By LARRY VAUGHT
Once Tennessee adjusted its defense, Kentucky’s offense just could not make big third- or fourth-down conversions. Once Tennessee adjusted its offense, Kentucky’s defense could not shut down the passing of reserve quarterback Jarrett Guarantano (7-for-8 for 115 yards and two touchdowns) in the second half.
That’s why Kentucky lost 17-13 to Tennessee Saturday night after roaring out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and then staggering to the finish.
Once Tennessee found a way to neutralize the running of UK quarterback Lynn Bowden, the Cats never scored again — including the final drive when Bowden was stopped for no gain on a run from the Tennessee 2-yard line with a chance to win the game.
Kentucky never went to quarterback Sawyer Smith, the starter after Terry Wilson went down in game two and then got hurt himself. Smith is a better passer than Bowden, an elusive runner doing all he can at quarterback, but his only play was to run a third-down quarterback sneak in the first half.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Smith was “available” and why the coaches thought about using Smith, they decided they were “riding with Lynn” all the way and said it was hard to argue the last drive that got UK inside the 5-yard line with a chance to win the game.
“We are being very methodical right now and having to get tough yards. But with that you take that, whatever it was, five, six minute drive, and make them use up timeouts and you punch that in right there and you feel pretty good about your chances and predictable paths, so… ,” Stoops said.
“It’s hard to argue that last drive. We didn’t (score) and I get the frustration. You do that (score) and it is a lot different. I can’t second guess riding with Lynn and what he is doing. He puts a lot of stress on the defense.
“You don’t lose too many games when you rush for 300 yards. We just got stopped on too many critical plays.”
That’s why UK fans have a right to be frustrated that UK never gave Smith a chance. Bowden ran for 114 yards but threw for 25 yards. You don’t win in the SEC throwing for 25 yards.
Tennessee had 98 yards passing gin the first half but made the switch to Guarantano — who got some great catches from his receivers — to pick UK apart the second half after it made an obvious choice to go to the air.
“They knew they couldn’t run the ball against us and if they continued we were going to lose the game,” Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal said. “They switched their game plan and started just airing it out.”
Paschal was just answering a question after the game. He was not second guessing Stoops or UK’s staff. But the “they switched their game plan” is something UK did not do on either side of the ball and it cost the Cats.
4th straight game under 305 yards, not done since 40 yards ago — We can’t put the blame just on the offense. We win as a team and lose as a team.
The Vols ended up with 296 yards — the fourth straight game UK has held an opponent under 305 yards. That’s the first time that has happened in over 40 years.
“We can’t put the blame just on the offense. We win as a team and lose as a team,” Paschal said.
True but an offense that can’t throw the ball and make a defense at least think it can is going to have trouble winning in the SEC.