WOW….thats about all you can say about the end of the UK-MTSU game on Saturday night. While much of the game was forgettable, the last two plays were as shocking as almost anything that anyone could have imagined for a game ending. With the Cats clinging to a 20-14 lead, David Jones got an interception and seemingly put the game away by returning it deep into MTSU territory (the 17 yard line). But then the Cats began a string of events that combined bizarre decision making and awful execution, almost culminating a dagger of a loss. A rundown:
(1): After Derrick Locke goes for 9 yards and gives the Cats a 2nd and 1, which if executed would effectively end the game, the Cats get a bizarre illegal procedure penalty. Without the penalty, the Cats have three plays to get 1 yard….the penalty backs them up to six yards and changes the calculation.
(2): Then, after the clock operater started the clock after the procedure penalty (which in my view cant be correct under the rules….if after an illegal procedure penalty, they will still run the clock, why not just get penalty after penalty? I personally think the operater ran the clock for 20 seconds incorrectly. It will be interesting to see if that is correct), Hartline snapped the ball with 15 seconds remaining on the play clock. If those 15 ran off, then there would have been no need for the last field goal. Poor clock management.
(3): Rich Brooks then makes the decision to kick. I understand this decision, although many of the media folks afterwards thought it was wrong. If they just go for it and miss, MTSU probably gets two plays to try and score. The smart play is a kick. But what isnt smart is taking a kick, missing the rusher coming from the end, snapping it high, taking too long to get the ball down and kicking somewhat low. Now we have a block. The seconds that followed were beyond bizarre…..MTSU runs the kick back, Seiber cuts off an angle which allows the runner to be taken out of bounds….then a holding call. Disaster 1 adverted.
(4): Hail Mary time…..for the second time in as many years, the Cats allow the ball to be tipped back, and just like against Louisville last year, it was caught. However unlike last year, no one was behind to stop the runner. If not for Robbie Macatee doing a shoestring tackle, MTSU wins the game and the Bluegrass Miracle gets the worst sequel that a Cats’ fan could imagine.
Four errors back to back. Stunning to watch. But as Coach Brooks said afterwards, you do have to look at the positive. The Cats won…..Ronnie Macatee made a play for all-time. And the Cats are 3-0….still, what a way to end a game. Some observations:
— I thought Michael Hartline generally had a pretty good performance. He didnt make mistakes (besides the fumble) and was saddled with some unfortunate breaks from his receivers. It was a step forward for the guy and an improvement from last week.
— I have no idea why Randall Cobb was playing WR when he got hurt. If the Cats are going to really run a two-QB system, then you cant have the second quarterback out running routes….there is too much need for good health to let that happen.
— It looks like Tony Dixon’s day as #1 RB could be coming to an end. Alphonso Smith started the second half and took most of his carries. Dixon simply doesnt look to have the burst and falls down too easily. He still is the best pass catcher out of the backfield, but he may see his PT diminish.
— The Wide receivers were simply awful for a great part of the day. While Dicky finished strong and may have been the offensive MVP, he dropped a couple early that hurt. But the rest of the guys were simply lost throughout. AFter the game, Coach Brooks ripped the receivers and said that too many of then “dont know what the hell is going on.” Joker Phillips even went further, saying”
“”You see guys pregame singing Kanye West songs. How can they freaking understand every word that he’s saying but they can’t freaking understand the freaking signals. That’s what discouraging. If you can remember every word to a Kanye West song you should remember a dang hand signal that we work on every freaking day.”
— When Micah Johnson got hurt, it was scary. I was standing next to the bench as he walked off and he was screaming in pain. He sat on the bench grabbing his ankle and letting out obvious painful shouts. Tough to watch and hopefully the injury isnt as bad as his reaction made it seem to be.
— Randall Burden, who played a bit when David Jones was hurt, dances to all the music between plays while on the sideline. While he plays more, his role as team comedian is a bit like Dwight Perry.
— It was disappointing to see the defensive front not get a lot of pressure on the QB. After the game, there was a lot of talk about chop blocks by the MTSU offensive line and Jeremy Jarmon even said he thought it was their gameplan to block in that manner. But it was surprising to see the front 4 not be quite as effective.
— Tons of missed tackles. MTSU generally had a “big play” game, breaking four during the contest….all were a result of a missed tackle.
— What can you say about Lones Seiber? Brooks called his performance “poor to atrocious” and that may be kind. 2-6 on field goal kicks, with any one of the misses having been able to put away the game. Thing about how differently this game looks if the final score is 32-14. A loss would have been (as we talked about earlier this week on the Seiber post) directly on his shoulders. You hope the kid can bounce back and his teammates do have faith in him. But I would suggest that the coaches consider a trip to Bell County this weekend to see Monte Merrick again.
— Both Rafeal Little and Shane Boyd were in attendance and standing with the team on the sideline. Both nice guys and both embraced by the current team members.
— While he continues to run bad routes and look lost from time to time, Matt Roark is a physical specimen. He did get into a post-game altercation with the MTSU players that led to some pushing and shoving. Needs focus, but surely has potential.
“We are always thinking about concession sales….we dont want anyone to leave early.”
“There are way too many people not knowing whats going on, particularly on offense. We are going to stop rotating half of the Commonwealth in at wide receiver. We will use the off week to narrow down the playing time. Some wide receivers dont know what the hell is going on.”
“We were close to some big plays. They had ankle tackles that if we had broken them, could have been big runs. But we didnt break them.”
“Right now we arent a very good football team. The thing that is most disappointing is how we are running the football. I dont feel very good about where we are with our offensive line.”
“This week we didnt work at getting better in any way, shape or form and today it showed.”
“At the end my heart fell out of my stomach. We have got to find a way to finish games. That is on all of us.”
“I take some responsibility too. We should have scored more than 30 points in this game. We cant have guys at receiver not knowing the plays. I partially blame myself as maybe I am not communicating it as well as I should.”
“The old Kentucky loses that game. This Kentucky wins it.”
“You got to put it on me when a Wide Receiver runs a wrong route. I am the leader out there and I need to teach them better. Back a couple of years ago with David Jones, I would show him how to do every play, that is what I am going to do here too.”
“If Dicky said this is new Kentucky, if the way we performed today, if that is new Kentucky, then we are gonna lose a lot of games.”
Defensive Coordinator Steve Brown:
“The last play blew my mind. It was absolutely preposterous to let a guy get behind the ball. It is as ignorant as it gets. I promise you we will have a lot of Hail Mary drills until these guys get that in their head.”
So a crazy night in Commonwealth, BUT the Cats did win. Lots of frustration, but much less than if the result had been different. This team is still a ways away from being good….but they are winning as they try to reach that level. Getting out of this game was big, but there is a lot of work to be done. More all day Sunday, including an on-the-field look at various reactions as the last play fell at the one yard line.
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Bill Keightley Report : Never to be forgotten.
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