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Kentucky’s play against Tennessee was “obviously not good enough” as Vols punish Cats 24-7

Tennessee’s defense didn’t allow Benny Snell to score. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Just a week ago Kentucky had a chance to play in the Southeastern Conference championship game, finish in the top 10 and earn a major, major bowl bid.

Then Georgia burst the SEC title game bubble and Saturday Tennessee just devastated Kentucky with a 24-7 win where the Vols just dominated UK.

The Cats are still 7-3, but a top 10 ranking is now gone along with a high level bowl bid. A 9-3 finish could still get UK to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. That’s not bad but a week ago so much more was possible.

However, UK was thoroughly outplayed by the Vols. Yes, the same Vols who had 20 yards rushing a week earlier in a 14-3 win over Charlotte had 215 yards rushing on UK a week after Georgia gashed the UK run defense. Tennessee finished with 412 yards and had seven plays of 20 or more yards. Kentucky had 262 yards — and most came after Tennessee had a 24-0 lead. Kentucky had two plays of 20 yards and Benny Snell ran 20 times for 81 yards.

“It wasn’t good enough. Obviously I didn’t have the team prepared to play,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said after the game.

No arguing the it “wasn’t good enough.” It was awful.

Whether he had the team prepared to play or not, I don’t know. Kentucky’s offensive line had trouble sustaining blocks and opening holes. Receivers dropped some balls. Quarterback Terry Wilson missed some throws and was slow to make others. Even running back Benny Snell seemed to miss a whole or two. On defense, Kentucky missed tackles for the second straight week.

But what KILLED the Cats was giving up a touchdown pass on the final play of the first half. And the Vols made it look easy as no UK defender really was in the way of the Hail Mary toss that put the lead at 17-0 — an insurmountable margin for an offense that has been as stagnant as UK’s in recent weeks.

“That was a punch in the gut,” Stoops said.

But not the only punch a once reliable defense took as Tennessee’s playmakers were just better than UK’s defenders. Maybe the UK defense is just wore down physically and mentally from carrying this team most of the season. Maybe it was still thinking about Georgia. Maybe Tennessee — which did win at Auburn two weeks ago — is just better than we think.

“They did a nice job. We were a bit slow in our reactions,” Stoops said.

Bit slow? Try way slow way too often.

Stoops again hinted there might be changes made on offense. Of course, he’s said that before and nothing has really changed the last four games. Teams have learned how to contain Snell and when that happens, UK has no answer to make teams pay for loading up to stop Snell.

“Cats look totally out of sync. Need to get a spark somewhere,” former UK coach Rich Brooks tweeted during the first half.

He could have retweeted it again in the third quarter … and again in the fourth quarter. Probably could every day this week. Kentucky crossed midfield seven times against Tennessee when it did not score a single point. That’s not easy to do.

This team needs to regroup and regain its swagger. The good news is that UK has Middle Tennessee and Louisville left. Middle Tennessee should not be able to beat UK and Louisville is God-awful. The Cardinals can’t stop anybody and unless UK fails to show up, it can still finish 9-3 and get a chance for a 10th win in a bowl game better than anyone realistically expected when the season started.

But something has happened to this team. There was arguing on the sideline at Texas A&M. Players were shouting at Missouri. It’s not a happy team, and shouldn’t be after this butt-whipping.

Or maybe we should have known this was coming.

In the last five years, Kentucky is 22-8 in the first half of the season and 9-21 in the second half counting two bowl losses. That’s a disturbing trend that has kicked in again this year and has ruined what was just a festive atmosphere and outlook just a few days ago before UK played Georgia.

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  1. This is devastating and unthinkable….on the richter scale it is right there with the beat down from Puke. Is there any doubt which coach has done a better job of molding their talent for production and results as the season moves on? I will go on record now to say that Stoops will never beat Pruitt in any future contests. It is not only important how you start but more so how you finish. Do you need more proof?..In last 4 yrs Stoops is 22-8 first 6 games and has finished 9-19 (so far) in last 6 games.

