Most Recent Posts
- Calipari excited for Final Four-like enviroment for Kentucky-Baylor
- Calipari on potential bad weather in Dallas, UK players going back to Texas
- Calipari admits “I am concerned” about Jon Hood after concussion
- Gill-Caesar likes UK’s winning tradition, way Calipari doesn’t “sugar-coat” anything
- Video: UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown talks about JoJo Kemp, and improving the offensive line for next season
- Calipari says Cauley-Stein “knows he can go get it” and block shots now
- What will QB Patrick Towles do? Teammates says “he loves it here from what I can tell”
- Marcus Lee’s father on Calipari: “He pushes kids on academics, and I like that.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
To beat Louisville, Kentucky needed to capitalize on every opportunity. That was no secret for the Wildcats going into Saturday’s game against No. 7 Louisville.
Many weren’t even sure UK would have opportunities to stay in the game, but the Cats did thanks to a rejuvenated defense that stymied the high-powered Cards and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. But turnovers and costly dropped passes kept the UK offense sputtering before Louisville’s offense took over in the second half of the 27-13 win.
Whether the 65,445 fans — UK’s biggest home crowd wince 68,170 for this same game in 2011 — were wearing blue or red, the 10-3 Louisville halftime lead was a stunner, especially since UK fumbled in the red zone just before halftime with a chance to tie the game.
“Disappointed with the loss. I was proud of our guys effort,” said UK coach Mark Stoops. “I felt like we fought and played tough at times. Had our opportunities. Disappointed we didn’t make plays when we needed to.”
Louisville was averaging over 400 yards per game passing, but was limited to 250 yards by Kentucky. For a Kentucky defense that gave up 487 total yards in a loss to Western Kentucky, it was remarkable improvement. For a Kentucky offense that had so many playmakers against Miami (Ohio) last week, it was a big step back. The Cats were 0-for-13 on third-down conversions and starting quarterback Maxwell Smith went out in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
“We just didn’t make routine plays,” UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “We were poor on third down. No argument there. But where we lost the game was on first down. We had drops, missed opportunities.
“I thought we showed some signs in the second half of being better, but they are a good football team and to beat a good football team you have to make routine plays, and we did not. I am frustrated, but our kids will get better. Some of it is just that we have a lot of kids who have not been in this arena before.”
On defense, Kentucky suddenly played with the reckless abandon that players had indicated UK would all preseason under Stoops and coordinator D.J. Eliot.
“We just did what we should have been doing before,” linebacker Avery Williamson, who had eight solo stops among his 15 tackles, said. “Guys were doing their jobs and making plays like we should have been doing. We really thought we could win this game.”
Few others did, but late in the second quarter it was only 10-3 Louisville and UK had a first down at the Louisville 13. Brown called a run-pass option where Smith could keep the ball and pass or give it to running back Raymond Sanders. Smith appeared to be handing the ball off and Sanders exploded through the line. However, the ball was on the ground and Louisville recovered.
Stoops said after the game he didn’t know what happened. Brown said Smith “missed the exchange” and he wasn’t sure who was at fault.
Smith said it was supposed to be a run, clearly indicated he tried to give Sanders the ball.
“I don’t know what happened. It could have been my fault or his (Sanders),” Smith said.
Again, the type of mistake Kentucky can’t survive. Not this year. Not against a team like Louisville.
The Cardinals? They could survive a so-so first half from Bridgewater and the offense because they dominated most of the second half with better talent and more depth.
“They were talking about coming out strong the second half, we were talking about coming out strong,” Stoops said.
Louisville did, Kentucky didn’t.
But Stoops and his coaches knew as painful as it might be to have to admit it, even in a loss Kentucky did move forward.
“We didn’t stop fighting. We didn’t back down and quit,” receiver Javess Blue, who had six catches for 58 yards and 133 return yards, said. “That’s how you get better.”
Stoops said he was “proud” of UK’s stops in the first half. Louisville got a field goal after a Jalen Whitlow fumble and a touchdown on 52-yard drive. But five times the Kentucky defense held.
“I felt like we had a good plan and our guys were starting to play more aggressive and make them earn their yards,” Stoops said. “I was happy with the effort. It was disappointing we had a couple of turnovers, but we had our opportunities.”
Brown wasn’t throwing in the towel, either, on the offense even though UK was limited to 376 yards.
“I think you will see this team get better. We have to focus on our identity and we have to get well. We are not a very deep team,” Brown said. “But we can get better and we will get better.”