So, I'm sitting here, and like most, I'm trying to put together what just happened. Kentucky fell to Western Kentucky by a score of 35-26 that seemingly was more lopsided than what the score suggest.
I, myself, will admit that I didn't watch the game. My college (Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, KY) was competing against their biggest rival, Campbellsville University, in their home opener in the Battle of Highway 55.
As we speak, I'm watching clips of the game and trying to put together what went wrong for Kentucky, which turns out to be a lot. So here are a few thoughts about the game tonight.
1. The QB Controversy is Alive and Well:
I've said it on this blog before and I'll say it again. I think Max Smith should be the starting QB for this team going forward. Whitlow earned the start, and by reports coming out of practice, deservedly so. Whitlow made some great plays with his feet, including a 50 yard run that set up a Jonathan George touchdown. He also had a rushing touchdown, but I believe Smith was the better passer and unless Neal Brown decides he wants to run a read-option offense, Smith should be the starting QB going forward. Whitlow had the typical "deer in the headlights" look. His first few passes looked shaky and Whitlow looked rattled most of the time he was in the game. I think Whitlow can be used in special packages, but Smith should be the starter. Here are the quarterback stats from tonight:
Whitlow: 10/15, 78 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT
Smith: 8/13, 125 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT
2. Penalties, Penalties, Penalties.
Kentucky repeatedly shot themselves in the foot with false start penalties tonight that killed their drives and any semblance of offensive momentum that the Cats were able to put together. Kentucky had 10 penalties on the night, totaling 69 yards. It's difficult to keep a drive going when you have penalties setting you back. I didn't think this would be much of a problem, since the reports of Stoops bringing referees in to work on it in practice, but something needs to be done to limit the false starts going forward.
3. The Linebacker Corp has a LONG Way to go.
This was one of the major areas of concern going in and it showed why tonight. Depth is at a minimum at the linebacker position and the overall talent level there is not quite SEC Caliber. Avery Williamson is good, and played well for the most part tonight, but was out of position a few times and had his struggles. Even with Williamson playing well, he can't do everything. The Linebackers struggled to attack the gaps, allowing WKU to run all over the place. This is a young group, with several unproven players. However, they're going to have to step up and make plays.
4. The rushing attack will be used more than previously thought.
Neal Brown brought the Air Raid offense to Lexington, but sometimes, you have to play more to your strengths. Kentucky's strength on offense will be in the running game. With Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George, and JoJo Kemp, Kentucky has a solid core of running backs. Kentucky ran the ball often tonight, and had pretty decent success. Raymond Sanders looked really good tonight, rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries. Overall, Kentucky averaged 6.8 yards per carry. So while Kentucky will look to implement the Air Raid, look for the offense to be closer to a 50/50 split.
5. They didn't give up.
This, to me, was the biggest difference from last year. Kentucky played with an "Attack Every Day" mentality that we've seen the media latch onto. Maxwell Smith's touchdown to Robinson was late in the fourth, with Kentucky trailing 35-20. Mansour's extra point bounced off the upright, which would've made it an 8-point game. Being optimistic, I'm pleased with the fight the team showed tonight in the face of a dreadful situation.
ROME WASN'T BUILT IN ONE DAY, FOLKS!
I know it's a disappointing outcome, and surely not how Stoops and Co. wanted to start their season, but we have to keep looking ahead. Keep the faith, BBN. Don't give up yet.