Breaking bad: 3 areas of improvement for week 6

By Cody Porter

Well, it was another week and another loss for the Cats. Due to the opponent being No. 1 LSU, the areas of improvement from week five were minimal.

Turnovers, the emphasis of head coach Joker Phillips’ postgame press conference after UK’s loss to Florida, turned out better than even I would’ve thought against the exceptional Tigers defense. With the exception of a fumble at the hands of quarterback Max Smith that led to a LSU touchdown, the offense drastically reduced the opportunities for the Tigers to obtain a turnover.

While the score may have indicated otherwise, the UK defense played well. They gave up 14 points in each half, with seven of those 35 points coming off a fumble, as I’ve already pointed out.

Their points allowed are reflected by the inability of the offense to give the defense any help whatsoever, so in today’s Breaking Bad, the only improvements needed are geared toward the offense for the week-six game against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

1. Coaching/Play calling

Why the coaches do the things they do, I will never know. While I will let the UK offense down easy to an extent for their performance against the juggernaut-like LSU defense, the choices that led to the poor performance must be improved upon. Down 14-0 at the half, the Cats weren’t out of the game by any means, so why not do what I have suggested in opening up the offense? The Cats had nothing to lose in being the underdog against the nation’s top team. The opportunity was present to attempt to mix things up and try to score in a series of ways that LSU hadn’t studied on game tape. But what did the fans get? More runs on third and long that basically were a waving of the white flag, declaring that they were giving in. I thought after the Florida game that the idea had sunk in on Phillips, and UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders, that success would require a change of offense; obviously not. South Carolina will be starting an inexperienced quarterback on Saturday. If the defense can play up to its ability, then help from the offense could present UK with a second consecutive upset of Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks.

2. Offensive Line

The number 21. No, we’re not talking about blackjack. This is the number of sacks given up by the UK offensive line so far this season. That number also puts the Cats in 118th place in the football sub-division, tied with Akron, and one less sack than Pittsburgh’s 22. The ability to protect the quarterback must improve or the season will only get uglier, as may the health of the UK playmakers.  Morgan Newton completed six of his 20 passes against LSU. Some say that it was his fault this go around, and some still blame the receivers for not helping him. While I do agree with a little of both arguments, the lack of pressure by an opposing defense could help everyone else on the offense get into rhythm. This leads me to Phillips’ post-game comment. Phillips spoke of how Newton isn’t releasing the ball soon enough. If that’s the case, give him some help in the form of plays to open the offense up.

3. Confidence of Offense

In carrying over the comment from Phillips where he stated that Newton’s “brain (is) not firing quick enough,” it is hard to make plays when the ability to make a play is limited to few options on the field. The decision by Phillips and Sanders to start freshman quarterback Max Smith at the start of the second half may have been, in my opinion, the beginning of the end for the team this season. That type of move not only hurts the confidence of Newton, but also could hamper that of his teammates due to the coaches possibly not having faith in their leader.

In addition to that move, on Monday during his weekly press conference, Phillips spoke of preparing current red-shirt freshman quarterback Theltus “Bookie” Cobbins for some possible playing time, adding that the quarterback competition is always open.

Already feeling as if the fan base has the same lack of confidence in the offense, if the defense is the next in line, the support of fans and play of the defense could take a turn for the worst on the season.  The actions taken with Newton and his ability to run a no-huddle, freeing up the offense, could play a major impact in not only the remainder of the season, but also for Phillips’ and/or Sanders’ job statuses at season’s end.