We know all about Kentucky’s offensive collapses in the second half, but the collapses haven’t been limited to the offense. Kentucky’s defense has had the exact same problem and it starts with the Wildcats’ ability to stop the run. In two games, the Wildcats have given up 454 yards (227 per game) and 5.46 per carry. Much of the yardage by both Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina in the second half was accumulated in the second half when Kentucky’s lack of depth was exploited. For all practical purposes, the Wildcats go with a 14-15 man rotation on defense.
Kentucky is off to a 2-0 start because the Wildcats have put points on the board in the first half and the UK defense has played well while fresh. In the second halves of both games, when opponents have adjusted their defensive strategy and gotten the Kentucky offense off the field, the UK defense has been beaten within an inch of submission.
Kentucky led Louisiana-Lafayette 24-7 at the half of game one. Kentucky had to score with 57 seconds to go to pull out a 40-33 win. The Rajin Cajuns did throw the ball effectively against Kentucky (242 yards) but their comeback was fueled by 150 second half rushing yards. The Rajin Cajuns scored three second half TDs on runs of 56, 26 and 23 yards.
In game two, the Wildcats led South Carolina, 24-7, at the half but their offense netted only 22 second half yards until a 46-yard clock-killing drive at the end at the end of the game. South Carolina put up 256 second half yards, grinding out 80 third quarter rushing yards which opened the passing game for the Gamecocks in the fourth quarter. South Carolina was driving for the game-winning touchdown when backup quarterback Perry Orth underthrew a wide-open receiver by a good 10 yards for the interception that saved Kentucky’s 26-22 win.
In both games, Kentucky escaped with a win but the Wildcats would be 0-2 right now if both Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina had put an effective offense on the field in the first half.
When Florida travels to Lexington Saturday night, the strategy has to be three-fold: (1) Keep Kentucky from a breakout first half; (2) avoid silly undisciplined mistakes that gave East Carolina a chance to win game two; and (3) control the football from the outset and beat down the Kentucky’s defense.
Although the Gators did a nice job of handling the adversity against East Carolina, they were at home and while challenged, didn’t have to rally from behind to score a win. Kentucky presents a far stronger challenge than ECU and this game is in Lexington where the ticket is the hottest since the Gators came to Commonwealth Stadium the week after the Wildcats upset then #1-ranked LSU. For a young, inexperienced team, it is absolutely imperative to take the crowd out. If the Gators allow UK a fast start, that crowd is going to go ballistic and we have no idea how the young Gators are going to react. Twelve penalties like there were last week against ECU won’t cut it nor will a lack of discipline that leads to blown assignments and players lining up out of position.
That leaves us with the concept of controlling the football. The best way to keep the Wildcats from getting off to a fast start is pretty simple: keep their offense off the field. For that to happen, Florida’s offensive line can’t simply show up but from the opening whistle has to knock people off the ball and protect quarterbacks. Yes, football is a team game and it’s going to take offense, defense and special teams to all play at the highest level, but let’s get real. The offensive line has to do what the O-lines at Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina didn’t do. Florida cannot afford to wait until the second half to assert its dominance over a Kentucky defense that lacks the experience and depth. Florida has to exploit the Wildcats’ inability to stop the run and supplement it with play action passes but unlike Louisiana-Lafayette and South Carolina, the Gators have to do it starting in the first quarter.
ELSEWHERE IN THE SEC
ALABAMA (2-0, 0-0 SEC): The Crimson Tide will be challenged Saturday by an Ole Miss corps of receivers which might be the best in the country. Nick Saban said he thinks his secondary has improved in the first two games of the season. Saban said Wednesday, “I thought we made improvement. We had several new faces out there and really four out of the five guys were playing in different positions that they'd never played before. I thought they all did a pretty decent job. I think one of the things they need to all improve on and have more respect for is just communication and playing together. Hopefully that will come as they gain more experience."
