Kentucky 14 Western Kentucky 3
Trying to find words to describe the game that took place on Thursday night in Nashville between Kentucky and Western Kentucky is not easy. Futile was in the running but I didn’t want to offend the word futile. After allowing Western to get on the board first with field goal, Kentucky was able to take a 7-3 lead into halftime despite only gaining 35 yards of offense.
The second half wasn’t much better. Kentucky quarterback Morgan Newton finally gave the Wildcats some breathing room when he broke free for a 58 yard run and followed it up with 31 yard touchdown pass to La’Rod King, making the score 14-3 and clinching the for the Cats.
So what did we learn after game one of the 2011 season? Here is the good, the bad and the ugly:
• Kentucky’s defense came up big, just like we expected it too. Led by Danny Trevathan (13 tackles), Winston Guy (10 tackles, 2 interceptions) and Ronnie Sneed (10 tackles, 1 interception), the defensive did what they will have to do all year long and keep Kentucky in games. They were helped a little bit by the fact that WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes actually found a way to play worse than Morgan Newton. The defense was also moderately successful against Bobby Rainey. The senior running back was able to pick up 105 yards on 28 carries, but the Cats never gave up the big play that limited him to a long of 10 yards. With this type of performance, it shows that co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter has had a huge impact on this team and he may have finally found a way to get Guy to reach the potential everyone in Kentucky expected.
• Another good sign for the Cats was the performance of senior punter Ryan Tydlacka. His seven punts covered 330 yards and three times pinned the Hilltoppers inside their own 20 yard line. His punt late in the 2nd quarter that was downed on the WKU 7 yard line helped give Kentucky excellent field position on their next offensive position and led to freshman Josh Clemons’ 14-yard touchdown to finally put the Cats on the board.
This entire game could be summed-up by ESPNU play-by-play man Dave Neal when he said, “Hasn’t been pretty, but it certainly has been close.” Thanks for tuning in.
• The offensive line was supposed to be the strength of this team go pushed around all night long by a Sun Belt Conference team. With all the question marks surrounding the offense this year, this was supposed to be the one thing we knew would be good. Injuries played a role in the poor performance, but even the back-ups at Kentucky should dominate the starters from Western. Improvement isn’t needed, it is necessary.
• Kentucky’s wide receivers looked even worse than the offensive line. Morgan Newton has yet to prove that he can lead the team to the endzone consistently, but Joe Montana couldn’t do much better if Jerry Rice continually dropped touchdown passes. We expect Matt Roark to drop passes that hit him in the hands. That’s all he has ever done and he wouldn’t even get on the field if not for an injury to Darryl Collins. But Collins is out for the season and the scary thing is that if Roark is the best option we have, how bad must our other receivers have to be. We could be one injury away from pulling out Bill Curry’s playbook.
• Morgan Newton has started games at Auburn and at Georgia. He has started a bowl game. He didn’t look great in any of his previous starts, but he can’t use the excuse that he was nervous. This was game that had won two games in three years. This was the game that he should have dominated. Every time he did something, you thought, “wow, can this get any worse?” The answer was a resounding yes. That was until when he took a snap and stumbled all the way to the ground without even being touched. It was bad. Really bad. Especially from a guy that just a few weeks ago was using Twitter to call out teammates and insist on a better effort in practice. Speaking of Twitter, Newton said this yesterday concerning the game: “Just saw the tape, definitely wasn’t as bad as it felt.” No Morgan, it was worse than it felt. Don’t take it easy on yourself.
• I could point to a lot of things, but Joker Phillips gets that star this week. All spring and summer, Phillips has been selling us a bill of goods about what a leader Newton has become and how he will take this team to the next level. So far Joker, you’re selling lemons. The team looked very unprepared too. It wasn’t until late in the game that you could see a sense of urgency and that won’t cut it against the SEC. Heck, that won’t cut it against Central Michigan next week and certainly not when Louisville comes to town. The play calling was horrendous too. The offense was way too predictable and as the final seconds were winding down and the outcome was already decided, Phillips called for a pass play to the endzone. Why? Did you have money on the game and needed those seven points to push? Whatever the cause, it was uncalled for and classless from man that doesn’t have enough goodwill with fans to overcome poor decisions. To go along with all the bad that happened on the field under Joker’s watch, the worst news of the night was that Ryan Mossakowski, the quarterback that transferred after last season threw for 443 yards and 5 touchdowns in his game at Northwest Mississippi Junior College. He also ran for 2 touchdowns. We didn’t know he had an arm like that when he was at Kentucky. He never threw a pass.