Grading UK's Keys to Victory over LSU

Last week KSR looked at the seven keys for Kentucky to beat LSU. We now take a look at the grades of those seven keys after UK's thrilling three overtime 43-37 triumph over the LSU Tigers.

1. Make LSU put the ball in the air. We believed that UK needed to stop LSU's terrific running game to have a chance. The Cats put it all on the line to force the passing game, and although LSU came up with 261 rushing yards, UK's stop of four consecutive rushes in the third overtime proved to be the game-winner. Although the Tigers passed the ball more than the Cats (40 times), LSU managed only 142 yards passing (to UK's 250).

Grade: C+

2. Bend-don't-break defense. LSU came into the contest at 50% of their 3rd down conversions, and a perfect 100% on 4th down conversions. Kentucky bent most of the game, but held the Tigers to only 42% on 3rd down conversions, and 1-2 on 4th down, including the game-winning play on 4th down and 2 in the final overtime. The Tigers also had a chance to win the game in regulation, but when they reached the Kentucky side of the field as time was winding down, the Cats stiffened up and held the Tigers to just 1 yard on three plays, reaching on the 40, and forcing the attempted game-winning field goal to come from 57-yards away.

Grade: B

3. Win the battle of big plays. LSU converted practically every big play in the ballgame against Florida, including an incredible 5-5 on 4th downs. Against Kentucky, the Tigers were 1-2 on 4th down, with the final 4th down play being the game-winner for the Cats. There were many big plays in a game of this magnitude, but the final stop, a big interception by Trevard Lindley in the 4th quarter leading to a UK field goal to tie the game, and a huge 51-yard pass completion from Woodson to Steve Johnson as the first half was winding down and the Cats trailing by 10, gives UK the nod in this department.

Grade: A-

4. Win the turnover battle. This key did not turn out to play a major role in the game. With Kentucky having two turnovers, and LSU only one, the Cats lost the turnover battle, although they won the war. The 4th quarter interception was a real key for the Cats, and the biggest turnover of the game, but overall, this did not play the factor we anticipated.

Grade: D

5. Protection. Kentucky's offensive scheme consisted of a combination of pocket passes and roll-outs. Although Woodson was sometimes pressured, Kentucky's offensive line did not allow even a single sack in the ballgame. Kentucky's offensive line played a tough, physical defensive line perhaps even tougher. A huge key to the game was met completely.

Grade: A+

6. Balance. Going into the game, we knew that one-dimensional teams would not fare well against the nation's # 1 defense. Kentucky mixed up the play-calling with almost a perfect 50-50 split, rushing 41 times for 125 yards, and passing 38 times for 250 yards. After the game, LSU coach Les Miles said "I can tell you that I'm surprised at how well Kentucky moved the football and surprised at how effective they ran the football," making Miles the second coach in a row to face Kentucky to make that statement.

Grade: A

7. Keep your poise. Against South Carolina, Kentucky appeared flustered and careless. Although the Cats turned the ball over on two interceptions, and had a Tony Dixon fumble out of bounds that did not result in a turnover, the Cats played well under control all game long, and especially in the 4th quarter and overtime. Kentucky kept their cool while LSU was penalized with 12 penalties for more than 100 yards of penalties.

Down 17-7 with the first half trickling down? No problem--bombs away with a 51-yard strike to Steve Johnson, and cut the lead to 17-14 heading into halftime. Time running out on the 3rd quarter and the Cats trailing 27-14? Big deal--just score the next 13 points, hold LSU scoreless the remainder of the game, force a turnover, hold the Tigers out of field goal range, and win it in overtime.

In the 4th quarter and overtime, UK kicker Lones Sieber was 3-3 on field goals, with any miss likely to lead to a UK loss, including a crucial 43-yard field goal to tie the game in the second overtime. But perhaps the best indication of Kentucky's poise was quarterback Woodson. Calling audibles on approximately 50% of Kentucky's plays, in the second overtime Woodson dropped the snap in the shotgun formation, picked it up, and calmly through the ball away, rather than trying to force some play. It allowed Kentucky to "live another day," and ultimately, the Seiber game-tying field goal. This time Kentucky embraced the bright lights of a national television audience, rather than be blinded by them.

Grade: A+

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