ARKANSAS (1-1, 0-0 SEC): After a game in which the Razorbacks were called for holding six times – five on the offensive line – Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said, “For us to have success we have to play clean. When you sit back and look at the yardage and first downs it was a defining formula for how to fail. I can’t put it any cleaner to our players.”
AUBURN (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Jeremy Johnson has thrown five interceptions in two games. Head coach Gus Malzahn says he has to do a better job of putting Johnson in position to make big plays. “He wants to go out there and play well and be there for his team,” Malzahn said. “I think he’s in a decent spot. He knows what we have to do to win at LSU. Got to play very well. The big thing is we’re going to have to protect that football. Doing a better job for him, putting him in more comfortable situations. It’s my job to do that. If we can run the football a little bit better it will take some of the pressure off of him.”
GEORGIA (2-0, 1-0 SEC): Mark Richt says fans need to be patient with quarterback Greyson Lambert, a transfer from Virginia who is still getting used to playing at Georgia. Richt said, “I know he’s played a lot of college ball, but he hasn’t played a lot of college ball for Georgia or in this league, or, quite frankly, in this system. There’s a learning curve. Things take time and you get better as you go. Sometimes you’ve just got to show a little patience and guys will catch on and really play well.”
KENTUCKY: If the Wildcats beat Florida Saturday night they will be 2-0 to start the SEC portion of their schedule since 1977. That year Kentucky, coached by Fran Curci, went 10-1 and beat the Gators, 14-7, in Gainesville … Although the Wildcats have played two close games, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson isn’t concerned and says a win is a win. Using a golf metaphor, Dawson says, “I can duff it off the tee and hit a decent shot, then pitch it up for a long putt for par and my partner can hit it right in the middle of the fairway, hit it close to the pin and make par. Well, they’re both pars. They don’t draw a picture on the scorecard.”
LSU (1-0, 1-0 SEC): In an interview with ESPN.com, LSU corner Dwayne Thomas showed zero respect for Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson. Thomas said, “We know that this guy, if we play our technique right, if we do the fundamentals and have our eyes in the right place, he should be able to throw us one – if not hand it to us … With the tight coverage we play, we’re looking forward to him giving us a few.”
MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-1, 0-1 SEC): After two games in which the running game has struggled, offensive line coach John Hevesy says the problem is a lack of communication regarding adjustments in the blocking schemes at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, Hevesy plans to integrate guard Deion Calhoun, center Jocquell Johnson and tackle Elgton Jenkins into the O-line rotation.
MISSOURI (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Tailback Russell Hansbrough apparently is out for Saturday’s game with UConn. Speaking on the SEC Coaches Teleconference Wednesday, head coach Gary Pinkel said “We’ll get Russell Hansbrough back in a week, but even if we don’t, the bottom line is we’ve got to find a way to run the ball. We’re going to call on some young players and we’ve got to find a way to improve.”
OLE MISS (2-0, 0-0 SEC): Although Ole Miss is averaging 74.5 points per game, not many are giving the Rebels much of a chance to beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze thinks the Rebels are confident. “Are we ready for SEC play,” Freeze asks. “I don’t know. I think we have a confident team right now that believes we can win. I believe we can win.”
SOUTH CAROLINA (1-1, 0-1 SEC): The Gamecocks know they have to stop Nick Chubb to have a chance at beating Georgia in Athens on Saturday but how? In the first half against Kentucky, the Gamecocks went eight in the box and the Wildcats still ran at will. Still, against Georgia the Gamecocks will do whatever they can to stop or slow down Chubb and take their chances with QB Greyson Lambert, who has thrown sparingly (33 attempts) in the first two games.
TENNESSEE (1-1, 0-0 SEC): The diagnosis for Tennessee linebacker/defensive end Curt Maggit is not good. He has a bone chip in his hip and will miss a minimum of eight weeks.
