Tom Leach is going to be posting a bi-weekly column during the season here on KSR to preview and review the UK games. We are excited to have the "Voice of the Wildcats" here with us and here is his post previewing UK's game against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday
At the weekly UK football news conference on Monday, Mark Stoops was asked about a postgame comment one of his players had made about the Cats possibly being "overconfident" for the opener. The coach was stunned to hear that and who could blame him? Kentucky is a double-digit favorite for this week's game against Miami but the UK players should know they had better taking nothing for granted. This is a week for Kentucky to come out strong, look sharp and take charge from the start. True confidence comes from performance.
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1) Quarterback play.
Jalen Whitlow looked like a much improved quarterback in the spring game and in the fall scrimmages (from the accounts of those who saw them), but in game one, he admitted to being nervous and he played that way. That may have led to UK’s early reliance on the run game, given that it was relatively productive. Now, Maxwell Smith gets his chance to be the starter but it’s important he take the right mindset into this game against Miami. Neal Brown constantly preaches to his QB’s to make the easy plays and string successful plays together. The first quarterback to do that will get this Air Raid off the ground because, as we saw last night, the Cats now have some "big play" guys, too.
2) Run defense.
Kentucky's defense was gashed much too often for big gains on the ground. Tackling must improve but there may have been times when missed tackles were the result of poor angles of pursuit, incorrect alignment, etc. Clean up the fundamental lapses and the tackling may suddenly look much better.
3) Reality check.
Coach Stoops talked frequently in the lead-up to the season about having to coach up the confidence in his players. Perhaps the collective psyche of this group was damaged even worse than realized by last season's collapse but these players need to come to grips with the fact that the people they are playing don't care about that. After this week, they will face a series of four teams eager to rip them to the shreds and with the manpower to do it. The Cats need to decide that win or lose, they're not going to get pushed around anymore.
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--Miami's defense gave up 25 plays of 10 yards or more in its loss to Marshall last week. Only three teams in the nation gave up more. Conversely, the Redhawks' offense managed only seven such plays. Marshall out-gained Miami 591-239 in total yards.
--Kentucky allowed 10 tackles-for-loss last week but that stat is not entirely a fault of the offensive line. Quarterback recognition of defensive schemes and subpar blocking on the perimeter by the inexperienced wideouts played a role, too.
--when Kentucky hits the Red Zone, offensive coordinator Neal Brown can feel safe calling pass plays. Maxwell Smith is 22-for-24 inside the opponents' 20-yard line for his career with zero interceptions.
(stats courtesy of cfbstats.com)
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"Last Saturday was a disappointment but we're not going to get down. It's only one game. People were nervous. For a lot of guys, it was their first time playing. We'll be okay. Just got to fix those mistakes. This is a test of how we handle adversity."--senior DT Donte Rumph.
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THIS WEEK IN BIG BLUE HISTORY
Randall Cobb scored the first of his school-record 37 touchdowns. Cobb was highly-touted by coach Rich Brooks in the preseason but he made very little impact in the opening win at Louisville. In week two against Norfolk State, in the home opener, Cobb exploded on the scene. His first TD came on a scrambling 18-yard TD run from the QB position and a star was born.
"The Phantom Clip."
A lot of us older Big Blue football followers will remember immediately what that phrase was about. In the opener of the '79 season, against Miami (OH), Kentucky had seemingly taken a late lead on freshman Chris Jones' touchdown run. Alas, tight end Jim Campbell was flagged for a clipping penalty, the score was nullified and Miami hung on to win 15-14. Video footage later showed Campbell never even made contact with the Miami player.
--listen to Tom each weekday morning at 9:06am eastern on "The Leach Report" radio network
--check out tomleachky.com for more of Tom's coverage of the Cats and follow Tom on Twitter @tomleachky and via Facebook for "The Leach Report"