SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Kentucky's Report Card After Saturday Night's Nightmare
This one hurt. Really bad.
I know. I had been waiting 30 years for Kentucky to defeat Florida in a game of tackle football.
Now I'll be waiting 31 years. Ugh.
But, let's keep this season in perspective.
The Cats are 3-1. Have very winnable games with Eastern Michigan and Missouri. After an off week, a date with Mississippi State comes. They looked beatable yesterday vs. Georgia. If that all falls right, the Cats could be 6-1 and have a Tennessee team that is quite honestly becoming a dumpster fire.
I'd take that. Wouldn't you?
So, let's objectively look at last night without flipping out.
Before the 4th quarter, this grade is an A. Stephen Johnson was dealing out of the RPO (run-pass option), our receivers were making plays, and CJ Conrad (pictured), Garrett Johnson, and Blake Bone caught TD passes. Benny Snell and Sihiem King ran very effectively. Then in the 4th, it seemed play calling got very tight. Did the moment get too big? Who knows. But the Cats looked as good offensively as they had all year. The only things I'd change is keep the play book open and aggressive and keep integrating Conrad and Lynn Bowden, which shouldn't be a question now.
Again, this grade is one letter higher until the 4th quarter. Yes. The two blown coverages were gigantic in the loss. But we had a bunch of misses tackling that cost us, especially late. We also got on our heels making plays up front. Again, did the moment get too big? Hard to say. The changes I'd make would be keep pressing the line of scrimmage up front, make smart plays, and cover all receivers.
Special Teams: B
Kicker Austin McGinnis was 2 for 4 on field goals, missing one of the uprights and one from 58 for the win. But he also became the all-
time leading field goal kicker in UK history. Punter Matt Panton was his usual solid self flipping the field. But the star of the night was return man Charles Walker who came an eyelash of returning a Gator punt for a TD and caught a huge 4th and 10 throw from Johnson that nearly helped to save the day from UK.
In conclusion, as bad as this loss hurts, all isn't lost. Do we have a lot to clean up to continue to improve? Absolutely. Is it impossible? No. We have a lot of football to play yet, and I really like our chances. Hopefully you do too.
Shane Shackleford is a retired coach and teacher from Speedwell, Tenn. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, message him on Facebook @ShaneShackleford, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.
Photo by Jamie H. Vaught