SHANE SHACKLEFORD: Kentucky Gets Bad Grades Against MSU
My favorite super hero is Superman. Has been since I was a child. Superman was faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and jumped really well. We know all that.
We also know Superman had a weakness that could bring him to his knees.
There was something about that green rock that could make Superman become a weak, average mortal.
I offer to you that if Kentucky football has a Kryptonite, it’s Mississippi State. Just playing them seems to weaken the Cats to mere mortals.
Now I know we haven’t beaten Florida since the 1980s and Tennessee only once in who knows how many games. But there's something about that bunch in Starkville that can humble UK football quick, fast, and right now. Consider.
The Cats rode into MSU at 5-1, a single point from being undefeated and possibly ranked in the top 25. We no sooner got there and bam, we were beaten soundly in all phases of the game to the tune of 45-7 Saturday. And believe me, there’s plenty of blame to go around.
The only reason this isn’t an F is we scored, and I could probably justify giving a F. The Cats were abysmal. QB Stephen Johnson threw for 117 yards and rushed for 54 more to lead the Cats. Receiver Garrett Johnson caught five passes for 36 yards. Overall, the Cats were held to 260 yards of total offense. If you have designs of playing in Atlanta in December, that performance simply won’t cut it. UK struggled all day on first down, either gaining a yard or two or getting behind the sticks. The Cats also turned the ball over twice. Not good. Not good at all.
The Cats were terrible defensively. They surrendered to MSU 441 yards of offense. QB Nick Fitzgerald looked like Superman out there, running at will against the Kentucky D. When he didn’t run, he had options to throw to all over the field. In the last two games, the Cats have surrendered 1,009 yards of offense. Up to those last two games, that number was only 1,747 over 5 games. The defense seems to be regressing. But there’s hope. All-SEC LB Jordan Jones returned to the line up Saturday from injury. When he gets going, Kentucky will improve without question.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Kicker Austin MacGinnis didn't attempt a field goal all day and made his only attempt at an extra point. Punter Matt Panton was his usual steady self, averaging 45.1 yards per punt. Other than that, the Cats did their job. That is a good thing.
Any way you slice it, it was a bad day for the Cats. I could go on for days about how bad it was, but I am going to stay positive. It was one game that we played poorly on offense and defense. There’s no question that Kentucky HAS to play better if this season is to be a success. The next three games (two at home) will either make or break UK. Tennessee is a dumpster fire, Ole Miss just lost their best player QB Shea Patterson for the year and they’re a mess, and Vanderbilt has came back to Earth after a fast start.
There’s still so much Kentucky can play for. The question becomes can they avoid the Kryptonite?
Shane Shackleford is a retired teacher and coach residing in Speedwell, Tenn. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook at Shane Shackleford, or Twitter @shack_daddy_1.