It turned out to be the best of both worlds for Joker Phillips in his head-coaching debut.
First and foremost he got a win, as Kentucky held on for a 23-16 victory at Louisville on Saturday.
But there were also enough holes in the Wildcats' performance that Phillips will be able to stay on the team's case leading up to Saturday's home opener with Western Kentucky.
After a red-hot start gave Kentucky a 20-3 lead early in the second quarter, the Cats shot themselves in the foot with costly penalties that denied them a chance to put the game away.
Digital Access For Only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
"The best time to have great teaching points is when you win and also don't play exceptionally well," Phillips said. "We played good at times, really good at times, but we had a little lull in there. That gives a chance to teach. If you lose games like that sometimes you've got to love 'em up. But since they feel good about themselves, we can get after them more (Sunday) and get our point across better."
Phillips was pleased with how the Cats started the game, but next time they're in that position he wants them to deliver the knockout blow.
"We've got to finish," Phillips said. "We came out really fast and set the tempo that we talked about. We took the ball so we could get some points and keep the pressure on. We've got to understand how to keep the pressure on. We've got to understand how to put teams away, especially when you get into the meat of our schedule."
Leading 23-13 in the fourth quarter, UK drove to the Louisville 3-yard line with a chance to go up 17. But Chandler Burden was whistled for a false start that pushed UK back to the 8, and then Ryan Tydlacka pushed a 25-yard field-goal attempt wide right.
On Louisville's ensuing drive, the Cats appeared to hold when an Adam Froman fourth-and-17 pass from the UK 37 fell incomplete. But Ridge Wilson was penalized for a late hit on Froman, and U of L went on to kick a short field goal to pull within seven.
Another area of concern is special teams. In addition to the missed field goal, Tydlacka also misfired on an extra point, Randall Cobb muffed a punt and UK allowed U of L 119 return yards.
Phillips said he will keep the field goal/PAT competition open between Tydlacka and freshman Joe Mansour, who was named National Kickoff Specialist of the Week after three of his five kickoffs went for touchbacks.
"When you've got a young guy as talented as Joe, you've got to have competition," he said. "At any day the light could click on with him and he could be an outstanding kicker for rest of his career here."
Phillips said his team made it through the Louisville game without any major injuries.
Crawford suspendedfor Western game
Junior defensive tackle Mark Crawford has been suspended for Saturday's game against Western Kentucky for a violation of team rules. Crawford had two tackles off the bench against Louisville.
Phillips said freshman Donte Rumph and senior Shane McCord will share most of the snaps Crawford would have gotten behind starters Ricky Lumpkin and Luke McDermott.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Rumph played a handful of plays against Louisville.
"I thought he created a push inside with his big presence," Phillips said of Rumph. "McCord didn't play as consistent as we expected, but we'll need him with the absence of Crawford."
Ticket office openon Monday
The UK ticket office will be open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Labor Day. Tickets for the Western Kentucky game and season tickets will be on sale.
The Kentucky Bashon Friday
The Kentucky Bash will take place Friday, Sept. 10 at 6 p.m. at Donamire Farm. The event benefits Cardinal Hill Hospital and features a cocktail dinner buffet, specialty auctions and a bourbon and wine tasting. For reservations call 859-254-5701 ext. 5602 or go to www.cardinalhill.org