Kentucky-Middle Tennessee State: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Jordan ColemanAnalyst ISeptember 14, 2008

Kentucky barely escaped Commonwealth Stadium with a 20-14 victory over the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.


The Good

- Michael Hartline really played a good game for us.  With the exception of his fumble, he really came through for us.  He seems to be getting more comfortable in the pocket.  He started to shine whenever Joker Phillips loosened and opened up the playbook more in the second half.  Hartline finished 28-47 for 254 yards and two TDs.


- Our defense, yet again.  The Cats held MTSU to only 31 yards rushing on the night.  Micah Johnson, despite going down with an injury in the first half and not playing a whole half on the field, led UK in tackles for the night with nine total tackles (eight solo and one assist), including two tackles for loss.


- Our punting game was superb.  Tim Masthay and Ryan Tydlacka had excellent games punting the football.  They both pinned MTSU back deep in their own territory with great punts a number of times.  Tydlacka pinned MTSU deep inside their own 20 three times, with Masthay pinning them inside their own 20 once.


- T.C. Drake, at the tight end position, had a great game receiving: He caught four passes for 82 yards.  It's good to see that we have a tight end to replace Jacob Tamme, who graduated last season and is now playing for the Colts.


The Bad

- Our passing defense gave up 352 yards passing and two TDs to Middle Tennessee State QB Joe Craddock.  This is a little worrisome just one game away from opening SEC play at Alabama.


- Joker Phillips called a pretty conservative game Saturday night for the Cats offense.  In the first half, he called inside run plays with MTSU stacking the box on first and second downs that would get bottled up for only a couple of yards or no gain, call bubble screens on third and long for no gain or a loss of yards, and then be forced to punt.

In the second half Phillips loosened up and opened the playbook and let Hartline play.  We started moving the ball better in the second half and had plenty of chances to score.


- We need to start utilizing our speed in the backfield.  Both Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith run 4.2 40-yard dashes, yet they never get any runs to the outside.  Let Locke and Alfonso use their speed and run some sweeps, quick pitches, etc. to the corners and utilize their ungodly speed.


- The injury report for the Cats isn't looking too good after Saturday.  Starting corner David Jones (knee), guard Stuart Hines (ankle sprain), and center Jorge Gonzalez (foot) will miss a few days of practice.

In addition, three Wildcats will be out indefinitely because of high-ankle sprains: defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin, linebacker Micah Johnson, and quarterback/wide receiver Randall Cobb.  The off week coming up should hopefully heal these key players for us.


The Ugly

- Lones Sieber: 'nuff said.  He was absolutely atrocious in the kicking game.  He finished 2-6 from field goal range with misses from 48, 29, and 42 yards, plus a 33-yard FG being blocked.  He was good from 40 yards and 25 yards.  This is not acceptable for a Division I SEC kicker.  Sieber has always been inconsistent, but that was just awful.  If he doesn't improve in a hurry, we will have to find another place kicker.


- Our receiver play was pretty ugly: players running the wrong routes, not going up and competing for the ball, etc.  If we don't develop a solid passing game, the opposing defenses will just start stacking the box and bottling up our running game—just like MTSU and UL did.

Thank goodness we have a bye week. Hopefully this will get our players' attention and get them ready for SEC play opening up in three weeks.


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