CFN Take: Kentucky Misses Bowl In UofL Loss

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 29, 2014


Kentucky Wildcats 2014 ... Head Coach: Mark Stoops

Kentucky Wildcats

2014 Schedule
Record:
5-7
Aug. 30 UT Martin W 59-14
Sep. 6 Ohio W 20-3
Sep. 13 at Florida L 36-30 3OT
Sep. 20 OPEN DATE
Sep. 27 Vanderbilt W 17-7
Oct. 4 South Carolina W  45-38
Oct. 11 ULM W 48-14
Oct. 18 at LSU L 41-3
Oct. 25 Miss State L 45-31
Nov. 1 at Missouri L 20-10
Nov. 8 Georgia L 63-31
Nov. 15 at Tennessee L 50-16
Nov. 22 OPEN DATE
Nov. 29 at Louisville L 44-40
Nov. 29 at Louisville 44, Kentucky 40
And You Care Because … A wild shootout turned crazy in the fourth quarter after Kentucky’s Mike Douglas returned a fumble 30 yards for a 33-28 lead. Louisville answered right back with a 45-yard DeVante Parker catch, and John Wallace added a 36-yard field goal, but UK took the lead right back with a 14-yard Stanley Williams run. The Cardinals took the lead for good on a four-yard Brandon Radcliff run, and then the defense held as safety Gerod Holliman sealed it with his 14th interception of the season.
What Else? Louisville QB Kyle Bolin completed 21-of-31 passes for 381 yards and three touchdowns with a pick, and DeVante Parker caught six passes for 180 yards and three touchdowns
- Kentucky RB Stanley Williams ran 18 times for 126 yards and two scores
- Kentucky PK Austin MacGinnis hit all four field goals from 22, 45, 40 and 27 yards out
- Turnovers: Louisville 4 (UK scored on two of them) – Kentucky 2
Game Rating: B+

Nov. 15 at Tennessee 50, Kentucky 16
And You Care Because … Kentucky scored first on a 32-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal, and then it was all Tennessee scoring 30 straight points helped by a Joshua Dobbs nine-yard run and two touchdown passes to Von Pearson from 21 and 16 yards out. The defense was part of the act, too, as Von Pearson returned a pick 23 yards for a touchdown late in the first. Aaron Medley connected on three field goals for the Vols, and Dobbs opened up the third quarter on a 52-yard touchdown pass to Jason Croom.
What Else? Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs completed 19-of-27 passes for 297 yards and three touchdowns, and ran ten times for 48 yards and a score
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 13-of-25 passes for 168 yards and a pick, and ran 14 times for a team-high 29 yards and a score
- Tennessee RB Jalen Hurt ran 24 times for 118 yards and a score
- Total yards: Tennessee 511 – Kentucky 262
Game Rating: D+

Nov. 8 Georgia 63, at Kentucky 31
And You Care Because … Georgia bounced back in a big way from the Florida clunker with a hot first quarter, opening up with a kickoff return for a score from Isaiah McKenzie and getting a Chris Conley 15-yard touchdown catch and an 18-yard Nick Chubb scoring run for a 21-0 first quarter lead. Kentucky got back in the game with a 24-point second quarter with Patrick Towles running for a score and Stanley Williams ripping off a 56-yard scoring dash, but Georgia kept on rolling with a Malcolm Mitchell 23-yard touchdown catch and a Conley four-yard grab. The Bulldogs came back out of the locker room with 28 straight points highlighted by a 59-yard McKenzie punt return for a score.
What Else? Georgia RB Nick Chubb ran 13 times for 170 yards and a score, and Hutson Mason completed 13-of-16 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 16-of-31 passes for 139 yards and a score with a pick, and ran 17 times for 60 yards and a touchdown
- Third down chances: Georgia 8-of-8 – Kentucky 9-of-18 (3-of-3 on fourth downs)
- Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie returned two kickoffs for 116 yards and a score, and a punt for 59 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: C

