Kentucky’s coaching staff has spent a week bragging about the offense’s amazing 98-yard drive in the team’s last scrimmage. Fans assumed they were pointing out the strengths of an incredible offense, but little did they know, the coaches were inadvertently highlighting the Wildcats’ paper-thin defense. Kentucky’s struggles moved well beyond the scrimmage, directly contributing to the Cats’ decisive 32-14 loss to Louisville. Between the swiss cheese defense, poor decision making from the coaching staff, and a pair of ill-timed fumbles, the Governer’s Cup never had a chance of returning to Lexington.
The game never quite seemed to be in Kentucky’s hands, but the start could’ve been worse. After a failed post-kickoff Wildcat drive, a punt managed to pin Louisville at the 1 yard line. A defense couldn’t ask for a better start to the year. Dreams of a safety, a quick three-out to great field position, or even a recovered fumble for a touchdown must’ve crossed their minds. But dreams aren’t for the waking hours. Any dreams of the Kentucky defense were crushed in Louisville today.
Instead of the dream safety to start the season, Louisville marched 99 yards down field for an all-too-easy touchdown. And then, adding insult to injury, they successfully converted for 2 points after the score, pouring salt in an already-gaping wound. The Wildcat defense was subjected to a 15-play drive that took more than 8 minutes to complete. After that striking statement from the Cards, Kentucky must’ve been left wondering what happened. A dream opportunity turned into a defense that couldn’t ask for a more embarassing start to the year.
Things did get a little better before they got worse. Max Smith managed to counter Louisville’s monster drive, leading a successful 14-play 75-yard push of his own, scoring on a touchdown pass to tight end Tyler Robinson to make the score 7-8. Smith looked confident in the pocket, his offensive line only had a couple miscues, and a number of receivers looked like they’ll prove consistently viable options throughout the year. The sophomore quarterback would go on to finish the game with an impressive 280 yards and 2 touchdowns on 35/50 passing.
With an 7-8 deficit, the game still looked manageable. Until UK’s defense took to the field again. Louisville marched another 85 yards, scoring on a ridiculous 47-yard sprint by running back Senorise Perry. He went untouched into the end zone, capping off a career-long run and contributing to 108 yards rushing on the game. Perry was joined by Jeremy Wright in shredding Kentucky’s defense, as Wright managed to squeeze 105 yards and 3 touchdowns out of the struggling Cats before it was over.
The Cardinals’ 99-yard and 85-yard drives were followed by one more absurd promenade up the field. A 93-yard march led by sophomore quarterback Terry Bridgewater resulted in a third touchdown and a 22-7 lead for the Cards. Bridgewater picked apart Kentucky’s secondary, finishing the game with 232 yards on 19/21 passing and averaging 11 yards on every completion. A field goal and another touchdown later, the sophomore QB was pulled out midway through the third quarter with a helthy 32-7 lead. The Bridgewater-led offense only failed to score on one drive.
Kentucky’s offense almost kept up with the Cardinals steamrolling effort, save for a few terrible game-changing mistakes. Craig McIntosh suffered a rare miss on a 42-yard field goal attempt. Raymond Sanders fumbled in the midst of a strong drive that could’ve kept the game a single-possession affair. Kentucky mysteriously chose to try for a fourth down conversion on Louisville’s 25-yard line, failed, and gave the Cardinals an easy opportunity to score. And the final nail in Kentucky’s casket was a fumble by CoShik Williams in the fourth quarter, removing any hope of a Wildcats comeback.
When all was said and done, Kentucky’s offense looked passable despite a few mistakes. The same couldn’t be said for the defense. Louisville was a better team, played better, and were better-coached. If that’s not a winning combination, I don’t know what is. The Cats will have a week to gather their thoughts and build some confidence against a much weaker Kent State squad before heading to Western Kentucky and then slogging their way through a nearly omnipotent SEC schedule. This was far from a good start, but it’s certainly something to build on.
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.