Reality check for University of Kentucky football

Defense couldn't stop Gators

ccosby@herald-leader.comSeptember 27, 2010 

It's back to the drawing board for Joker Phillips and the Kentucky football team after the Wildcats got served a slice of humble pie in a 48-14 loss at No. 9 Florida on Saturday.

The UK offense, which came in averaging more than 44 points a game, was held to two scores, including a touchdown on a fake field goal. And after not turning the ball over once in the first three games, quarterback Mike Hartline threw two picks, one returned for a touchdown.

Defensively, the Cats were gashed for 466 yards and allowed freshman Trey Burton to hit the end zone six times.

A step-up in competition seemed to affect the Cats. Some of the openings that were there against Louisville, Western Kentucky and Akron were nowhere to be found against the Gators.

Phillips said his team could have competed with Florida had it not been for penalties. The Cats were whistled for false starts, substitution penalties and personal fouls.

"You look at the first half, it's 21-7, and we gave them a touchdown off an interception. We just didn't compete in the second half. This football team understands if they don't make those mistakes it's a ball game for three, four quarters instead of just two quarters."

After the game, a couple players suggested the Wildcats might have been out-schemed defensively, pointing out that Florida ran the same plays over and over again. Phillips didn't agree with that assessment. "I thought we had guys in pretty good position, we've just got to make plays," he said.

Phillips pointed out that UK stopped Florida on four consecutive possessions in the first half and got an interception. But then the Gators came out and scored on four straight possessions to start the second half to put the game out of reach.

"We've got to continue to play at the same pace and tone we did in the first half," he said.

Phillips said the biggest problem defensively was tackling and labeled UK's attempts to tackle in the open field "comical." He also said the linebackers have to play better.

Phillips said because several players were banged up, UK didn't focus on individual tackling drills leading up to the Florida.

"And it showed in our tackling this week," he said. "Those guys no doubt are good in open field, but it showed up way too many times with us missing tackles, and those things can't happen.

"We've got to bring our feet, bring our eyes, and we've got to hold gaps. I'm not concerned at all about our schemes. We've got to become better tacklers even if we've got to have tackling drills the rest of the week."

Phillips said he thought Hartline was decent outside of the two picks.

"I didn't think he played bad," Phillips said. "He had a couple of bad plays that make you look like you played horrible. I don't think he played horrible. But he didn't play great."

The first interception came when Hartline tried to force a pass into coverage in the red zone.

"That was not good; he's got to drop the ball off," Phillips said.

The second one came on a quick out when Jeremy Brown jumped the route and took it 42 yards for a score.

"The guy made an unbelievable play," Phillips said. "He made an unbelievable break before we were three yards out of our route."

Phillips is still firmly behind Hartline as his starting quarterback.

"Mike gives us the best chance to win," he said.

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