Foster Shines: There weren’t many bright spots for Kentucky on this day, and the one I’ll submit here comes with an asterisk because it’s the guy no one ever really wants to see on the field (except maybe mom and the rest of the family). UK punter Landon Foster has been remarkably consistent this year, doing his job arguably better than any other Wildcat on a week-to-week basis. Unfortunately, he was called upon to punt seven times Saturday on 14 possessions for the Cats. The score could have been much worse if not for his 45-yard punting average and two kicks inside the 20. He’s punted 47 times this season with a 42.7 average, 22 inside the 20, 16 fair catches and only three touchbacks. That is flat-out getting it done.
Breakout Game for Horton? The Cats didn’t get to stick with the ground game due to falling behind by two scores, but freshman running back Mikel Horton showed signs of his great potential with 62 yards on 10 carries, including runs of 27, 16 and 17 yards. Could he be the power complement that UK has lacked most of this season?
Quite Offensive: I think one of Neal Brown’s greatest strengths is his flexibility and lack of ego when it comes to game-planning and play-calling. Generally, he’s going to do what gives his team the best chance to win, stats or style be damned. On Saturday, however, I think it may have come back to bite the Cats against Missouri. Pregame scouting indicated running the ball was the right approach against a Tigers defense that has issues stopping the ground game and excels in pass-rushing. But UK’s execution was so bad in the first half, the plan had to be adjusted. The troubles were compounded by the offensive line getting beaten badly (9 sacks surrendered the last two weeks) and Patrick Towles having perhaps his worst day as UK’s starting quarterback. Fans dished out a lot of venom regarding the play-calling, although I’m not sure all of those critiques were fair, given the circumstances noted above. I do believe, however, that UK tends to forfeit a few drives when it throws screen passes or well short of the sticks on 3rd-and-long situations. Fans can handle getting beat, but they get a little frustrated when the Cats appear to concede plays/series to the opponent.
Strategic Gaffe: It was good to hear UK head coach Mark Stoops take responsibility for the bizarre decision to bypass a 39-yard field goal attempt down 10 points with 1:54 remaining in the game. A lot of coaches would try to rationalize it and lash out over being questioned after a tough loss, but Stoops admitted he should have taken the three points the Cats would have needed in hopes of forcing overtime. To get nothing there essentially ended the game.
By The Numbers:
0 – Wins by the Cats against Missouri since the Tigers joined the SEC in 2012.
2 – Kentucky third-down conversions on 16 attempts.
2.9 – Average yards per rushing attempt for UK during its three-game losing streak.
5 – Penalties against the UK offensive line, including three false starts on 3rd-and-short.
7 – Of Kentucky’s 14 drives produced less than 20 yards .
9 – Tackle for loss plays by the Mizzou defense. One out of every eight plays ran by UK went backwards.
14 – Passing yards by the Cats in the first half.
22 – Snaps for the UK offense in the first half.