The Kentucky Wildcats traveled over to some unknown territory in Columbia, Missouri. A brisk 39 degree start of the game had the stadium a frozen tundra of sorts. Many news stories surrounding the game about the QB situation for both teams. With Missouri’s starting quarterback James Franklin hurt, backup QB Corin Berkstresser was supposed to lead the charge for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the ‘Cats had the possibilities of featuring three quarterbacks. Freshman QB Jalen Whitlow would make the start, while Patrick Towles was back in the depth chart after coming off of an injury. Senior QB Morgan Newton was said to be featured in red-zone situations.
The first drive of the game belonged to the Wildcats after Missouri had won the toss but chose to play defense. Running back Jonathan George and the Wildcat offense seemed to move the ball with ease. Whitlow was able to move the ball very well with his arm and his legs. When Whitlow wasn’t doing so, it was George with the runs. After moving the ball down into the red-zone, Whitlow handed the ball off again to George who was running hard for the endzone. Sheldon Richardson of Missouri strips George of the ball, and in an instant returns it 60 yards to set up their offense on the UK 25 yard line. The Tigers only needed 4 plays to take it into the endzone for the touchdown. Missouri leads early, 7-0.
The first series of the game for Kentucky was a carbon-copy of what this season has become. Promising beginnings, ending in horrible disappointment. However, the game was still young and there was much more football to be played.
The next drive was all about #4 in blue, Raymond Sanders. The junior tailback looked like he was running through training dummies as he marched the offense down to the red-zone. Near the end-zone, Sanders rushes to the right and heads for the pylon. The ball comes lose again and falls harmlessly out of bounds, but did the ball break the goal-line? The refs review the play and say he lost the ball at the 3-yard line. After a Jalen Whitlow scramble to the 1-yard line, Sanders is rewarded with the touchdown. “Cats and Tigers tied at 7.
That was a really nice response after what could have been a back-breaker for Kentucky on the first series. The one thing you can continuously say about this group is they haven’t quit. I remember once when I slammed them publicly for quitting during a game this season, but since then there has always been fight.
The Wildcats were able to hold the Tigers to only getting one first down on their next drive. The defense was able to cover the Missouri receivers and not allow QB Corbin Berkstresser any passing lanes. The kick was only 32 yards, the ‘Cats let it bounce but recovers. With 5:34 to go in the 1st quarter, we see the first signs of Patrick Towles. After a couple of Jonathan George runs, Kentucky faces a 3rd & 1 until a big false start penalty pushes them back 5 yards. On Towles’ first throw, he misses Jonathan George and the ‘Cats have to punt the ball away. The usually sensational Landon Foster shanks a 28-yard punt, but Missouri can’t seem to hang on to the ball again. The ball rolls, but is recovered by a Tiger.
Much like their last drive, Missouri was only able to pick up one first down on this drive before being forced into a 4th & 13. Because of the short kick, the Tigers drive is stopped within field goal range. The Tigers line up and knock through a 44-yard field goal with 1:18 to go in the first quarter.
The end of the 1st quarter saw Kentucky allowing Patrick Towles to orchestrate the drive once again. Towles hit Raymond Sanders for a 2-yard pick up, and then gets sacked by the Missouri defense as time expires. On the next play to open the 2nd quarter, Towles sails a pass way over the out-stretched arms of La’rod King. After the miss, the Wildcats faced a 4th & 14 and Landon Foster comes back out to punt. The punt is much better for Foster, sailing 40 yards. Missouri’s Marcus Murphy loses 6 yards on the return, and then fumbles the ball. This time, a Kentucky Wildcat falls on the ball and brings new life to the drive.
After Towles’ shaky play, the coaching staff sends Jalen Whitlow back onto the field to lead the offense. This drive featured running back Dyshawn Mobley. While Mobley didn’t have the success that Sanders/George were having, he did move the chains. However, another 5-yard false start penalty derails the drive once again. After the penalty, the ‘Cats could not move the chains any further but was in range for kicker Craig McIntosh. McIntosh kicks one through the uprights from 43-yards and we have a tie ball game at 10-10.
While normal starting QB James Franklin was dressed and appeared to be warming up for the Tigers on the sidelines, backup QB Corbin Berkstresser was still running the show for the Tigers. For the 3rd drive in a row, the Wildcat defense only allows the Tigers to get one first down on this drive. The punt only sails 27-yards, and then Demarco Robinson runs the kick back another 27-yards to the UK 49-yard line.
Midway through the 2nd quarter, and the score is still tied at 10. Kentucky starts the drive with a Jalen Whitlow rush that gains 4-yards. The next few plays are handed off to running back Raymond Sanders who gains the first down. After another Sanders run, Kentucky would have faced a 2nd & 8. However, another penalty is thrown against the ‘Cats. La’Rod King got caught holding and the drive is pushed back 10-yards. Whitlow misses on his next pass to Sanders, and then on 3rd down he hits receiver A.J. Legree for 7-yards. On 4th & 9, the wheels start coming off just a little. The snap is high, and the holder cannot place the football in the dirt for the kicker. He pulls up, scrambles, and is immediately dropped by the Mizzou defense.
The next drive for Missouri featured back-up QB Corbin Berkstresser and running back Kendial Lawrence. The two Tigers were able to move the chains down the field on the Kentucky defense. Making it look pretty easy, the Tigers marched all the way down to the 2-yard line before running the ball in for another Missouri touchdown. With 1:32 left in the half, the ‘Cats get the ball back now down 7.
