A loss can feel so much worse when victory at one time seemed not only possible, but unexpectedly likely. When Joker Phillips took to the podium after his Kentucky Wildcats blew a 10-point lead to the No. 6 South Carolina Gamecocks, you could tell that the weight of what might of been was still there.
Below are highlights from the postgame press conference and interviews (full videos of which can be found at the UK Athletics website). My analysis will be in italics. Bold emphasis is my own, as well.
Head Coach Joker Phillips
- The team had worked on getting off to a better start in practice by going right into 11-on-11 drills. Considering how well the team played in the first half despite losing Maxwell Smith to injury, I'd say this was a success.
- Felt that once South Carolina started to go to the run more, the defense wore down and stopped making plays on third down.
- Despite Whitlow's great play, his inexperience meant that he wasn't able to call motions and shifts that they normally do, which kept the offense from countering South Carolina's defensive adjustments in the second half. Hence why many of us wonder why Whitlow wasn't getting more reps in practice before the Florida game when it was apparent that Maxwell Smith was injured.
- On the critical second down play right before halftime (when a timeout was called after far too much time had run off the clock), he claimed it was mostly due to miscommunication from the sideline to the quarterback.
- Jonathan George and Raymond Sanders were not used as much in the second half due to the offense not being on the field a lot. This may be a chicken-or-egg argument, but I honestly think that with the way the Wildcats ran the ball in the first half (and a true freshman QB needing pressure diverted away from him), running the ball to start the second half would have given the Wildcats a much better chance at success.
- Praised Whitlow for being prepared to come in after Smith went down and said he did not seem nervous at all.
- The team will add some plays into practice this week specifically tailored to Whitlow (if Smith cannot play). Burning Patrick Towles redshirt is an absolute last resort.
- He is unsure on the severity of Maxwell Smith's injure but will know more after they run more tests.
Offensive Coordinator Randy Sanders
- Praised Jalen Whitlow for the way he competed, especially how he was able to turn some broken plays into positive yards.
- Only about 10% of the playbook was used while Whitlow was in the game. Seriously? If that's really an accurate assessment (and not just coach speak), than I can't wait to see this kid after some more time in practice.
- South Carolina is too good of a team to have as many offensive miscues as the Wildcats did.
Defensive Coordinator Rick Minter
- The team was hurt way too much by play action. Which is a common problem with such a young defense. I usually take some pretty hard shots at Minter, but that problem is one that is going to (hopefully) fix itself with more experience.
- Praised Cody Quinn and the young secondary for continuing to play well and improve. Cody Quinn plays exceptionally well for a true freshman. He is a real bright spot for this team's future.
- Felt that after the Wildcats contained Spurrier's "razzle dazzle" offense, they came out in the third quarter and exploited Kentucky's weakness; lining up and running right at them. Coach Minter is right...and it's incredibly depressing.
Quarterback Jalen Whitlow
- Felt that he held onto the ball too much and should have made plays or gotten rid of it more. Don't knock yourself too hard there, kid. It can be pretty hard to think when one of the best defenses in the country is chasing you down during your first real game time.
Does Kentucky's improved play against South Carolina mean they will win 1 or more SEC games this year?
Defensive End Taylor Wyndham
- Encouraged by the team's progress, but another loss is still incredibly frustrating.
- Felt the team backed off a bit in the second half, which allowed South Carolina to get ahead. I also think that the team backed off, but it was only after they had been flattened by a bruising, straight ahead running game in the third quarter.
Kentucky's next opponent will be the Mississippi State University Bulldogs at 12:00 p.m. EST Saturday, October 6, in Lexington.
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