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Offense goes missing, Kentucky falls 20-14 in overtime to Aggies

Terry Wilson found no openings in the Texas A&M defense. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky really had no business even being in overtime at Texas A&M Saturday night, but yet that’s where the Cats were despite an anemic offensive performance except for a 54-yard, throw-and-run touchdown play by Lynn Bowden.

Kentucky trailed 14-7 when Darius West came up with a fumble recovery on a Texas A&M third down and one play that could have sealed the win. Not only did he get the fumble, but he returned it 40 yards for the tying score with 4 minutes, 17 seconds to play.

The Cats squandered a chance in the final 90 seconds of regulation to get into field goal range. In overtime, a 4-yard pass to Bowden followed by a 4-yard run by quarterback Terry Wilson — who went down way too easily short of the first down set up a third down at 2 at the A&M 17.

Even though Benny Snell had been held in check by the A&M defense, surely he had to get the ball. He’s the best running back in the SEC, UK’s best player and a power runner. But after an A&M timeout, UK got too cute. Way too cute. The Cats faked a run and Wilson looked to pass. Not only was no one open, but he took a sack and then Miles Butler was short on a 43-yard field goal try — which was not a huge surprise because coach Mark Stoops had passed up field goal tries of the same distance earlier this season.

Texas A&M quickly scored a touchdown to win 21-14 and leave UK thinking about what happened to its offense that has gone into a funk after the first half against South Carolina to why Snell did not get a touch in overtime.

Kentucky had 178 yards of total offense — and most of that came on a five-play, 68-yard scoring drive in the first quarter. After that, the Kentucky offense was stymied as the offensive line could not open holes for Snell — who got just 13 carries for 60 yards — and Wilson was tentative and not nearly as fast or efficient as he had been in the first five games. He was 13 of 20 passing for 108 yards — but again 54 came on a simple 1-yard forward pitch that Bowden turned into a 54-yard play.

Coach Mark Stoops said he considered going to backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak but decided to stick with Wilson.

“They were hard to move and they were very athletic,” Stoops said on his postgame radio show when asked about A&M’s defense. “We knew that and that is why we tried to throw the ball and keep them off balance. They made Terry very uncomfortable. They were good. Their defensive line escaped and made tackles and they ran to the ball on the perimeter.

“Give them credit. We tired to keep them off balance and that was ineffective as well. When throwing on first down, we really got behind the chains. When running, we were ineffective. I think the difference is they affected Terry in the pocket and when he tried to escape and they were athletic and tackled him.”

Tight end C.J. Conrad had two catches on UK’s first series. He was targeted just one more time the rest of the game.

The defense gave up 390 yards but it wore down because the UK offense went 3-and-out, 3-and-out, 3-and out. The defense forced two turnovers — both by West.

“I thought we played our hearts on defense,” Stoops said. “To hold them on 14 points in regulation when we were on the field all day because we were ineffective on offense … they absolutely played really, really good football. They were warriors.”

“I felt like we tried to limit their explosive plays. I feel like we played pretty well as a defense, but we definitely can tighten up more,” safety Mike Edwards said. “Sometimes we have to help the offense out. They had great defense, too. We just tried to make plays the best we can. They have explosive players all over the field. We did all we could and D. West made a huge play that we really needed.

“We got humbled tonight. We came in 5-0, ranked. But we got to play even bigger because we got humbled tonight. We have to recover, get people healthy and then come out and beat Vandy.”

12 comments

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  1. A very winnable game indeed. Is this loss on Gran or Wilson or a combination of the two? They both got a valuable assist from the OL. The defense did some major bending but gave us a solid effort and opportunity to win. I said a week ago that Gran’s best play is 3 and out. I said a week ago that there was a lot of concern for Wilson’s inability to go downfield, and he reinforced that tonight and aided that with an equal inability to run. He saved his worse game for tonight and gives a lot of concern that he may be unable to turn this thing around as his decision making and running ability showed a loss of confidence and timidity. I have had to restrain myself many weeks now but can’t contain my true feelings any longer. I hate Eddie Gran and think he is a disgusting OC. Once again, this team has been winning in spite of Gran’s inability to recognize and motivate the assets that he has. Baker, Bouvier, Bowden, Conrad, Rose, Richardson have got to be very disappointed that they aren’t being given a fair opportunity to showcase their abilities.