TEXAS A&M (2-0, 0-0 SEC): How badly did Aggie defensive coordinator John Chavis want out of LSU? The Morning Advocate in Baton Rouge reports that LSU offered Chavis a 3-year deal worth $1.8 million a year. His Texas A&M deal pays $1.5 million, $1.55 million and $1.6 million the next three years. Through two games, Chavis and his Aggie defense are giving up 326 yards and 20 points per game. Last year the Aggies gave up 450.8 yards and 28.1 points per game.
VANDERBILT (0-2, 0-1 SEC): Saturday opponent Austin Peay has scored 13 points in two games while giving up 80 in losses to Mercer and Southern Miss. If ever Vandy had a get well game, this is it.
LSU HAS MOST IN NFL; FLORIDA #5
With 44 former Tigers dressed and ready to go, LSU had the most players on NFL opening day rosters, one ahead of Alabama and Miami, which both had 43. Florida ranked fifth with 41.
Here is the top ten:
1. LSU 44
(Tie) 2. Alabama 43
(Tie) 2. Miami 43
4. Southern Cal 42
5. Florida 41
6. Georgia 40
7. Ohio State 39
(Tie) 8. FSU 37
(Tie) 8. Notre Dame 37
(Tie) 10. Auburn 35
(Tie) 10. Oklahoma 35
The rest of the top 25: (Tie) 12. Clemson, Oregon and Texas 34; 15. Stanford 31; 16. Tennessee 30; Penn State 17; (Tie) 18. California, Iowa and Nebraska; (Tie) 21. North Carolina, Texas A&M, UCLA; 24. Louisville; 25. South Carolina
RUTGERS SUSPENDS KYLE FLOOD FOR THREE GAMES
Embattled Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has been suspended three games and fined $50,000 by university president Robert Banchi for an alleged attempt by Flood to influence a professor about a grade change for one of his players. Attempts to influence grade changes are NCAA violations. By suspending and fining Flood, Rutgers is hoping to avert sanctions by the NCAA.
While the suspension of Flood addresses the alleged grade change issue, nothing at all was said about seven Rutgers players being arrested in the last two weeks including star wide receiver Leconte Carroo, who allegedly body slammed a woman onto the concrete after last Saturday’s loss to Washington State. Incredulously, Rutgers athletic director Julie Hermann, whose past includes allegations by 17 former Tennessee volleyball players that she subjected them to abuse and a large cash award to a former assistant who claims Hermann fired her because she got pregnant (by her husband), is standing by Flood. Hermann Monday expressed her “unwavering support” for the football program.
Considering what happened with former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice (fired for abusing players) and what’s happening now with Flood and the football program, it would seem that the school president needs to clean house, starting at the top of the athletic department food chain with Hermann and Flood.
Did you know that Stanford athletic director Bernard Muir is a Gaineville native who played high school basketball at Buchholz with Vernon Maxwell? After graduating from Buchholz, Muir went to Brown University where he started on the basketball team for four years. Prior to taking the AD job at Stanford, Muir was the AD at Georgetown and Delaware.
Take that Bret Bielema. The latest to take a swipe at the Arkansas football coach after his disparaging remarks about the softness of the Ohio State schedule is Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan, who said, "Do I wish the Patriots were in a different division? I mean yeah, probably. Could play somebody else. Not gonna mention any names. I'm not gonna pull [an] Arkansas coach."
From the NCAA site dealing with injury research from 2004-09: Players are almost seven times more likely to suffer an injury in a game than in practice. Ligament injuries account for more than 30 percent of all injuries with the lateral ligaments of the ankle and MCL of the knee most often injured. There are more injuries in preseason (9.7 per 1,000 athletes) than during the season (7.5). The injury breakdown: 7.4% concussions; 4.3% face, head and neck; 16.9% upper limb; 11.9% torso and pelvis; lower limb 50.4% lower limb and 9.1% other.
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Do you believe Florida’s offensive line has it in them to take over the game against Kentucky?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Although I much preferred the pre-Michael McDonald work of the Doobie Brothers, they were still very, very good after Tom Johnston left and McDonald became the front man. Today’s music is the Doobie Brothers’ 1982 live concert from Santa Barbara.