Kentucky football is full of gains and losses year in and year out, and that fact was never more prominent than in the 2012 season opener against Louisville. The Wildcats gave up some major gains on defense and suffered a few losses on the offensive side of the ball, falling 32-14 to a flying Cardinals squad.
Loss – Defense
Kentucky’s defense was embarrassing at best and disgraceful at worst. Louisville was able to throw with pinpoint precision, Kentucky’s secondary offering little more than a glance of coverage. The Cards’ pair of rushers each topped 100 yards, most of them running untouched through Kentucky’s weak and lackadaisical line. Louisville’s first three drives each topped 85 yards, and left Kentucky’s defense reeling and ashamed in the process.
Gain – Max Smith
There have been nothing but questions regarding Kentucky’s quarterback since last season ended, and Maxwell Smith was only given the starting nod a few weeks ago. Any doubts about the young sophomore’s ability to compete were answered against Louisville, as Smith filled the pocket with confidence and precision. He passed for 280 yards, completed on 70% of his throws, and found two receivers in the end zone. There were improvements to be made, but Smith proved a reliable and hopeful prospect for what turn into a very long season.
Loss – Ball Control
Kentucky’s awful defensive performance left the offense with an awfully small margin of error. For the Cats to stay in the game, they had to keep up with Louisville’s seemingly-constant scoring drives step for step. But unfortunately for Joker Phillips’ career, two inopportune fumbles left the squad reeling and in too deep a ditch to climb. One fumble was well inside the red zone, and the other preempted a strong drive much too soon. Turnovers are unforgivable, and Kentucky’s ended any hope of a comeback win.
Gain – The Punter
If Kentucky’s defense continues to struggle, a good punter might be the squad’s MVP. Freshman Landon Foster smashed a couple fantastic punts, including a lucky turn of events pinning Louisville at the 1 yard line. He was able to buy the defense 10 to 15 extra yards, and that extra first down might save the weak defense more than a few scores on the year if Foster continues to excel.
Loss – Decision Making
Joker Phillips is already in the hot seat, and a loss to Louisville only raised the temperature. But the real pressure will come due to Phillips’ poor decision making in the loss. Most notably, Kentucky attempted to survive a fourth down with a fake punt. It would’ve been a fine decision on their own 25, but they tried it on Louisville’s 25-yard line instead, setting up the Cardinals for an easy score. There were also a couple short-yardage calls in long-yardage situations, and a questionable missed field goal when Kentucky was down a ton and a fourth down conversion would’ve made sense. Some calls were questionable while others were inexplicable, but on the whole, it was definitely a loss.
Bonus Loss – Rod Gilmore
The biggest loss of all during the battle for the Governor’s Cup was ESPN’s choice of Rod Gilmore to announce the game. He was a pinata full of mistakes and ridiculous commentary, and the candy never seemed to end.
Filed Under: Football
About the Author: Corey Tincher is a lifelong Kentucky fan and professional writer who couldn't keep the two worlds apart. He is the lead contributor for StraitCats.com and literally wrote the book on the 2012 NCAA Tournament Championship run, Big Blue Articles: Kentucky Basketball in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Follow @Corey_Tincher on Twitter for more Kentucky news and discussion.