UK passing game still in search of consistency

By Cody Porter

The Cats, behind the power of the big play, were able to pull through in the second half and defeat Central Michigan 27-13.

Despite the win, the story remained the same for UK; first half struggles for the offense came in the form of dropped passes although Morgan Newton was often putting the ball and receivers in good positions to meet each other.

Fittingly, one of the team’s warm-up songs is No Hands by rapper Waka Flocka Flame.

The lyric, “look ma, no hands” is what I feel the receivers have been repeating to themselves upon dropping passes as the cameras zoom in on them.

In a play that could have helped put momentum on the side of the Cats early on, Matt Roark caught and then dropped a touchdown pass in the first quarter.

At the play’s conclusion, both the fans and coaching staff thought they had scored a touchdown.

Wide receivers coach Tee Martin said that he thought Roark had scored until Joker sent out the special teams unit.

After having dropped a few passes early on, La’Rod King came up big when he hauled in two big receptions, plays that seemed to get the junior in sync with his quarterback during game speed.

The first of King’s big plays was a miraculous 46-yard catch behind the back of the Central Michigan defensive back and the second a wide open 34-yard touchdown reception. He went on to tie a career high in receptions with five and post a career-high 100 receiving yards in the win.

“It took a while to get our chemistry down. Once we made a play and got our composure, we started to relax,” said King.

As the game progressed, the opportunity to get unproven receivers in the game were scarce due to the success found with the running game.

When asked if there were any of his players that he would have liked to see the field more, Tee Martin said that E.J. Fields was one that he wanted to have the opportunity to see on the field, but with the team often playing only two or three sets, the chance didn’t present itself.

Joker Phillips shared the same sentiment when he said, “Those two guys (Demarco Robinson & Aaron Boyd) deserved to play, especially when the other guys aren’t making the plays.”

While many are still on the search for a second receiver, Aaron Boyd was finally freed.

The redshirt junior had his first catch since 2008 on a five-yard reception during the second quarter.

Freshman wide receiver Demarco Robinson seemed to have carried over the bad juju when he muffed a punt that led to a short gain, once again setting up the Cats with bad field position.

When it came to Newton’s ability to get the ball to the receivers, Phillips was pleased with Newton’s passing downfield, but the receivers have to catch it.

“I think he’s throwing the deep ball as good as anybody we’ve had here throw the deep ball.  We have to continue to do that.  Say you throw five deep balls, you hit it on three, that’s 21 points, a huge game‑altering play.”

With the ability to make the big play, Newton’s struggles, along with the receivers, is their connection on the short game.

“He’s got to make some of the throws that he’s missing.  We had some real easy, simple throws for him,” Phillips said. “We got to create some easy throws early.  He’s struggled a little bit to complete passes underneath.“

By the time the fourth quarter came around, the running game became the obvious answer for the team to move the ball.

Even with only a seven-point lead, Newton only attempted one pass in the fourth quarter.

When the receivers were being shut down, Newton seemed more comfortable keeping the ball in his hands and moving the ball on the ground, which in addition to the effort by running backs Josh Clemons and Raymond Sanders, proved to be effective.

Upon heading into the Governor’s Cup against the Louisville Cardinals one thing is clear: the running game is the key to success, but with a good running game comes the gift of freeing up the receivers.

The Cats need someone other than La’Rod King to be able to step up and catch the big pass when it comes their way. If this can be done, then the hopeful preseason predictions could come true.