Nov. 1 at Missouri 20, Kentucky 10
And You Care Because … It wasn’t always pretty, but Missouri got two Maty Mauk touchdown passes to Bud Sasser from three and 26 yards out in the second quarter, and two Andrew Baggett field goals in the second half on the way to a 20-3 lead. Kentucky’s offense sputtered, managing just a 47-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal until late, scoring on a one-yard Javess Blue touchdown run with 3:26 to play. The Mizzou defense held on late.
What Else? Third down conversions: Missouri 10-of-20 – Kentucky 2-of-16
- Missouri QB Maty Mauk completed 18-of-33 passes for 164 yards and two scores, and ran 14 times for a team-high 75 yards
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 19-of-36 passes for 158 yards and a score with a pick, and he ran 12 times for two yards
- Missouri DE Shane Ray came up with five tackles and two sacks for a school-record 12 sacks in a season
Game Rating: C+

Oct. 25 Mississippi State 45, at Kentucky 31
And You Care Because … Mississippi State overcame a huge day from Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles with Josh Robinson and the ground game. Robinson started off the scoring with a 12-yard run, and came up with a brilliant 74-yard dash in the fourth, and Dak Prescott ran for touchdown runs from two and 11 yards, but Towles was close to unstoppable, running for two touchdowns and finding Demarco Robinson for a 67-yard score and Javess Blue for a 58-yard touchdown as the two teams traded punches all game long. Mississippi State stayed ahead all game long and never trailed, but UK kept fighting, pulling within seven late on the second Towles run. UK tried an onside kick, but Christian Holmes returned it 61 yards for a touchdown to put the wild game away.
What Else? Mississippi State RB Josh Robinson ran 23 times for 198 yards and two touchdowns
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 24-of-43 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 23 times for a team-leading 76 yards and two scores
- Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott completed 18-of-33 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown with a pick, and ran 18 times for 88 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Mississippi State 542 – Kentucky 504
Game Rating: A-

Oct. 18 at LSU 41, Kentucky 3
And You Care Because … LSU never let this get interesting as Leonard Fournette ran for a one-yard score and Tre’Davious White returned a punt 67 yards for a score on the way to a 17-0 lead. Terrence Magee ran for two third quarter touchdowns and Travin Dural caught a 32-yard touchdown pass in the rout. Kentucky only managed a 33-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal and 217 yards of total offense.
What Else? LSU RB Terrence Magee ran nine times for 127 yards and two touchdowns, and led the team with 44 receiving yards on three carries
- Kentucky ran 27 times for 71 yards – LSU ran 51 times for 303 yards and three touchdowns
- Penalties: LSU 10 for 80 yards – Kentucky 5 for 55 yards
- LSU QB Anthony Jennings completed 7-of-14 passes for 120 yards and a score
Game Rating: D-

Oct. 11 at Kentucky 48, ULM 14
And You Care Because … Kentucky struggled early, getting down 14-3 on two Pete Thomas touchdown passes for the Warhawks. It was all Wildcats the rest of the way, scoring 45 unanswered points helped by three Patrick Towles touchdown passes and interception returns for scores from Josh Forrest and Marcus McWilson. Stanley Williams cranked out a 58-yard touchdown run late in the third to put it well out of reach.
What Else? Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 16-of-28 passes for 216 yards and three scores
- ULM QB Pete Thomas completed 20-of-31 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns with a pick six, and Brayle Brown completed 2-of-8 passes for 20 yards with a pick six
- Kentucky WR Javess Blue caught three passes for 109 yards and two scores
- Third down conversions: ULM 8-of-20 – Kentucky 1-of-12
Game Rating: D+

Oct. 4 at Kentucky 45, South Carolina 38
And You Care Because … Down 14, Kentucky rallied with two Jojo Kemp touchdown runs to tie it, and got a six-yard interception return for a score from Alvin Dupree with just over two minutes to play. The Gamecocks had one last chance to avoid the collapse, but Dylan Thompson got picked off. Mike Davis ran for three scores and Shon Carson ran for a two-yard score to help put USC ahead, but Kentucky had the lead in the third after Ryan Timmons caught a 48-yard touchdown pass early in the third before the Gamecocks went on a 21 point scoring run. The UK offense didn’t get going again until midway through the fourth, putting up 21 unanswered points.
What Else? Kentucky RB Jojo Kemp ran 17 times for 131 yards and three touchdowns
- South Carolina RB Mike Davis ran 23 times for 183 yards and three scores
- Total yards: South Carolina 500 – Kentucky 447
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 20-of-29 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown
Game Rating: A-

