Kentucky traveled to Auburn for their first game of the season, hoping to bring a win back to Lexington. That didn’t happen, as the Tigers beat the Wildcats 29-13.
It wasn’t all bad. UK can build on the good that happened, and learn from what didn’t go so well.
The Wildcats took an early lead after forcing a punt from the Tigers offense and scored on a 35-yard run from Kavosiey Smoke.
The defense let three big plays happen on the next drive, a 26-yard pass from Bo Nix to Seth Williams, 23-yard pass to Schwartz to get them to the 1, and from there running back DJ Williams punched it in.
The third big play was the 2-pt conversion. The Tigers lined up in what’s called “the swinging gate”, where most on the offense is on the right side of the field, and just a few guys, including the center and quarterback are in the middle.
UK never reacted, and Auburn completes the conversion.
No one scored after that, until late in the 2nd quarter. Well, at least it looked like some scoring happened. Chris Rodriguez was handed the ball from the 2-yard line, and seemingly crosses the goal line.
Refs called it back, saying his forward progress has been stopped short. If you saw the play, you would know that didn’t happen. From a few other angles, it looks as if his knee might have kissed the ground, but the spot of the ball doesn’t look like that’s what they called.
On 4th and goal, Wilson drops back to attempt a pass, but it’s intercepted by Tigers cornerback Roger McCreary, who then returns it for a touchdown. Or so we think.
As the refs review whether he stepped out of bounds, they notice a bad block on the return and bring the score back. The half ends with Auburn up 8-7.
Auburn and Kentucky would trade touchdowns in the 3rd quarter, but as the game was getting closer to the end, the wheels seemed to fall for UK.
Two fumbles a punt, and a turnover on downs were the last three possessions for the Wildcat offense, while Nix orchestrated two more touchdowns for the Tigers.
The offense was limited to short and intermediate passes, no real attempts at getting the ball downfield on the young Auburn secondary. Kavosiey Smoke led all UK rushers with 67 yards on 7 carries, while Josh Ali led the Cats with 9 catches and 98 yards.
Auburn didn’t do much to show that they’re a better team than Kentucky, but with the game in hand, and opportunities to score, the Wildcats do what they’ve done in big games, shoot themselves in the foot.
For Kentucky to get past this, and win these games, the offense needs to be more wide open. It doesn’t seem like offensive coordinator Eddie Gran trusts Terry Wilson to get the ball downfield.
We have the best offensive line in the conference, but we don’t allow our running backs to get enough rhythm on the ground, and we don’t allow Wilson to throw the deep ball.
With a limited offense like this, points won’t be scored.
The Cats let far too many big plays happen, both against the run game, and through the air. Although the box score doesn’t reflect it, Nix had a nice afternoon, especially in the 2nd half.
h\He went 16-27 for 233 yards and 3 touchdowns. Two of those were late in the game, off of turnovers, but all three were in the 2nd half. The biggest spot the Tigers were able to exploit intermediate, over the middle. That has to get better.
They were able to sustain drives that UK could have stopped, but big plays over the middle lead to big ones on the outside.
The Kentucky defense was able to keep the rushing attack under 100 yards, and that’s a bright spot. While they’re young, Auburn can run. Keeping teams one-dimensional is how this Wildcat team will win games this year.
With the schedule as it is, all conference, we won’t have opportunities to possibly try new schemes in a game situation. So we have to figure out what to do about our secondary. Nix is one of the best quarterback in the conference, but so is our secondary.
Something has to give, and maybe it will next week against a young Ole Miss team. But they did just put 35 up on the easy pick to win the East, Florida.
It’ll be interesting how this week goes in practice. UK has to get the receivers down the field, and if there’s a time to try that wide open scheme, it’s next week. We can’t go into Mississippi State off of a let-down.
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