The Good, The Bad & The Ugly: UK-Missouri

J.D. Harmon

Kentucky freshman defensive back J.D. Harmon provided us with about the only highlights the Wildcats could find in an otherwise forgettable performance in their first trip to Missouri.

THE GOOD

Sweet Harmon-y: If Kentucky's season had a theme song, it would almost certainly be "The Freshmen" by 90s one-hit wonder The Verve Pipe. (Eerie bonus trivia: The band's first album was named "I Suffered A Head Injury." If there's ever been a band who summed up 2012 Wildcat football, it's these guys.) Anyway, I digress… J.D. Harmon, among the cast of thousands who have played as a freshman for the Cats this season, had a breakout game with seven tackles and the first two interceptions of his UK career. The former Paducah Tilghman standout equaled the defense's season total of picks on back to back plays early in the third quarter. Sadly, UK was unable to convert either one of the takeaways into points, and it was all downhill from there. But Harmon's play has to make you excited about his future at the corner position. Not bad for a player who almost didn't join the program, coming only as a preferred walk-on after the Cats ran out of available scholarships in his class.

THE BAD

If It Ain't Broke… : Of all the Bizarro World stuff that went down Saturday in Columbia, I'm still not sure I can believe the staff elected to insert Patrick Towles into the game at quarterback when it did. After its first two drives of the game, UK had 110 total yards and should have had two touchdowns on the board. (A fumble by Jonathan George at the Mizzou 10 on the first drive of the game wiped out a scoring opportunity.) The running game was eating up huge chucks of yards, and starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow had established some early confidence with a pair of nice completions to Demarco Robinson. Inexplicably, the Cats made the call to the bullpen for their third possession. The next two drives were three-and-out. Whatever momentum UK had early was completely gone, which makes the decision that much more baffling. The staff has bemoaned the fact that the Cats have gotten out of the gates slowly for two years running. Only last week did they break their 20-game streak of not scoring an offensive touchdown in the first quarter. Why would you make a change after finally seeing some first-quarter rhythm in your offense? I completely understand the rationale that you need to get Towles some snaps. Since he's healthy again and you've taken off the redshirt, you certainly want to commit to developing his game. But the timing could not have been worse, and it gave detractors another round of ammunition in the battle for a coaching change.

Losing Is One Thing, But… : … until Saturday, one could argue that most (if not all) of UK's losses came to better teams. You could not make that case with Mizzou. At least not the Tigers who showed up Saturday, the ones who appeared equally determined to hand the opponent a victory. (For a while, it was reminiscent of the South Park episode where the Little League teams both try to lose so they can stop playing that summer.) While UK's miscues directly led to 21 points for Mizzou, the Cats were only able to turn the Tigers' three turnovers into 3 points. Add in some untimely penalties and two botched field goal attempts, and you've got a strange 23-point loss that feels like UK maybe should have been in a position to win.

The Punt: Sounds like the title of an old Seinfeld episode, doesn't it? Perhaps the play that summed up the whole day from a UK perspective came midway through the third quarter with the outcome still hanging in the balance. Trailing only 17-10, the Cats were forced to punt from their own 15 yards line, a pretty dubious spot on the field where any number of bad things can go wrong. But freshman punter Landon Foster stepped up and hit one of his customary booming punts that traveled 55 yards and effectively "flipped the field" for the UK defense. Missouri, however, was called for a 5-yard running into the kicker penalty. Rather than declining the flag and being thrilled to have pushed the Tigers all the way back to their own 30, Joker Phillips shockingly accepted the penalty and had Foster punt again. This time, it traveled only 39 yards and was returned an extra 12 to set Mizzou up in great field position at the UK 47. The Tigers needed only a couple of plays to set up a field goal that effectively put the game out of reach (for UK's anemic offense) at 20-10. Again, more ammo. Speaking of Seinfeld, the staff may field it effective to take a note from poor ol' George Costanza and do "The Opposite."

THE UGLY

By The Numbers:

1.64: The yardage UK averaged on its final 42 snaps of the game. In other words, a quarterback sneak the final 42 plays would have produced roughly the same results.

6: The Cats put the ball on the ground six times, losing three fumbles and costing themselves a field goal on a mishandled long snap. Missouri turned all three fumbles into touchdowns.

9: Of Kentucky's 14 possessions in the game, nine of them ended after three plays or less. None of the final eight drives lasted longer than five plays, perhaps the worst stretch of offensive football since… ever?

9, Part II: UK opened a 9-point underdog to Vanderbilt next week. To Vandy. At home.

1-8: The Cats have not been in this territory since fielding a probation-ridden roster in 2004. Kentucky could be headed toward its first 1-win season since 1994. Does anyone feel overly-confident about defeating Samford in two weeks?

579-580-44: The loss gave UK Football its first all-time losing record since the end of the 1902 season when the Cats were 44-45.

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