Kentucky football simplifying defense after mistakes versus Louisville

jsmith3@herald-leader.comSeptember 5, 2012 

  • Saturday

    Kent State at Kentucky

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    TV: Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast

To put it simply: Kentucky's defense was bad.

But there's no simple solution.

When coaches went back and looked at the video of the 32-14 loss at Louisville on Sunday, they saw breakdown after breakdown.

"Everything that could and would happen did," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said.

Sometimes the mistake was structural, a bad alignment before the ball was even snapped.

Sometimes it was an adjustment that was never made or made too late.

Sometimes the mistake was an individual defender not doing his job in the middle of the play.

No matter the cause, the result was disastrous for Kentucky, which allowed Louisville to rack up 466 yards of total offense, third most by any opponent in the Minter era as coordinator.

The Cardinals had scoring drives of 99, 93, 85 and 71 yards, and they did it methodically, holding on to the ball for 36 minutes and 21 seconds. Only seven schools in the country last week had more time of possession.

In all four of their trips to the red zone, the Cardinals scored.

"We didn't stop the run; we didn't stop the pass," Coach Joker Phillips said. "We've got to be better."

Junior Avery Williamson took his share of the responsibility for the Cats' defensive breakdowns. As the middle linebacker, he's in charge of making UK's on-field adjustments.

"Sometimes I wasn't making the correct calls," he said. "They got us in a hurry-up situation, lining up fast, so, really, I try to take the blame for it."

He said he feels responsible to get UK lined up faster.

For now, the simple answer for Kentucky is to simplify the defense when the Cats face Kent State on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.

"We're just trying to simplify this week so I won't be thinking as much and we can make more plays," said Williamson, who had a game-high 12 tackles last week against the Cardinals.

"Not having as many calls, not having to make as many calls. It's a lot simpler to me, I feel like."

The Cats will have to keep it simple for another reason, too. They plan to play a lot of their younger defensive players.

"There's going to be some babies out there playing and younger," Phillips said. "We're going to line them up, play and make the adjustments very minimal."

When asked who specifically would get the defensive nod, Phillips said true freshman linebackers Khalid Henderson and Pancho Thomas will see time. In the secondary, expect to see more from freshmen like Daron Blaylock, Fred Tiller and J.D. Harmon.

Sometimes it's not as simple as putting in the young guy for the struggling veteran, linebackers coach Chuck Smith said.

"You're always looking for the right combination," Smith said. "You're shuffling guys here or there, moving guys up, around. You're looking for the right combination, the right chemistry to put on the field at the same time."

Sometimes, young players rise to the occasion when given the opportunity, he said, mentioning former UK star Danny Trevathan.

"About his sophomore year, he got thrown into action and, 'BOOM,' there he goes; he's an instant star," Smith said of Trevathan, who led the Southeastern Conference in tackles for two straight seasons. He had 82 tackles in his sophomore season. "You never know what's going to happen until they get a chance in the game."

Last season, the offense struggled to replace big-play guys like Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke, Mike Hartline and Chris Matthews.

The defense is now experiencing its own version of growing pains without Trevathan, Winston Guy and Ronnie Sneed at linebacker, not to mention two veteran corners.

"We lost a ton of production on the second level," Minter said. "We've got to find out if we've got some guys who can make some plays. ... We've got to give our other guys some playing time and find out what these young guys can do."

Until all of the pieces fall into place, the veterans and the coaches are trying to stay positive.

"I know we've got a good team; I know we do," Williamson said. "We work hard in the weight room. We're talented up front, and we've got the guys to win games. We just have to keep telling ourselves that."

The simplest answer, the defensive coordinator said, is to forget the Louisville loss and move on to Kent State.

"Don't let Louisville beat us twice," Minter told his unit. "Don't lose the next game because you're still looking back. ...

"We are anxious to get back on the field and show we're better than we played."

Notes

The heat and humidity Wednesday morning coupled with what appears to be a stomach bug hitting the football team was not a good combination in practice, with several players getting sick. But the team has to push through, Phillips said. "We don't have time to worry about heat. We don't have time to worry about a bug. We've got to continue to press on."

■ A few poorly timed and worded tweets from freshmen ("Kids being kids, trying to be funny," as Phillips put it) mean the head coach has instituted a Twitter ban for the team both 24 hours before a game and 24 hours after it.

■ Injury updates: Safety Glenn Faulkner (ankle) is still 5-6 weeks away from any kind of decision. Running back Josh Clemons (knee) is week to week and will not play Saturday. Running back CoShik Williams and linebacker Josh Forrest are banged up as well and have not practiced this week, but probably will be available Saturday.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com.

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