If there was any debate about which you’d rather have in a bowl game, no coaches or bad coaches, then I think it was decided today.
There were so many things wrong about the way the Cats approached their BBVA Compass Bowl appearance against the Pitt Panthers and it started with the coaching staff.
A blocked punt and a terrible fake can be put squarely on the shoulder’s of Greg Nord. I never thought I’d say that I missed Steve Ortmayer but our special teams blunders were the difference in the game.
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On the offensive end, Randy Sanders and Joker Phillips were so eager to go out and try to catch the Pitt defense off-guard with a constant barrage of Morgan Newton that they neglected the plays that we needed for success. Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb combined for five rushes in the first half. Coincidentally, on our first touchdown drive of the game Randall and Derrick combined for that same carry total. Without our dominant rushers controlling the tempo of the game, our defense simply couldn’t keep up with the Panthers.
We shouldn’t have been the team that looked so confused.
Going up against a Pitt team in absolute turmoil regarding its coaching situation and numerous injuries to its defensive playmakers, UK should have been able to step up and score points with the potent offensive weapons of Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb.
However, the absence of Mike Hartline played a bigger role than even those of us who were his most adamant supporters through the season could have predicted. Morgan’s deep balls lacked any sort of accuracy, his decision making was sluggish at best and his inability to throw the ball away instead of taking a sack stymied two drives that could have resulted in points.
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Even with the defensive play calling of Rick Minter instead of Steve Brown it was assumed that UK would give up points because of the disparity in personnel talent. Dion Lewis and Ray Graham are two of the best backs in the nation and they made sure the Cats knew it.
I would have liked to see more of the blitzes that the Cats used against Tennessee toward the end of the season but it seemed that the coaching staff was content to give Tino Sunseri, a quarterback that has struggled with handling pressure all season, as much time as he needed in the pocket.
The entire game was just disgusting and if the season didn’t already have a black eye, it does now.
Operation Win was a total failure.
Joker is going to need to recruit some real defensive talent and bring in a much more competent coaching staff if UK ever hopes to be competitive in the SEC. What we currently have isn’t going to cut it anymore. We have a fanbase that desperately wants a successful football program. To go into this game and get dominated in the fashion that we did is unacceptable. A loss would have been understandable but this was more of a slaughter. Our defense is terrible and has cost us too many games this season.
In my opinion, it starts with Lamar Dawson. If we can bring him in it’ll be the shot in the arm that this program needs. Good recruiting starts at home and if we can’t net the Boyle County star with Chuck Smith on the payroll then we shouldn’t be playing SEC football, plain and simple.
As it looks now, Randall Cobb is most likely headed to the NFL and I don’t blame him for that decision. Without him keying the offense next season, I can’t see us making any significant improvements to our lackluster 6-7 campaign from this year.
So there it is Wildcat fans. A season with such high hopes ends in a butt whipping in Birmingham. I’d like to say that there are greater things on the horizon but I just don’t know if that’s true.
At least we still have basketball.