By LARRY VAUGHT
Linebacker Avery Williamson, Kentucky’s leading tackler last season, said it wasn’t hard to see why Western Kentucky amassed 487 yards and was able to run 75 plays in last week’s 35-26 win over UK.
“Just a lot of missed assignments and guys not being in the right spots, including myself,” said Williamson, who had a game-high 14 tackles.
“I felt like we were prepared and that everybody knew what to do. But when we got in that atmosphere (at the stadium) and when things didn’t go our way, we weren’t thinking too clear sometimes. That surprised me.”
It did UK coach Mark Stoops, a long-time defensive coordinator, too.
“One of the things I’m most disappointed in is the things that we should’ve played better than we did. The things we were in position to play better and we just didn’t do it. We’ve got to go back to work and it starts with fundamentals,” Stoops said.
That’s one reason Travaughn Paschal will start at outside linebacker in place of Khalid Henderson when UK hosts Miami (Ohio) Saturday in its home opener. Miami lost 52-14 at Marshall last week.
“We just have to play him. We have to get him on the field. I just feel like we have not been playing winning football at linebacker. We need to improve,” Stoops said.
He wasn’t any happier with the secondary play that gave up 271 passing yards.
“Not good enough. We need to improve, again, it’s a team loss,” Stoops said. “We’re all in this together, but we didn’t play good enough at a lot of positions. We played poorly in the secondary. I was very disappointed with position on the football. That’s what I talked about going into the game, our awareness on a couple things was very poor.”
Williamson, a senior, believes UK will show dramatic improvement this week.
“I feel like we did some great things to build on. We got turnovers. We got run stops at times. We just have to tackle better. That is the biggest thing,” Williamson said. “I did feel like our scheme was simpler this year, but biggest thing was just not filling run gaps. You have to stop the run and we didn’t fill gaps at linebacker and sometimes at D-line, too. Sometimes linebackers didn’t get over top and that caused problems. We have to learn to take better angles. I expect full focus from everybody this week.”
His message to teammates has been simple.
“Just be more aggressive. We’ve got to be more aggressive and downhill and make tackles. We knew what had to do and guys just had first-game jitters,” Williamson said. “Younger guys were just a little bit anxious to get out there. And we just were kind of timid I feel like some plays. I feel like I wasn’t aggressive enough. That loss hurt a lot. It kills me. I’ve got to keep my head up, be a leader. I’ve got to show these guys I’m not going to give up. I’ve got to keep the young guys up and keep fighting.”
Williamson was a bit perplexed when junior defensive end Bud Dupree admitted the Cats might have been “overconfident” despite going 2-10 last year and losing to Western in overtime.
“I felt like we were pretty confident. Maybe a little bit too confident,” Williamson said. “We felt like we were doing everything perfect preparing. It was tough taking a loss when you feel you have been doing everything right. Fans were really excited, and I hope they still are. We just have to worry about the team now and go play. But we know we let a lot of people down last week.”