UK Football: Mistakes, turnovers thwarted the Kentucky offense against Louisville
UK receiver LaRod King goes down after catching a pass in the Cats' loss to Louisville Sunday. (Clay Jackson / September 4, 2012)
On the one hand, Kentucky generated 373 yards against the 25th-ranked Cardinals. On the other, the Wildcats committed a pair of turnovers and missed out on two scoring chances inside the red zone. Phillips also counted two drives inside the 25-yard line as missed opportunities.
“When you get the ball inside the 25, that's the red zone,” Phillips said.
His biggest disappointment was two turnovers — both fumbles — that could have resulted in more scoring chances for his team. Louisville was nearly flawless on offense, especially in the first half.
“Their backs didn't turn the ball over,” Phillips said. “You've got to protect the football.”
Kentucky starting quarterback Max Smith completed 35 of 50 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns and took a hit to the elbow during the contest. Smith credited his team's offensive line and was pleased with his outing despite the loss.
“I thought I played pretty well,” Smith said. “There are some improvements that I need to make and some small things I need to adjust, but I thought I played all right.”
Like his coach, Smith wasn't worried about the elbow.
“If I could throw tomorrow, I could,” he said.
Overall, Kentucky collected 373 yards against the Cardinals, with most of that yardage coming through the air.
“It (moving the football) was good to see,” Smith said. “Obviously we didn't get as many drives as we wanted, but overall, we did a pretty good job. You can't go two-for-six in red zone. That's what killed us.”
Smith also liked the no-huddle scheme the Wildcats displayed at times on the offensive end, giving the offense an added dimension.
“It's going to work well for us,” he said.
Kentucky offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said the Cats “were better,” than last year's unit in the opener, but was yearning for more following the contest.
“We weren't as good as I expected us to be,” he said. “Not finishing drives — that was probably the biggest thing today.”
Kentucky did show signs of sustaining quality drives throughout the contest.
After Louisville opened with an impressive 99-yard scoring drive to begin the season, Kentucky countered with one of its own on its second series. Smith completed 10 passes in a drive that spanned 14 plays and 75 yards. He capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown strike while under pressure to tight end Tyler Robinson. Smith successfully completed 10 passes for 67 yards in the Cats' lone scoring drive in the first half.
In the opening half, Smith completed 15 of 21 passes for 103 yards, but managed just 72 in the second quarter after throwing for 93 in the opening quarter.
Kentucky's only offensive letdown in the first half came when Raymond Sanders fumbled at the Louisville 22-yard line following an 11-yard run up the middle.
Kentucky failed to capitalize on a possible scoring opportunity after recovering an onside kick to open the second half when senior Craig McIntosh misfired on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Smith directed a successful scoring drive in the third quarter that took less than two minutes to complete. This time, Smith connected on passes of 12, 15 and 22 yards and capped the drive with a 5-yard strike to La'Rod King.
Kentucky had a miscue at the Louisville 3-yard line with 11:44 remaining, stalling a promising drive that could have made things interesting down the stretch. The ensuing drive resulted in a turnover on downs at the Louisville 12-yard line.
“Opportunities get taken away from you when you turn the ball over,” Phillips said.
Kentucky's passing game overshadowed the running backs, who managed just 93 yards against the Cardinals. Newcomer receiver Daryl Collins had seven catches for 64 yards as Kentucky relied mostly on a passing attack using 11 different receivers in the opener.
“Daryl Collins played like a veteran,” Phillips said.
After his first catch, Collins became “very confident” in his ability to make plays and likes what the future holds for the Cats.
“I kept wanting the ball,” he said. “We are better than this, they just came out and capitalized. If we would have played a lot better, it would have been a whole different game.”
Overall, liked the way Collins and his receivers performed, but would like to see more progress.
“We've got to get better on the perimeter and blocking,” Phillips said. “Receivers have to make the blocks and you can't catch (the ball) every time.”