By Ashley Scoby
It was the last day for the “old” Commonwealth Stadium, before the renovated version is unveiled next fall, but that old stadium was certainly ushered out by what looked like the “old” Kentucky football team.
Missed tackles, special teams disasters, an inconsistent offense, fluke plays that end up as opponents’ touchdowns and a blowout on the scoreboard: All the makings of what fans sarcastically dub “Kentucky football” year after year, and which the program is attempting to build past.
After jumping out to a 5-1 start this season and then hitting the rough part of its schedule, Kentucky took one monumental step back Saturday after its 63-31 drubbing by No. 17 Georgia. With five wins, the Wildcats remain one short of bowl eligibility with road games against Tennessee and Louisville remaining on the schedule.
It only took 10 seconds for the Bulldogs to assert who was in control, setting the tone for the rest of the game with a demoralizing Isaiah McKenzie 90-yard return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.
And that would only be the ramp-up to an unstoppable Georgia offense.
The Bulldogs were never forced to punt once in the entire game. In fact, besides the drives where it fumbled on a kickoff, where it kneeled at the end of the first half, and where the clock ran out at the end of the game, Georgia scored a touchdown every time it received the ball.
Kentucky allowed Georgia to amass 559 yards of offense, including 305 on the ground. And when they weren’t running at will, the Bulldogs were leaning on quarterback Hutson Mason, who went 13-16 for four touchdowns. He had not thrown for more than two touchdowns in a game all season.
“Very embarrassing effort by our team, our coaching staff, starting with myself,” said head coach Mark Stoops said. “Not acceptable.”
It would be tough to pinpoint what part of Kentucky’s all-systems-failure performance was the worst. Maybe it was the opening kickoff returned for a touchdown, or maybe the punt that was returned for a touchdown later. Maybe it was the Patrick Towles pass that skirted off Ryan Timmons’ hand and diverted to Corey Moore for a Georgia interception.
Or vice versa: Maybe it was when a Georgia pass was tipped in the end zone by two Kentucky players but still ended up as a Bulldogs touchdown.
Maybe it was in the simple fact that Stoops had his headset off by the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter, a stronger signal than any that Kentucky’s day was done.
“Any time you get your (butt) kicked, it’s embarrassing,” Towles said. “None of us came here to lose like that.”
Kentucky’s offense, although sputtering in the second half, scored 24 in the second quarter alone behind a big running game from Stanley “Boom” Williams. The freshman carried 10 times for 100 yards and a touchdown – his second career 100-yard rushing performance.
The flickers of life are there for Kentucky, but it’s obvious there is still a talent gap between the Wildcats and high-level SEC teams at several positions.
“I think it was a very tough match-up for us,” Stoops said. “Their tempo was good. They’re very physical. Their backs are hard for us to tackle. And then when we have to play with numbers, our match-up outside was very difficult for us.”
Getting the elite kind of athletes into the program – from spots No. 1 to 85 – has been part of the “new” Kentucky that Stoops and his staff are trying to build.
They just can’t always get rid of old Kentucky fast enough.
Ashley Scoby is a senior journalism major at the University of Kentucky. She has reported on the Wildcats for wildcathoops.com, vaughtsviews.com and kysportsreport.com as well as for newspapers in Danville and Glasgow.
Courtesy of KyForward