UK's 'Wildcat' was on endangered list

Mississippi St. kept Cats' cobb contained

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistNovember 1, 2009 

Kentucky had a lot going against it Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium.

Cornerback Trevard Lidley missed another game with his high ankle sprain. Middle linebacker Micah Johnson was limited by his strained knee.

Running back Derrick Locke played through a painful bruised knee. Center Jorge Gonzalez played through a bum shoulder.

And the Kentucky defense couldn't tackle Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon.

Even with all that going against it, you still had to wonder why UK didn't go to the one thing going for it?

What happened to Randall Cobb?

What happened to the Wildcat?

"We're in a position where because the Wildcat had been successful, and it wasn't successful tonight, so we decided not to use it," said UK Coach Rich Brooks. "When we don't use it, we open ourselves up to be second-guessed on it. And I can second-guess myself on it as well."

This isn't to say that the Cats' decision to turn away from what had been an important part of its offense was the reason Kentucky lost 31-24 to visiting Mississippi State on Halloween night.

But it is to say you had to scratch your head why the Cats didn't go to the Wildcat operator, Cobb, when it mattered most.

UK had a first-and-goal at the MSU 4-yard line, trailing 31-24 early in the fourth quarter.

First down, freshman quarterback Morgan Newton ran for no gain. "We wanted to check out of it, and he didn't look over to us," said Brooks. "That's us and coaching, that's our responsibility."

Second down, Newton again ran for no gain. "They closed that one up real good," said Brooks.

Third-and-goal, Newton rolled left, was under extreme pressure, and threw a desperation pass that was intercepted by State's Jamar Chaney.

Three plays.

No Wildcat.

No Cobb.

"I trust the coaching staff," Cobb said. "They put us in position to win. Would I have liked to have the ball? Yes. But we have to execute the plays they call."

The Cats didn't execute, not enough to win. The Bulldogs outgained UK 493-308. Dan Mullen's team rushed for a remarkable 348 yards, led by Dixon's 252 yards on 33 carries.

Now State is the happy 4-5 team, its bowl hopes still alive. Kentucky is the 4-4 team, its bowl hopes dented.

"The season isn't lost," said Brooks, "but it certainly isn't going to be the type of season we thought it could be if we had won this football game."

Because it lost a shoot-out, and if this game was a shoot-out, the Cats didn't seem to go their best gun.

Cobb ran the football just eight times for 17 yards. To be sure, Brooks was right. State was ready for the Wildcat.

"They were bringing outside pressure on our Wildcat," said the UK coach. "The first several times we ran it, it was disaster, and we were thrown for losses.

"It wasn't as successful from start to finish as it was in other games. That's bound to happen. When something is successful, they're gonna try to take it away from you."

But even through the air, State clamped down on Cobb. He caught just two passes for 32 yards.

Is maybe the wear and tear of a long season, of seven straight games without a bye week, starting to show?

"Randall, he's a little beat up," said Brooks. "He was beat up all week. Locke is beat up. We're all beat up. I'm beat up now. And I'm gonna get beat up a lot more, I think."

Brooks, and offensive play-caller Joker Phillips, shouldn't be beaten up, too much. Given the circumstances, the way the defense couldn't contain Dixon, at times you wondered how Brooks' team was even in the game.

But when it counted most, you still had to ask: Where was Randall?

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com.

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