was incredible in the second. Overall, he had a big day, leading the team with ten tackles and two TFL’s

  • I thought Nate Willis was outstanding in the second half.

  • Matt Elam showed a little bit of promise today. He had a great run stuff and generally did a good job in there

Conclusion

There were two big stories in this game. First, Kentucky’s offense became one-dimensional in the first half and very predictable on standard downs. That led to Missouri dominating Kentucky for the first two quarters, and building a lead that Kentucky just couldn’t over come against a mature, disciplined defensive squad.

Second, Kentucky failed to exploit the opportunities presented to them by Missouri. The dropped interception, several dropped passes on offense, and failing to convert a perfectly executed onside kick into points. Winning on the road in the SEC is difficult under the best of circumstances, but when you fail to take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes, it becomes a near-impossibility.

Kentucky’s next game comes Saturday against the Georgia Bulldogs, who are smarting from a defeat in Jacksonville against the mostly-unfortunate Florida Gators. They are going to want to come into Commonwealth and dominate Kentucky, but if the Wildcats can play a competitive game with Mississippi State, who remains atop the national rankings, they should be able to do so against the Dawgs. Georgia will still be favored and should be, but if Kentucky is going to get that sixth win, it’s better sooner rather than late, when the pressure will be weighing heavily on them and they’ll be playing on the road.