What about the defense?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Kentucky began this season by losing their best defensive player, DE Jeremy Jarmon, to an NCAA penalty and the NFL Supplemental Draft. Along the way their best defensive back injured his ankle, never to fully heal (Trevard Lindley), and arguably their best linebacker, Sam Maxwell, was lost for the bowl game with season-ending surgery.

Add in starting linebacker Danny Trevathan breaking his hand in the first half--and returning in the second half to play with a cast--and the Kentucky defense was clearly not 100%.

So how did they perform?

Well enough to limit Heisman hopeful, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, to only 67 yards, many of them very late in the game. The Tigers scored only three touchdowns, with one of them coming after a fumble recovery put Clemson deep into Wildcat territory only 13 yards from paydirt.

The Wildcat offense dominated time of possession, holding the ball about nine minutes more than Clemson. The Cats moved the ball into Tiger territory fully six out of nine possessions, but managed only one touchdown and two field goals. "But we couldn't score," UK coach Rich Brooks said, showing frustration after the contest.

The offensive frustration was the focus, no doubt. But when the opportunity came for big plays from the defense, those didn't come, either.
Goal line stand on Clemson's first touchdown.

The Cats bowed up to stop Clemson on a goal line stand, leading 7-0. But that didn't stop the Tigers from pounding it in to tie the game.

No interceptions occurred on the 14 tosses from Clemson quarterback, and the one time the Cats had a chance to make a big play for a turnover, a Clemson fumble bounded harmlessly out of bounds after defensive back Ashton Cobb attempted to scoop it and run, rather than fall on the ball.

Clemson's total yardage was not overwhelming, although they outgained Kentucky, 321 yards to 277. Perhaps more telling, however, is that Clemson gained almost 7 yards per play (6.83), while Kentucky struggled to only 4.07 yards per play. Football statisticians will tell you that statistic is one of the more telling stats of the outcome of a game, and Kentucky was dominated in that area.

All in all, considering the loss of Jarmon, the loss of Maxwell, and the injuries to Lindley and Trevathan, slowing the Clemson Tigers to 21 points wasn't all bad. But there were signs that it wasn't all good, either. Besides the statistics discussed earlier, the one chance Kentucky had to get the ball back was destroyed when Kentucky showed a complete inability to stop the Clemson running attack as the game clock approached five minutes, dropped under five minutes, and finally clicked down to zero, watching Spiller and gang grind the yardage--and Kentucky's season--until there was no more of either.

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