John Clay's notes: Football season off to sloppy start

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistSeptember 10, 2013 

Western Kentucky Tennessee Football

Western Kentucky running back Keshawn Simpson (34) fumbled against Tennessee, one of seven Topper turnovers in the game.

DOUG STRICKLAND — AP

Three random notes:

■ On the plus side, Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles were amazing fun Monday night, snapping the ball at a furious pace on the way to a 33-27 win over Redskins.

On the negative side, we've seen some awfully sloppy football these first couple of weeks in the college and NFL seasons.

Western Kentucky committed seven turnovers in its loss to Tennessee. Florida turned it over five times to a Miami (Fla.) team that went 1-for-11 on third down and still won the game.

In the NFL, the Giants' Eli Manning threw an interception right to Dallas' DeMarcus Ware on his very first play. Washington's Alfred Morris dropped a bad pitch from quarterback Robert Griffin III in the end zone for a safety, one of four safeties in the first weekend. Tennessee, Kansas City and Tampa Bay also gave up two points.

Despite its 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio), Kentucky hardly played mistake-free football last Saturday.

Daryl Collins fumbled a punt inside his own 10 that Miami returned for a touchdown. Javess Blue fielded a punt on his own 2-yard line, then retreated into the end zone. Later, Blue caught a punt at his own 10 and lost 3 yards.

Kentucky also had 11 penalties for 117 yards, and the Cats have the fourth-most penalty yards out of 123 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"We have to get that cleaned up," Coach Mark Stoops said Monday.

They do if they want to have a chance of upsetting seventh-ranked Louisville.

■ More alarms sounded in SEC athletics directors' offices over the weekend when they started looking at the attendance figures.

Eleven SEC teams played home games last Saturday. Five of the 11 failed to fill 90 percent of their seats.

Commonwealth Stadium was at 81 percent of listed capacity for Kentucky's home opener with Miami (Ohio). It was not the emptiest SEC stadium, however. Missouri filled just 80 percent of Faurot Field for the Tigers' victory over visiting Toledo.

Meanwhile, 82.2 percent of Vanderbilt Stadium was filled to see the Commodores beat up on Austin Peay. Despite Tennessee's big win in Butch Jones' opener and Western Kentucky's win over Kentucky the week before, only 84.7 percent of Neyland Stadium was filled to see the Vols play Bobby Petrino and the Hilltoppers.

Arkansas drew just 47,358 fans to Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium for its game with Samford. That's just 87.5 percent capacity. It's also the smallest Little Rock crowd to watch the Razorbacks since 2002.

Remember, those numbers are tickets sold, not actual attendance.

Where there were good games, there were fannies in the seats. For example, Georgia boasted 100 percent capacity at Sanford Stadium for its game with South Carolina. And the Bulldogs fans got their money's worth.

■ Could have included this in the first note, but the Bengals flat-out gave one away in their 24-21 loss at Chicago on Sunday.

Marvin Lewis' team turned it over three times. It was penalized eight times for 84 yards, the worst being when Rey Maualuga earned a silly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty just as the Bengals had stopped the Bears on a third-and-6 at the Bengals' 45 with about two minutes to play. The penalty allowed Chicago to run out the clock.

But there were a couple of more Bungles plays, as well.

A 49-yard Adam Jones punt return was brought back by an illegal block penalty. And despite a standout day in which he caught nine passes for 162 yards, A.J. Green let an Andy Dalton delivery go off his hands on the first series and right into the hands of Chicago's Charles Tillman at the Cincinnati 36. That set up Chicago's first touchdown.

If the Bengals are going to capitalize on the decline of Pittsburgh and Baltimore, they have to be more disciplined.

So what's the reason for all this sloppy football? Safety rules are surely playing a part. The number of allowed practices has been reduced in pro and college football. The pros do play four exhibitions, but the regulars rarely play in those pre-season games.

Hopefully, this Saturday, we'll start seeing a better brand of football.

John Clay: (859) 231-3226. Email: jclay@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @johnclayiv. Blog: johnclay.bloginky.com.

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