  2. This loss is on both Gran and Wilson.
    A&M just showed the game plan every team UK faces the rest of the year will use. Stack the middle and pressure the qb.
    A qb that cannot pass is worthless; especially, when he is not strong enough to pull through arm tackles or quick enough to avoid the defense. Wilson’s arm strength, when he has to move, is not even close to fbs level. All A&M had to do was load the box. Whether it was Wilson or Snell carrying the ball, they still come from the same location. Very easy for a strong aggressive Defense to stop. Wilson is very slow at making decisions. He had open receivers many times, but he is looking to run instead of pass, and by the time he makes up his mind, the receivers are covered. When he runs across the field, he is not strong he enough to throw the ball, and the receivers are looking to block instead of getting open.
    Georgia will absolutely demolish UK because UK cannot stop Georgia from scoring and cannot score against a good Defense with any regularity.
    Hoak or Clark should have gotten into the game at least once to see what they could do.
    This loss falls squarely on Gran for having no faith in Hoak.
    If I were Hoak, I would be gone come January 1.
    I believe UK will be lucky to win 2 more games this year if Wilson is the only option at qb. Wilson should be used like they used Cobb.
    There is a reason Gran was never retained for long periods of time by other teams he coached in the SEC.

  3. Do you all realize how close we were to making 6-0 history last night and how winnable this game really was if our offense had just 50% of the efficiency we showed first 5 games. We have guys on offense that have shown leadership qualities in the past but were no where to be seen last night. This was a collective offensive meltdown and Gran and Wilson have got to take ownership of their play and play calling. Christmas comes early for any opposing DC that has to game plan for Gran. Gran is the CANCER in the clubhouse and has been since he came and Stoops doesn’t have the stones or ability to do anything about it. Stoops even showed flashbacks with “deer in headlights” looks. At no time did I ever feel confident that we were going to win this game, but I did keep wondering how we would find ways to lose it. This was not a great A&M team, or maybe even a good team, but it will be interesting to see where each team goes from here. Let’s hope the snow ball doesn’t build from here.

  4. I strongly disagree with the hate stuff above. Maybe some credit is due to the A&M DL and LB’s? They are clearly a step above Miss State’s highly regarded DL. They collapsed the pocket, filled the holes, got off blocks, and tackled well. Their secondary was reported to be their weakness. I didn’t see it. They covered our receivers like fleas. They had a spy on Wilson tracking him every play when he got out of the a collapsing pocket. I was wrong on A&M’s defense. They played lights out. I knew we would miss our field goal kicker. We’re 5-1 and still in contention for the East. Maybe some need to go back and cheer for UL, or just take your hate somewhere else.

    1. That “spy” won the game for the Aggies. Once flushed from the pocket, or as you so aptly put it “a collapsing pocket” Wison became the target of that spy and as athletic as he obviously is, he was no match for the Aggie linebackers.
      Kyle Field is as tough a place to play as Floridas Swamp. Student body generated noise can be deafening near the goal lines although I must say the Aggie student body is an example of Texas pride.
      William, you have to understand that Couch Coach Mikey is the smartest man on the planet when it comes to football and basketball. He takes great pride in being able to slam any 19 or 20 year old student athlete so that he can convince us just how brilliant he is. His agendas are as obvious as is his hatred of UK coaching staffs.
      If you’re still around after reading his drivel for a month or you’ll be able to tune him out as have all but his toadies. Or you can read his crap if you need a laugh.

  5. PK…..Are you that desperate that you are now trying to bring William into your stable of kool aid drinkers? You really are a lost puppy. Eddie Gran sux and you know it. A percentage of my postings are directed at you but you are too dumb and blind to see and realize that. I love to score on you especially when our offense is so inept thanks to Mr. Gran.

  6. I knew this was going to be a tough game to win, especially at home. A&M was a load on defense. So was UK. Our defense simply wore out for a lack of offensive fire power, UK has a GREAT defense. That said, Stoops , Gran, IMO, should have played Hoak some in the second half just to see if he could have given UK a spark, because nothing else was clicking. What do you have to lose? They lost anyway. Just to see if Hoak could have rallied the offense, complete some passes, and move the chains. We will never know now. The UK Oline got whipped at the LOS plain and simple. Give the Aggies credit. Wilson looked lost, like a different athlete to be honest , his worst game to date for sure. It happens. UK really lost that game in their last possession just before the OT. They could have won it with a FG maybe, had they gotten in range.

    Snell did not seem to be his usual confident self either, his eyes and body language said volumes to me when the camera panned in on him. He looked whipped, which is not Benny. He was limited in carries too against A&M. Maybe that was what was wrong, I don’t know. Why Gran didn’t run Snell up the middle or off tackle during the OT to at least try to get in FG range is a head scratcher. This was a game UK could have won with just a little more offense.

