SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Grading UK's Road Win Over South Carolina
Stop me if you heard this before.
Opening possession of the game: Kentucky’s defense gives up a 60-plus TD on the opening play of the game. Crowd goes nuts.
Opening possession for Kentucky: The Cats throw an interception on its second play. Crowd goes bonkers.
First time we go into the Wildcat: Bad snap to Lynn Bowden. Turnover.
So goes Kentucky football, right?
In the words of the Hillbilly Ninja, “No says I.”
From that point until late in the 4th quarter, Kentucky strung together some of the most impressive football on all three levels that I have seen since I’ve been a young Cat fan.
If I was describing the Cats play, I would use words like cool, calm, consistent, executing, and off balance. This is what I saw Saturday night.
So, on that note, let’s take a look at my assessment of Kentucky’s performance against the Gamecocks.
We flat out looked like an SEC offense tonight. We ran the ball effectively (184 yards), Benny Snell broke out to the tune of 102 yards on the ground, and the offensive line bullied their USC counterparts. I’m sorry. If Cat fans feel like our offense should be all-pyrotechnic and explosive, that ain’t us. We’re two tight ends, power-run game with a solid senior QB that executes the game plan and wins (looking at you, Stephen Johnson.) I’m fine with that. I would like to see a little more looks to our receivers, and it will come when teams load up the box to stop the run. I also like the Bowden addition to the Wildcat package. Also thought our play calling was spot on all night. Eddie Gran knows what he is doing. Great job all around.
Wow! What a performance! The Cat defense gave up two touchdowns, one on the first play and one in the fourth quarter. That’s it. We dominated the game on defense. Derrick Baity made not one but two fourth and 1 stops and the clinching interception. Our run defense is now 3rd in the nation, only giving up 2.1 yards per attempt. Our defensive backs are making plays on the ball. Matt House knows what he is doing in his play calling too. Awesome. Simply awesome.
Side note: USC’s play calling on offense was suspect at best. I think Gamecock coach may need to reflect to 2014. His offensive coordinator at that time was Kurt Roper. Florida was abysmal offensively during that season. Fast forward to this year. Muschamp’s OC is...Roper. It seemed to me that the two were expecting the Cat defense to revert to being awful for some reason. They were wrong. Bad wrong.
Special Teams: A+
Kentucky’s special teams were spot on again. On a day where SEC teams were wondering who put place kicking in the game of football (looking at you Tennessee and South Carolina), kicker Austin MacGinnis was again his steady, field goal making self. Punter Matt Panton again flipped the field and helped to give the Cats great field position to defend. And special kudos to punt returner Charles Walker. If you think it’s easy to catch punts on any level, let me tell you. It’s tough. And for the last two years we’ve been solid there. Great job. Coach Dean Hood, BBN is thankful for you. Great work.
Now we look forward to Saturday night at The Big Supermarket vs. the Florida Gators. The Gators come in off a Hail Mary win over those Champions of Life in Knoxville (to my Big Orange friends, I had to, sorry.) I think the Cats have a legit shot at FINALLY ending the 30-game losing streak to the Gators by simply doing what they do well: execute, run the ball effectively, stop the run, win the line of scrimmage, and play great special teams. If this happens, Kentucky moves to 4-0 and ends the streak to Florida.
Now wouldn’t that be nice?
Shane Shackleford is a retired teacher/coach who resides in Speedwell, Tenn. You can contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook @ShaneShackleford, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.