Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: Team moving on from Southern Miss sting, UK explosive plays

▪  Let it go? Fans, radio show hosts, bloggers and maybe even mascots could all still be dwelling on Kentucky’s stunning collapse against Southern Miss on Saturday night, but Kentucky’s offensive coordinator said he’s over it and he believes the team is, too. “We’re moving on,” Eddie Gran said after Tuesday night’s practice. “We have to, especially in this league. … You’ve got to put it behind you there’s 12 more games left.” Gran went on to say the team is making it about them, not about the fans or about the opponent or anyone else who might still be mourning the loss. “We do that, we’ve got a chance to be a really good football team,” he said. The players on the offensive side of the ball seemed ready to go forward, too. “You can never say it’s gone, but we really just moved on,” QB Drew Barker said. “We know we lost, we know there’s nothing we can do to change it, so we might as well just not sit there and sulk about it.”

▪  Explosive plays: If there was one positive to take from the first game, it’s that Kentucky looked so good at times in the first half. It made dissecting film and looking forward a lot easier, coaches and players said. “We definitely had a lot of explosive plays and a lot of big plays in the first half,” said Barker of UK’s seven plays for 30-plus yards and four plays of 40 or more yards. “Watching the film, we just needed to make more of our opportunities.” Kentucky’s ability to strike quickly for big gains has Florida’s attention. “Obviously with the explosive plays, we’ve got to do a great job of getting off the field and shutting them down there,” Coach Jim McElwain said on Monday. Barker did lament that he was trying to make too much of a home run play when he was picked off in the second half. The UK signal caller said he learned from that. “Just don’t really force anything and just stick to the game plan, don’t try to be a hero or anything.”

▪  Maybe not too explosive: While Kentucky’s big plays were a big boost, the fact that the Cats’ longest scoring drive took just 2:04 put a lot of strain on the defense, which couldn’t get off the field and played 96 plays. While Coach Mark Stoops said you never want to not score, he said the quick outs wore on the defense. “Don’t take this out of context because I always wanna score points,” he said on Monday, “but if you look at our offense in the first half, we scored touchdowns with two-play drives so the defense is on the field, on the field, on the field.” Gran said the offense was taking what it was given in the first half, which equaled quick strikes. But he said the goal is to find a balance and convert. “When you’re not scoring and you go three-and-out, you can’t do that,” he said. “The emphasis on the run game will be the same every week. We’ve got to run the football to be successful, so that’s never going to change.”

▪  Less dancing: In his first return to a game since surgery on his elbow this offseason, Boom Williams impressed, averaging 7.2 yards per carry while gaining 94 yards on 13 runs. Williams said he was timid at first, but found his groove and forgot about the elbow once he got into the flow of the game. He also said the brace, which he will wear all season, helped him feel like the elbow was taken care of. Gran was pleased with Williams, too. “I thought he hit the holes a little bit better, didn’t dance around. He’s got to work on his protection and keep continuing to develop that. But I thought he didn’t dance as much and he hit it.”

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