The next couple of plays saw Whitlow miss on a couple of passes and then Jonathan George rushes for 7 yards on 3rd down. Bring up 4th down, brings up Landon Foster once again. Foster booms a 52-yard kick all the way back to the Missouri 27-yard line. A Missouri penalty for a block in the back on the return pushes the Tigers even closer to their own endzone. With two timeouts and :55 secs. left in the half, the Tigers take two straight quarterback kneels to run out the clock on the first half. Missouri 17, Kentucky 10.
The beginning of the 2nd half saw Missouri come out to start on offense. The first pass from QB Corbin Berkstresser is picked off by walk-on J.D. Harmon at the Missouri 40-yard line. Harmon runs for a gain of 8-yards on the pick and the ‘Cats are in business. Raymond Sanders runs a couple of plays for minimal gains, and then another big penalty against the ‘Cats. This time, it’s a pass interference call on Daryl Collins which costs the ‘Cats 15-yards. Facing 3rd & 23, Whitlow dumps it off to Sanders again for a gain of nothing. Now 4th & 23, Landon Foster comes back onto the field again and kicks this one out of the back of the endzone for the touchback.
Missouri’s next drive starts with QB Corbin Berkstresser being picked off by J.D. Harmon for the 2nd consecutive play. Harmon now has 2 INT’s in the game, and that equals how many Kentucky has forced all year long. Three straight running plays see Jonathan George pick up a Wildcat first down. On 3rd & 5, Whitlow tries to run for the chains and gains 1-yard, bringing up another 4th down for UK. The ‘Cats elect to kick a field goal from 47-yards. McIntosh misses wide left, and the ‘Cats come away with nothing again after forcing a turnover.
Instead of holding the Tigers to just one first down, the ‘Cats allow two on this drive. However, the drive is stalled just out of field goal range and the ‘Cats will get the ball back once again. After a Whitlow pass to Demarcus Sweat for 4 yards on 1st down, Dyshawn Mobley only gains 1-yard forcing 3rd & 7. Whitlow misses La’Rod King on the pass, and the ‘Cats will punt once again. Backed up near his own end-zone, Landon Foster sets up to boot another one away. The snap is good, the ball is caught, and the kick is high. Foster gets smacked on the kick and falls down, forcing the Missouri penalty. With the 5-yard roughing the kicker penalty gives the ‘Cats 4th & 2. So, Foster punts again and this time the play is clean and the punt sails 39-yards. Missour’s Marcus Murphy runs it’ back to the Kentucky 47-yard line to start the offense for the Tigers.
With 4:58 to go in the 3rd quarter, the Missouri Tigers get the ball back with great field position. Behind the running of Kendial Lawrence, the Tigers were able to crawl up towards pay dirt. This drive also saw the return of previously injured starting QB James Franklin. Although very limited, he was able to hand the ball off and throw a couple of strikes to get the Tigers down the field. The ‘Cats were able to stop the Tigers on 3rd & 9, and force them into a field goal. The kick goes through the uprights and we have a 20-10 Missouri lead. The way this game has been going, that 10 point lead feels like 100.
With :49 seconds left in the 3rd quarter, Patrick Towles makes another appearance at QB for Kentucky. Starting near their own end-zone spelled disaster for Towles’ and the ‘Cats. After a missed pass and a Raymond Sanders 4-yard run, Towles was sacked and coughed up the football. The ball is recovered by the Tigers at the UK 12-yard line. The Tigers begin the 4th quarter in striking distance. After two running plays, the Tigers begin to tighten the strangle- hold with another touchdown. 26-10, Tigers lead after UK blocks the extra point attempt.
The rest of the 4th quarter saw nothing worth writing about. The Missouri offense began to punish and already tired defensive line. Already having the game in hand, the Tigers seemed to roll over the Kentucky defenders at times. When Kentucky did get the ball on offense, they were rendered ineffective because they did not move the chains. Also, throwing Patrick Towles out there again to get hit and cough up another fumble was not a good thing, either. The Missouri defense picked up that ball and ran that one back to the house for a 33-10 lead. Ballgame.
I’ve said it once, if I’ve said it a thousand times. Kentucky cannot and will not win without one consistent player at quarterback. They do not have the athletes or the personnel to manage the offense that way. I could clearly see when Patrick Towles entered the game, it effected the play of Jalen Whitlow. The position of quarterback has a great deal to do with timing, accuracy, and rhythm. You cannot achieve any of those elements by playing the quarterback shuffle. After the strong showing against Georgia, this just makes you sick to your stomach. Here are some startling statistics to ponder over:
First Downs: UK 9, Missouri 20
Third Down Efficency: UK 1-12, Missouri 10-16
UK: 5 penalties, 40 yards and 3 fumbles.
The 3rd down efficiency just kills me inside. 1-12? Then you allow over 50% to the other team? I’ll give you a line to write about when you talk about Joker Phillips. He and many of us have harped on the fact that these guys do not quit. They keep playing during the worst and they have not given up. Showing in bright ADD-friendly lights today was the simple fact that this team cannot do one thing really, really, well. It’s not the players, the injuries, or any other BS excuse. The coaching staff themselves are the ones at fault. That my friends, is the reason why a change needs to be made.
Filed Under: Football
About the Author: Writer for StraitCats.com, lifelong UK fan, college sports enthusiast. Twitter: BrianLewis_SP