On a day when the University of Kentucky football team's defense finally stepped up, a string of bad luck and poor decision-making on offense led to the same end result that everyone expected.
The Wildcats looked like they were going to make a game of it in the first quarter against the Florida Gators, but an injury to QB Maxwell Smith put Morgan Newton under center for the offense. It was all downhill from there.
- The defense—yes, I just said the defense was one of the good things about a 38-0 loss.Why? Because if you watched the first quarter (and the first half...and most of the third quarter) the UK defense played surprisingly well, making tackles, filling gaps, covering receivers—all the things I constantly snipe at defensive coordinator Rick Minter for not doing, it did.
- Still on the topic of defense, the Wildcats defense was able to overcome an interception in the second half from Newton by taking the ball back with an interception in its end zone (of course, that was promptly followed by a pick-six from Newton).
- Florida's offense does not look like a world-beater by any stretch (especially with WR Trey Burton not playing), but Kentucky managed to keep Florida's potent running attack in check for most of the game without DT Mister Cobble in the lineup due to injury. I'm not yet ready to apologize to Minter for all of my barbs against him so far this season, but he definitely did something right in practice this week (or Florida has a lot of work to do to prepare for next week's game against LSU).
- Speaking of the running game, the Cats actually had one in the first half.Even after Newton came in and it became clear that Kentucky didn't want to throw the ball, OG Larry Warford and the rest of the offensive line was able to push the pile forward and make holes for RBs Jonathan George (13 carries, 52 yards) and Raymond Sanders (10 carries, 48 yards), who turned them into positive gains.
- Newton is a good athlete and a great kid, but he is a terrible quarterback. Wide-open receivers who can actually catch the ball now were constantly missed, routes were read wrong and short screen passes were thrown high and at 90 mph.Newton finished 7-of-21 for 48 yards and three interceptions.
- His stats however, do not highlight just how much his entry into the game hurt the Cats. While the defense finally stepped up and began making plays, the offense constantly sent it back onto the field with a 3-and-out or a turnover.
- One thing to consider, however, is that Newton is just a kid trying to do his best. He has tried to do everything he can to help the team by learning new positions and plays. Head coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, however, kept Newton in the game long after it was clear that the young man was not prepared to play.Newton ended up getting embarrassed on a national stage. This wasn't an example of the coaches giving a kid an opportunity; it was a cruel and foolish decision.
- When Newton came back out in the third quarter and Kentucky began running draw plays on third down, it was clear that they had not only conceded victory but also any chance of playing competitively for the rest of the game.
- Freshman QB Jalen Whitlow was finally put into the game in the fourth quarter, but by then the body language of the team told you that he wasn't going to get much help. This should have been done much earlier; still, he looked much better than Newton (1-of-6 for 12 yards) just by virtue of the fact that he didn't throw any interceptions.
- Speaking of quarterbacks, two days ago Phillips said he was unconcerned about Smith's injury and expected him to play (per UKAthletics.com).How the heck did it go from being "unconcerned" to serious enough to sit him after four plays? If he was really that seriously injured, why did Smith even practice this week?
- Craig McIntosh (who used to have the nickname of "Auto-McIntosh" last season) missed two more field goals, putting him at 2-of-6 for the year.
- With this win, Florida extended its win streak over Kentucky to 26 games (sorry, I didn't like having to mention it, either).
- Kentucky also extended its own bizarre streak of not scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of a game since November 2010.
- Throughout most of the game, "Morgan Newton" was trending nationally on Twitter. People can say all they want that Kentucky fans only care about basketball, but the truth is that they want good (or at least tolerable) football again—and the Big Blue Nation is getting much more vocal and angry about it by the day.
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