October 9, 2011

Big Blue Review: Cats bad across the board

All the grades, notes, quotes and anecdotes from our staff's weekly look back of the UK's performance.

Top Cat
Winston Guy once again brings home Top Cat honors in an ugly loss. In UK's four game losing streak there hasn't been too many bright spots but Guy has shined. Against the Gamecocks he had a game high 14 tackles including two for a loss. It's the fifth time this season and ninth in Guy's career he's recorded double-digit tackles.

Top Stat
UK had as many turnovers as first downs against South Carolina. Against the Gamecocks the Cats could only muster up 95 total yards of offense, good enough for six first downs. Yet three different Cats threw interceptions (one by Josh Clemons and Morgan Newton and two by Maxwell Smith), Newton also lost a fumble to go along with a team fumble on a snap that hit a man in motion. The Cats' offense continues to stall, not allowing the defense to rest.

Cat Killer
A plethora of Gamecocks helped kill the Wildcats but none more so than sophomore quarterback Connor Shaw. Last week South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier gave Shaw the nod over senior Stephen Garcia and Shaw shined against the Cats. He connected on 26 of 39 throws for 311 yards and four touchdowns, the first Gamecock QB to throw for four touchdowns in a game since 2006. He also rushed for 42 yards on 15 carries.

Big Moment
UK was only down 7-3 and faced a 3rd and 2 when UK went for it all on a halfback pass. Clemons dropped back looking for an open Matt Roark. Clemons released the pass late and sailed it past Roark and the pass was intercepted. UK only completed one pass the remainder of the game.

"It's an offense that can't make plays, can't stay on the field and an offense that turns the ball over six times and numerous times on first down so now your defense has to go back on the field."
-UK head coach Joker Phillips.

With the loss, UK hasn't beaten a ranked team on the road since doing so at Louisville in 2002, marking 19 straight losses. UK's last true road win against any opponent came last year in the season opener at Louisville.

Bottom Line
Today's 54-3 loss at South Carolina might be rock bottom for the Cats. The schedule does get easier but does this team have a killer instinct? They'll get a week off to lick their wounds then for the first time in weeks should be the more talented team when Jacksonville State comes to town October 22. We'll see how this loss will linger with the Cats and how it'll impact the rest of the season.

UK Report Card
Quarterbacks: F
Morgan Newton was every bit as bad as he was against LSU last week. He was 4-20 for 17 yards with two turnovers this week after going 2-11 for 12 yards last week. He was finally relieved by true freshman Maxwell Smith late in the third quarter, who promptly tossed interceptions on the first two plays he ran. Wildcat quarterbacks finished the day a combined 4-26 with three interceptions. Josh Clemons also threw an interception on a trick play. It's becoming more apparent with each passing week that while Newton might not be the answer at quarterback for UK, they might not have an answer at all.

Running backs: D
It's almost unfair to give the running backs this grade, because they were never given a chance. They had just six carries entering the fourth quarter, with the game all but decided. Randy Sanders' decision to continue to pass the ball despite a putrid passing game could be seen as an indictment of the backfield, though. It's also difficult to understand why Newton had more runs (14) than all of UK's tailbacks combined (12). The final numbers, 27 total carries for 79 yards, weren't pretty, but it's hard to grade them on such a small sample.

Wide receivers/Tight ends: D
If the running backs had a small sample size, then the wide receivers' sample was microscopic, and the tight ends' sample size was infinitesimal. La'Rod King and Matt Roark had one catch each, and UK's stable of tight ends had one combined target. But Newton can't take all the blame for the passing game being so foul, and these guys have to take some of the blame.

Offensive line: C
The offensive line has to take some of the blame for the offense as well. It appeared they took another step forward, though the numbers didn't exactly reflect it. Giving any offensive unit a passing grade is difficult, given the performance, but the offensive line wasn't the primary culprit.

Defensive line: F
There was next to no pressure on Shaw for most of the day as he shredded the UK secondary. One of the most telling plays came when true freshman Christian Coleman grabbed Shaw in the first half and flung him to the ground - except Shaw spun out of it and ran for a gain on the play. The UK defense gave up 639 yards total on the day, and every unit has to take the blame.

Linebackers: F
Danny Trevathan moved past 300 career tackles and his hit on Shaw in the fourth quarter finally convinced Steve Spurrier to pull his starter, but his stats are hollow as long as UK isn't in the game. Winston Guy had another solid performance and it was reserve linebacker Avery Williamson who forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, but there are few positives to find in the performance of the defense on Saturday.

Secondary: F
UK didn't pressure Shaw in hopes of having more guys in coverage, yet in his second start he broke threw four touchdown passes, the first time a Gamecock has done that in five years. The UK secondary missed tackles, blew coverage's and made life all too easy for the more talented South Carolina receiving core.

Special teams: B
Roark blocked the seventh kick of his career on an extra point, tying him for the most blocked kicks in school history. But the biggest play of the game was the first, when the Wildcats forced a fumble on the opening kickoff. That set UK up for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead, the only points Kentucky would score all day. If not for the special teams, it's possible and perhaps probable that the Wildcats would be looking at a shutout loss.

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