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Content by MICHAEL WILLIS & Photo by ESTILL ROBINSON – Sports View America …
Kentucky’s loss last season to the Volunteers in Knoxville left a bad taste in the Big Blue Nation’s mouth for a full season. Tonight’s matchup came at the perfect time. Having a bye last week gave the Wildcats team a week to prepare to try to ensure that history wouldn’t repeat itself.
Tennessee’s season started with two terrible losses against Georgia State and BYU. Many folks, including myself, thought that they were going to have a terrible season. However, they have been playing well as of late and beat South Carolina in a blow-out two weeks ago. Both teams have 4 wins on the season and this game was a battle to see who would be one win from bowl eligibility.
From the start of the of the game you could tell that Kentucky had worked hard on a game plan over the week off. The Cats scored a touchdown on their first possession on a drive that lasted a whopping 10:18. The Wildcats then forced a Tennessee three and out and blocked the fourth down punt. Kavosiey Smoke scored on a 22-yard run that put Kentucky up 13-0 after Chance Poore’s extra point was blocked.
The Cats played well the rest of the first half, only giving up a field goal to hold the lead 13-3. Out of the 30 minutes of game time, Kentucky had the ball for 21:26. The defense forced 3 three and out stops and gave up only 6 total yards in the first quarter.
The Volunteers came out of the locker room ready to play. The scored a touchdown on their first possession on a 17-yard pass from Jarrett Guarantano to Marquez Callaway. Tennessee then forced the Wildcats to punt on the Cats’ next possession setting them up to take the lead on a touchdown pass to Josh Palmer. Tennessee took a 17- to 13 lead into the 4th quarter.
The game came down to the final minutes and Kentucky had the ball on the Vol’s 2-yard line on third down. The Wildcats were unable to score on their last two remaining plays and the Volunteers once again stole the win.
This loss lies in the hands of the coaches. Without a passing attack the running game dwindled to small yardage plays. In the post-game press conference Mark Stoops stated that Sawyer Smith was healthy and ready to play, but they decided not to use him. Kentucky only passed the ball 5 times and only had 13 passing yards. Tennessee stacked the box and had no problem stopping the run. Smith could’ve kept the defense honest and opened the running lanes.
The other questionable coaching decision was the call to not use a quarterback sneak on 1.5-yard line with two plays left to punch it in. Both of the plays the Cats lined up in shotgun and lost yardage. Putting A.J. Rose behind center and trying to gain only 1.5 yards seems like the better call.
After the loss Kentucky has painted itself into a corner. They need to win two of the last three remaining game to get to six wins and be bowl eligible. The Wildcats next game will be on the road against Vanderbilt at 3:30.