Breaking Bad: 3 areas of improvement for UK football



With one abrupt sack, recovery and speeding run that resembled the roadrunner fleeing Wile E. Coyote, junior safety Martavius Neloms put UK on the fast track to a long-awaited victory Saturday against Jacksonville State.

Though the Cats may have looked formidable against that Ohio Valley Conference team, they will be back to the same difficult, SEC grind on Saturday when they take on Mississippi State this Saturday.

I’m not sure just because they won that it means all is well in the bluegrass again. The Cats still showed some areas of concern that a bigger opponent is going to take advantage of. See the South Carolina and Florida games for examples.

Much like those teams, Mississippi State has struggled compared to the level that the bar was set at during the preseason with their No. 20 ranking, so it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that UK head coach Joker Phillips’ UK squad could revenge last season’s loss.

Aside from my main areas of improvement below, the one thing that could boost the team’s confidence, getting them motivated to play such a game as Halloween approaches, would be the debut of the black uniforms to fulfill the dreams of the football team and the fans.

If that isn’t enough to have these Cats ready to go Saturday night, then they should improve in the following areas before taking on the Bulldogs.

1.    Run Defense

The Bulldogs rank 38th in rush yards and UK ranks toward the bottom of the rankings in rush defense, giving up an average of 205.7 yards per game. This past Saturday against Jacksonville State it was the running game that found success against UK, as Washaun Ealey had 120 yards on only 16 carries.

Meanwhile, the same South Carolina team that blew out the Cats found themselves pitted in a battle when they took on Mississippi State. The Bulldogs running game that combined for 131 yards added to the passing attack that helped outgain the Gamecocks on the day despite the 14-12 loss. With quarterback controversy already brewing in Starkville, it’s a safe bet that Dan Mullen’s team will seek out help from their running attack and defense to try and take down UK.

2.    Passing Hesitation and Consistency

Morgan Newton had one of his better passing games in quite a few weeks on Saturday; albeit 10 completions for 105 yards, he still had two great passes for touchdowns. Although, I found myself amazed at some of the passes the junior could complete and then completely bewildered on other occasions as to why he didn’t deliver a pass. Unless La’Rod King was somewhat open for a pass, it seemed Newton did want to deliver the pass, which is evident in the junior wide receiver having 84 of Newton’s 105 passing yards.

It may be his confidence lacking due to so many dropped passes by his wide receivers this season, but Newton must choose to put the ball in there and take a chance. Especially on the deep ball, as he for much of the time has had a beautiful spiral breaking through the air to his receivers.

3.    Wide Receivers

And that of course transitions to the receivers. We’ve been here and done this before. Simply put, help out your quarterback. Of his 10 completions, Newton had five of those by King, and three from his backfield in junior running back CoShik Williams and freshman fullback D.J. Warren. I must give credit to Matt Roark though in his ability to maintain possession on his two receptions. Both were tough and he held on, and has shown that he may be the only other option for Newton, but seems to remain in that category that Newton hesitates when going his way.

Of course, the lack of catches may have to do with the wide receivers being afraid of what their coach Tee Martin will do if they were to drop the ball. Following a practice on Oct. 19, La’Rod King said that it’s “just something you don’t want to do.” Whether they want to do it or not, to help the newly found running game, they must give some assistance or a victory against Mississippi State is in my mind doubtful.