Sept. 27 at Kentucky 17, Vanderbilt 7
And You Care Because … Kentucky had few problems with Patrick Towles hitting Ryan Timmons for a 20-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and running for a one-yard score in the second. Vandy’s points came on defense, tying it at seven with Darrius Sims returning a Towles pass 13 yards for a score, but the offense went absolutely nowhere in the second half. Each team turned it over three times, with UK shutting down any Vandy chances in the second half with big plays. The Commodores finished with just 139 yards of total offense
What Else? Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 23-of-30 passes for 201 yards and a score with a pick
- Vanderbilt QB Wade Freeback completed 8-of-25 passes for 85 yards and three scores
- 11 different Wildcat receivers caught passes with Stanley Williams leading the way with just 39 yards on three grabs.
- Time of possession: Kentucky 38:22 – Vanderbilt 21:38
Game Rating: C

Sept. 13 Florida 36, Kentucky 30 3OT
And You Care Because … In the third overtime, Kentucky’s Austin MacGinnis miss a field goal attempt and Florida pounded away for the win with a one-yard Matt Jones run. MacGinnis nailed a 51-yard field goal with under four minutes to play to help forced overtime, and the two teams traded touchdowns in the first fame with Stanley Williams coming up with a brilliant reverse-field run for a 25-yard UK touchdowns, and then Florida answered, but it took a fourth down touchdown pass from Jeff Driskel to Demarcus Robinson, even though the playclock appeared to turn to zero. The two teams traded field goals in the second OT. The first half was an ugly 3-3 tie, and then came the offense with Patrick Towles finding Garrett Johnson on touchdown passes from 60 and 33 yards out, and Driskel throwing two touchdown passes including a nine-yarder to Robinson.
What Else? Florida WR Demarcus Robinson caught 15 passes for 216 yards and two scores. Jeff Driskel completed 25-of-43 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns with a pick.
- Kentucky QB Patrick Towles completed 24-of-45 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns with three picks, and Garrett Johnson caught six times with 154 yards and two touchdowns.
- Florida RB Matt Jones ran 29 times for 156 yards and a score.
- Florida P Kyle Christy averaged 48.7 yards per punt putting four of his six kicks inside the 20. Kentucky P Landon Foster averaged 39.8 yards per kick with five of his six going inside the 20.
Game Rating: A-

Sept. 6 at Kentucky 20, Ohio 3
And You Care Because … The Wildcats scored the first 17 points of the game with Dorian Baker catching an eight-yard touchdown pass and Stanley Williams running for a 53-yard score, and then it was all special teams with Austin MacGinning hitting field goals from 53 and 33 yards out. Ohio’s lone score came on a 44-yard Josiah Yazdani field goal.
What Else? The Kentucky offense started to stall after the first half. Without Braylon Heard, Week One’s star running back who was out with an ankle injury, UK still ran for 232 yards, spreading out the work.
- UK QB Patrick Towles, completed 17-of-31 passes for 170 yards and a touchdown, and ran 22 times for 59 yards.
- Ohio QB Derrius Vick took a massive step back, failing to complete any of his six passes and running for just 21 yards on two carries. J.D. Sprague completed 13-of-25 passes for 143 yards.
- Kentucky had the ball for 38:26 and allowed just 223 yards of total of Ohio total offense.
Game Rating: D+

Aug. 30 at Kentucky 59, UT Martin 14
And You Care Because … Kentucky did whatever it wanted on the way to a 52-0 lead highlighted by Braylon Heard, who ran twice for 116 yards and two touchdowns with scores from 43 and 73 yards out. The Wildcats rolled up 656 yards helped by Patrick Towles’ 377-yard day with a touchdown pass to Blake Bone to pull away in the second quarter.
What Else? It was a warm-up game, but it was also exactly what a young team like this needed. Patrick Towles took target practice completing 20-of-29 passes for 377 yards and a score, and the offensive line blasted away for big yards after big yards on the ground. It’s a process. With Ohio up next, UK has to prove that it can continue with this against someone not named UT Martin.
- Time of possession didn’t matter in a game like this, but going forward, UK has to have the ball longer than 23:42 a game.
Game Rating: D