  7. LP, that is my main complaint against Stoops and Gran. Once they lock in on a player, they don’t give others a chance. Look at Bouvier. Stoops and Gran said they had no idea he was that good. Too bad we haven’t heard much from him since Hoak used him to move UK down the field. UK has Snell and Rose; they don’t need rushing yards from a qb. They need the qb to get other players involved, like Baker, Bouvier, and Conrad. If UK has a threat in the passing game, that helps to open holes for Snell and Rose. A qb that gets 50-60 yards rushing and 75-100 passing is not near the threat a qb passing for 250 and 0 rushing would be. There are not many Cam Newtons out there that can run, take the hit, be accurate with people hanging all over him, and being accurate on the move. Wilson is no where near where he needs to be to face teams like A&M, Georgia, Alabama, etc. These teams have good enough players in the secondary they can play man-to-man and send everyone else after Snell and Wilson. Where there is only two players to worry about, it’s pretty easy to pin your ears back and go get ’em. That’s exactly what happened last night, and that is exactly what Georgia and Missouri are going to do. UK cannot score with either one of those teams when they are just using 2 players on offense. No one else is a threat, because Wilson is not an accurate passer; nor is he quick with his decisions if it is not handing off or running himself. He was too scared under pressure to throw the ball. If you were playing UK, would you worry about Wilson beating you by passing the ball? I don’t think any Power 5 team would worry too much about that.

  8. Thank you for the heads up PK. This is the same coaching staff, and players, that came up with a win in the Swamp, and Florida just took down an Auburn team ranked in the top 10. It is the same coaching staff and players that took down Miss State, who just took down a top 10 LSU team. Same staff and players who took down SC who are an increasingly dangerous team that took down Missouri. Post here have generally been civil and some very insightful. Name calling is not my thing as such and I generally don’t react. I don’t expect people to agree with me although I expect a rational basis if someone has seen something that I have missed. I remember when a kid would start name-calling on the playground, and it generally got settled, on the playground. It’s a different world and anonymity has opened the door to some very unpleasant people to vent their frustrations and disappointments without consequences. It is what it is. I am a UK graduate and this football team is one I’ve been waiting to see, hoping I would get to see for a long time. I don’t drink cool aid, did when I was young. I preferred sweet tea. I think we have a shot at winning the East. This season has been amazing so far for me. Could be that the best is yet to come. I can be hopeful without ignoring reality.

    1. William, good points, but UK is far better offensively than that product they put on the field last night, and in such an important game too. Gran is responsible for the offense good or bad. Last night it was awful. I was glad to see Gran try to pass the football more in that game. Only problem was, his QB couldn’t complete a simple throw to the flat for most of the entire game. All I am saying is, have a little more faith in your backup QB to see is he can move the chains. Don’t he practice every day too? I think the young man (Wilson) has talent, but he was rattled and it showed in his body language last night. Hoak has talent too, and deserves playing time, and has earned it. He is on the team too. He was a 4* recruit out of HS, and Stoops has praised him time and time again.. He can hand the ball off to the RB’s same as Wilson can, and I believe he is a more accurate passer who gets the ball out quicker from what I have seen. Hey, they can do what hey want, I’m just a football fan that has an opinion. Yeah, they are still in the East race, but last night UK took a step back when they had a great opportunity to go to 6-0.

  9. William….maybe if we are lucky we can get you toughened up a little and enable you to accept a little more reality. Why did you need to state that you were a UK grad? I am also but don’t see the revelancy to opining on this site. I do know that i have been a longer term sufferer than you waiting for the kind of year we are currently having. So with these extra earned stripes I feel enabled to call some things as I see them. Gran continues to show that anything other than 3 and out is outside his area of expertise. Could there be a more stubborn, predictable, boring OC out there? He keeps talking about all of his quality people and assets but continues to ignore them. When our OL is locked in they can cover Wilson’s vulnerabilities a little easier. Last night was not one of those times, and we got exposed. I agree with some others on here that Hoak or maybe even Clark should have been given some reps. Wilson has flashed some good abilities but does not have the leadership or toughness that Stevie Johnson had. He pushed the “bail” button prematurely several times last night. He looked like he was moving in slow motion. Let’s hope the bye week heals some players and enables Gran to maybe think outside the box much more than he has shown…I know..he has been saving his creativity for Vandy.

  10. Rupp told Cawood to call it like it is. If we’re stinking it up, let the fans know.
    Same should go for football.

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