Script the Flipped: Kentucky Rolled by Mizzou’s Ball Control Philosophy


Phil Hoskins tackles a Missouri ball carrier.Image obtained from SEC Media Portal; no specific photographer found/listed.Filename 1024220_Kentucky_Hoskins.jpg

Braden Ramsey

Mark Stoops and Co. looked to be flying high coming off a historic victory a week ago, but the Cats were slowly and steadily grounded in their 20-10 loss to Missouri on Saturday afternoon.

The Tigers possessed the ball for 43:50, ran almost as many plays (92) as Kentucky had rushing yards (98), and gained 220 yards on the ground themselves. While the two schools were only separated by one possession the majority of the game, it never felt that close.

“Really difficult to put [that performance] into words, because it has been a while since we’ve been beaten like that,” Stoops said postgame. “They beat the tar out of us.”

“They beat us at our own game and did it decisively.”

Meanwhile, Kentucky’s “own game” didn’t make the trip to Columbia. Neither did offensive line coach John Schlarman, who has been battling stage four cholangiocarcinoma; a rare form of cancer that gets diagnosed in roughly 8,000 Americans per year according to the American Cancer Society. His absence certainly contributed to the team’s performance, but Stoops stated the team needed to respond to show their support.

“I’m sure it [played a role],” he said. “We missed him, but… we need to play in honor of him and play better for him. We didn’t do that today.”

Center Drake Jackson told reporters the team found out Schlarman wouldn’t be making the trip “a little later in the week.” He also said Schlarman typically helps the offense make their halftime adjustments, but that they “were able to make some… that provided a spark. We’d have liked to get there earlier.”

One of those sparks came in the form of Chris Rodriguez, who began Kentucky’s lone touchdown drive with three carries for 30 yards. He gained an additional yard on his next run, but never saw the field on the next drive, where the Cats had an opportunity to tie things up.

They ended up going three-and-out, not getting the ball back until Mizzou made it a two-possession game with an eight-minute, four-second drive. Rodriguez didn’t record a touch the remainder of the game.

He and A.J. Rose combined for only 14 rushing attempts despite averaging 6.5 yards per tote. Stoops was asked about the lack of carries for his horses after the game.

“That’s a fair criticism,” he said. “There were a couple missed reads… but [Missouri] had a nice plan.”

The defense clearly was hampered by the offense’s inability to sustain any semblance of production, but its ineffectiveness on third and fourth downs – the Tigers went 10-for-20 and 4-of-5 on them, respectively – advanced its demise.

“We let them mush us too long,” Stoops said. “When you’re not getting first downs*, it hurts your defense, but we were giving up way too many yards.”

“We couldn’t get off the field,” Yusuf Corker said. “If we don’t wanna be out there that long, we have to get off the field… it was very frustrating.”

Looking ahead to Georgia, the quarterback situation appears murky at best. Today was Joey Gatewood’s first appearance outside of garbage time, and while he led Kentucky’s field goal drive, he accounted for just eight of the possession’s 43 yards. Because of that, it looks like Terry Wilson will start versus the Bulldogs.

But he’s far from cemented. When asked about his plan at quarterback next Saturday, Stoops said two words: “Not sure.”

The Cats made a habit of forcing teams to flip through signal callers the past two weeks. Today, they made themselves the victim. They’ll have to sort things out quickly if they want to truly compete with the division’s top Dawgs seven days from now.