2014 Preview 

Of course, Kentucky athletics focuses on basketball season first, recruiting for basketball season second, and the basketball offseason third, but as the attendance for the spring football game showed, things are starting to change. Is it really possible for football to at least share a piece of the bluegrass fun?

UK doesn’t have to look any further than down the road at Louisville for the example of how to the two major sports can both thrive. Hoops is obviously a big deal to the Cardinals, but the football program has been able to find its place, too. For Kentucky, it’ll be hard to take too much of the attention away as long as John Calipari is contuining to load up with teams full of NBA talent, but there’s a buzz and excitement about a football program that appears to be on its way up.

A second straight 2-10 season and fourth straight losing campaign might not seem like much, but big recruiting classes under head coach Mark Stoops, an enthusiastic fan base, and what seems like a real belief that things are starting to change appears to have energized everything around the football team. But now the wins have to follow, and unlike Louisville, Kentucky is in the SEC – it’s not like there are a slew of layups to build up the record.

It’s next to impossible to go from being a perennial free space to a player in the SEC without a whole bunch of talent, a lot of luck, and a few schedule breaks. Beating a decent-named team from time to time and going to average bowl games is nice, but Kentucky doesn’t want to be Vanderbilt.

If South Carolina can do it – remember, the Gamecock program won a lot of jack squat before Ball Coach took over – then Kentucky can, too.

Unlike the SEC’s USC, there actually is some history at Kentucky with Bear Bryant coming up a few great seasons including the fantastic 1950 campaign, and there were a few good years here and there, but with only 15 bowl appearances there’s room for Stoops to carve out his own legacy in a hurry. How mediocre has UK football been? The last season with fewer than four losses was 1984 going 9-3, and since going 10-1 in 1977 there have only been nine winning campaigns in 36 years.

To rise up and start to be a major part of the SEC fun, like a South Carolina, there has to be a few big recruiting hauls, a whopper of a class at some point that shocks the system, and a little bit of success to show that there’s a plan, it’s working, and the winning will follow.

To make that step this year, Stoops has to rely on the experience of 51 returning lettermen, 16 returning starters, a little bit of depth to play around with, and just enough interesting athletes and playmakers to catch some of the big boys napping.

The offense has to be more explosive and has to start figuring out how to put up points, the defense has to stop giving up so many big plays and has to learn how to get off the field, and the team has to start making its own breaks. There were chances in close losses to South Carolina and Mississippi State last year, and there can’t be losses like the Western Kentucky gaffe to kick things off, but this can’t be another 2-10 year with the wins coming against the truly sad.

Kentucky football has the potential to go on the upswing fast, and Stoops appears to be the right coach, but the basketball team is destined for yet another Final Four, at the absolute least. This isn't a football school quite yet.

What to watch for on offense: There really might be the running back options to start making the offense move. A disaster over the last few years when it came to scoring (more on that in a moment), the offense has to be more dangerous, has to come up with a stronger running game, and has to stretch the field a bit. The passing attack is a question - the receiving corps is shaky, but there’s hope with some young options and four interesting prospects at quarterback to play around with. The pressure should be taken off by a ground attack that gets back four starters up front and has a deep group of backs who can rotate in. With Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard ready to go, and leading rusher Jojo Kemp back, the backfield might be the team’s biggest strength. It has to be.

What to watch for on defense: The secondary has to try picking off a pass or two ... or four. Generating turnovers wasn’t a major problem with 15 recovered fumbles – generating two in six games – and the pass rush was okay, but the secondary failed to deliver. Fine, so eight of the 23 sacks came against Miami University and Alabama State, and there was next to no pressure at time behind the line, but the defensive backs still needed to come up with interceptions. How many did they get? Three, and two of them came in the final two games. Considering the Wildcats generated five in 2012, it was actually impressive to take a step back, but they did. All four starters are back in the secondary, and there’s athleticism and speed, but they have to come up with gamechangers.