    1. Correction to my above……stats were for the last 5 yrs and not 4.

  2. It’s been a lousy week.
    That’s all I have to say about it.

  3. Correction to my above……stats were for the last 5 yrs and not 4.

  4. Suffice it to say that Gran has cost Stoops any type of coaching awards this year. The only OC I can think of that has just totally under utilized his talent worse than Gran is Elliot Uzelac. As I have said before, look for Hoak and Clark to be smart enough to leave and find an OC that knows how to use a qb. Seldom do you see a UK qb throw where a player is going, they want to wait until the qb is wide open and then throw where he is; that does not work. I thought Hinshaw was some kind of great qb coach, but you sure can’t prove it with his time at UK.
    Defense is getting absolutely worn out with all of UK’s 3 and outs. 1 drive past midfield in the entire 1st half. That is becoming very typical with Wilson at the helm and Gran calling the plays. Gran does not seem to be able to make adjustments on the fly, and he certainly has no confidence in his players.
    At this point, UK should not even be ranked in the top 30.
    So glad they are not going to a big bowl where they would only get embarrassed again, because this team does not deserve it. I am not saying these players don’t work hard and are not trying, but let’s face it, it is being proven in emphatic fashion that this team is not as good as a lot of people thought.
    I have said it before on here, but only to be ridiculed; you can’t consistently win in the SEC with a 1 dimensional offense and because of that, the defense is getting worn out.
    It worked the first few SEC games, until teams figured out all you have to do is load it up in the front and come hard. Wilson couldn’t break away from my grandmother, and can’t pass consistently to save his life. Yes, he has completed a few, but all the mistakes far outweigh the positives. Not sure if it is him or Gran’s play calling, but whichever it is, UK needs some serious changes on offense.
    And Mike, I knew UK’s second half of the seasons had to be bad, but 9-19 is terrible.

  5. The definition of suffering is trying to watch Stoops and Gran spin themselves out of a post game interview. Stoops says “this is on me and we got to get back to work” and Gran says ” we need to go downfield more and maybe cut the play book”..what play book. Ah Gran…we don’t have anyone to get the ball down the field on consistent basis. Terry has only shown flashes and takes way too long to make decision or pass the ball. Why is Hinshaw always staying in the background? Kudos to Snell for wanting to eliminate players that aren’t hungry. This coaching staff does not have control of the locker room. Does Stoops ever look in control on the sidelines during the game? He will show the Snarl when disagrees with refs calls but that is about it. FIRING Gran may be only thing to avoid 7-5 season. We played bad enough to even give UL some hope. MTSU is not exactly chopped liver and they have Tony Franklin as OC. Do you think he might be thinking of the R word? We are not really a Top 20 team any longer and won’t be going to New Year’s Day bowl but was fun at least being in the conversation for a week or so. The window for history making is quickly closing and Team Stoops will have a lot of time to think about “what could have been” Can you imagine where this is all going to be a year from now? Barney…please stay near the phone because you may get a call you can accept. Leach over Stoops in a heartbeat! I will take eccentric over boring any day.

  6. Gotta agree with you guys, Gran has ruin this football team not utilizing the talent we got. Stoops need to step up and do the play calling. You can’t blame Wilson for everything that hasn’t click that it should have it goes across the board.

  7. There has been some speculation that Stoops may be more involved in the offense than he should and that scary scenario. Since SC game Stoops/Gran/ and Hinshaw have found ways to stunt the growth of this offense and none of the quarterbacks have shown any development or improvement. We have been exposed and regained our position of one of the laughing stocks of FBS football. Yesterday has to be recorded as one of the most inexcuseable losses EVER with what we had at stake. Pruitt has coached his team up and has them believing they are better than they are. Stoops has not coached his team up as has been his 2nd half tradition for couple years, and as SNELLYA stated..many in the locker room are not hungry and willing to play season out.

  8. If Stoops won’t go after a great OC to replace Gran, I would like to see Jeff Brohm at UK. I love his style and he really gets his teams believing they can win.
    I think UK’s problem is that the players see the same glaring lack of offense that we see. They also see that no one else has truly had an opportunity to show what they can do.
    I think many players have lost confidence in Gran and now they are loosing confidence in Stoops.

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