The team will be far better if… the O can score. Everything was fine against a Miami University team that might have been the worst in America, and Alabama State from the lower levels, but it was like pulling teeth at times to generate points scoring 17 or fewer in seven of the 12 games. UK has scored 17 or fewer 15 times over the last two seasons – losing them all – and 26 times in the last 38 games going 2-24. Either the Wildcats have to learn how to battle through slugfests, or the offense has to put points on the board. To do that, it has to start converting on third downs to keep the offense moving, after succeeding a horrendous 31% of the time going 0-for-12 against Vandy and 2-of-13 against South Carolina.

The Schedule: There's a chance to get off to a hot start with UT Martin and Ohio in the first two weeks before going to Florida. On the plus side, the annual loss to Florida is the lone road trip before mid-October. However, the payback is coming in the second half of the season with road games at LSU, Missouri, Tennessee and Louisville.

Overall, it's not that bad. Going to Louisville is the lone bear in non-conference play – unless Ohio rebounds and becomes a MAC star, or if ULM is quirky-good – and while Florida, LSU and Missouri are nasty road games, if Mark Stoops and the coaching staff can establish the home field advantage early on, there could and should be an upset or two against Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, Georgia or South Carolina.

Best offensive player: Senior OT Darrian Miller. The Wildcats desperately need one of their quarterbacks – Reese Phillips? Drew Barker? Patrick Towles? Maxwell Smith? – to become the team’s best player and main man to work around, and it would do wonders if one of the receivers could turn into a superstar, but it’s an offensive tackle who’s the best of the bunch. In his third season as the starting left tackle, he’s a strong run blocker with good enough athleticism to get by. He’s hardly a brick wall in pass protection, but he’s experienced, productive, and the star of a veteran line that could grow into a strength.

Best defensive player: Senior DE Alvin Dupree. “Bud” has been one of the team’s stars on defense over the last few years earning all-star honors in each of the last two seasons. His sack production has been steady, rising up at the end of 2012 and rolling through 2013, and working with Za’Darius Smith on the other side last season to give the Wildcats a formidable pass rushing tandem. With his size and burst he has next-level potential as a hybrid defender, but for now, he should be one of the SEC’s steadiest ends.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Patrick Towles. Jalen Whitlow took off for Eastern Illinois, but there are still four quarterbacks in the mix for the starting job. If one rocks in fall camp, he’ll be it, but it’s Towles who appears to have the line on the starting job after a good offseason. Maxwell Smith has all the tools and enough experience to be a big part of the race, but he needs to return healthy. Towles is a good passer who could be the type to build the offense around, but he’ll have to keep on pushing to get the gig. All that matters is being able to put points on the board – one of the UK quarterbacks has to be the reason the offense works.

The season will be a success if ... the Wildcats win five games. Remember, it’s not like they were that close to coming up with a winning season last year and just needed a few breaks – there’s still a ton of work needing to be done just to get close. UT Martin, Ohio and ULM are must wins, and coming up with the first SEC win since beating Ole Miss in early November of 2011 is a must, but the schedule overall isn’t that kind. Outside of – possibly – the home date with Vanderbilt, UK should be the underdog against everyone but the previous three must-wins, and getting to six wins would be fantastic, but a 5-7 season would be a very, very nice second year for Stoops.

Key game: Sept. 27 vs. Vanderbilt. Florida is a lot better – and likely healthier – this year, so the SEC opener isn’t going to be easy but with a week off to prepare, UK has to beat Vanderbilt for the first time since 2010 – losing three straight in the series. With South Carolina and LSU up next in conference play, it could be ugly if the Cats can’t pull this off, but if they can win, they could and should be 3-1 with several home games coming up.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Tackles For Loss: Opponents 88 – Kentucky 54
- Interceptions Thrown: Kentucky 6 – Opponents 3
- Time of Possession: Opponents 32:00 – Kentucky 28:00

- 2014 Kentucky Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players


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