I started to re-watch the game but I don't know what I expected to see that I missed while watching live. A frustrating game that really wasn't really that bad. Sure, we lost the fourth straight year to our biggest rival. But I didn't really expect to win, and after those first two plays, I thought UK was going to score 250 points.
So let's go to the old standby gimmick, the post-game Report Card:
Randall Cobb: A Best player on the field, most important player to his team in the nation, Randall Cobb was the difference maker today. In addition to the one-handed catch, the un-touched touchdown run from the WildCobb formation and the key pass to get a first down on the first play of their game-clinching drive, Cobb also averaged 29.5 yards on kickoff returns. Really hope he jumps to the NFL (although I'm not sure what position he plays there) so we don't have to deal with him next year.
Mike Summers: A UK's offensive line helped paved the way for a sick 6.2 yard/per carry, which is warped a little by Cobb's 4 carries for 80 yards. But Derrick Locke averaged 4.5 yards per carry, and basically every time they handed it off, even if the play was defended well, they got 4, 5 or 6 yards with no problem. And when Hartline did drop back to pass, they only let pressure get on him a few times. True, the Cardinal defense played much better in the second half, but UK's running game set the tone.
Steve Kragthorpe: F- Seriously, how much damage can one man do? The talent just isn't there. We may have a worse record but a happier fanbase this year just because it is so clear Strong is almost starting from virtually nothing. I thought the defense was depleted, but the offense isn't much better. Our best offensive weapons are mostly in high school still, or new guys who are hurt. There's only so long you can blame your predecessor, but we are still squarely in that window.
Troy Pascley: D Ugh. The touchdown catch that was dropped was not a slam-dunk. The bubble screen was not a great throw and was well-covered so may not have resulted in anything. The bomb from Froman was underthrown and would have been a spectacular catch if he could have held on to it. The reverse was not well blocked. But the first down throw (after two great Powell runs and when we started getting some momentum going) that was just straight dropped was bad, and the senior picked a bad day to have both bad luck and a terrible game. Hopefully Bellamy is okay - that was a scary hit - but if he's not, hopefully Pascley shakes off today and rediscovers the talent of his earlier career.
Bilal Powell: B- The 80 yard TD was awesome. So much for SEC speed on the other side (more on that later). And before that, Powell had some good runs, but nothing spectacular. The fumble didn't hurt, but on the next series (the last offensive drive of the game), Powell wasn't in there for a couple critical plays on the other side of the 50. Blayne Donnell took his place, and while he had one good run, he also caught an outlet pass from Froman with all sorts of daylight in front of him - but he was so far towards the sideline he stepped out for basically no gain. No idea why Powell was sitting on that drive, but if it was because of the fumble, then just because UK didn't score doesn't mean that the fumble caused no harm. Overall, a good game and a spectacular 80-yard TD but we needed more on the rest of the plays from our best player to win today.
Adam Froman: C As much as Kragthorpe ruined us, Bobby Petrino did to a certain extent to: we were spoiled for a long time on stud quarterbacks, brilliant playcalling and execution allowing us to score at will. I wonder what Froman would have been like under Bobby Petrino? Would he have run the offense like Lefors? Or is his ceiling what we saw today? We'll never know. Some good throws, no huge mistakes (that I could tell), a little bit of scramble (for a mobile QB he only had 1 real carry), but nothing spectacular, and in fact almost limiting the offense because of his arm strength. He said in the paper we were trying to score on every play, but unless that plan includes the possibility that every run can be an 85 yard TD run.....Anyway, granted the Pascley-TD throw was good enough that it should have been a TD, and Pascley and Smith both dropped first down passes. And Froman isn't terrible, and maybe our standards are so high because of the Redman/Ragone/Lefors/Brohm run we had (and the offensive ability of John L. Smith and Bobby Petrino). But I really would not mind seeing Justin Burke try to throw the ball downfield a little more. If our QB isn't going to run the ball, why do we need a mobile QB without a great arm? 14/29, 127 yards, 1 INT is just not up to Louisville Quarterback Standards and, like with Powell, we need more from our quarterback to win games.
Overall Defense: D (first half) B (second half) I'm sure I wasn't the only one freaking out after those first two plays by UK. The rest of the first half wasn't much better - Cobb's huge TD run and a 10 play, 92 yard scoring drive that only had 1 third down, which resulted in a 17 yard pass. The second half, however, was pretty good. UK may have just started playing it safe, but holes that were there in the first half weren't there in the second half and the defense held them to just one field goal and no touchdowns after halftime. The defense didn't force any turnovers, but that's why Hartline was in there, because he takes care of the ball even if he's not doing anything spectacular.
The other interesting thing about the defense: the youth. True freshman Preston Brown, Marcus Smith and BJ Butler all saw pretty decent minutes, and it looked like Hakeem Smith (RS FR) and Shenard Holton (SO) played safety for most of the second half.
Doug Beaumont: A- Basically ignored in the first half, Doug caught some tough passes over the middle in the second half, including picking up huge first downs to give us a chance. Froman overthrew him in the endzone on that last drive. Would have been a pretty awesome first touchdown. As it is, I assume we'll have to wait for EKU game for his first.
Papa Johns Cardinal Stadium: A Love the addition, love the Norton Terrace, didn't get to see the PNC club but I'm sure I'd love it too.
New Intro Video: D- On paper, great idea. In execution - basically, the entire stadium was waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, and then that weird video with the 5'2'' guy in a football uniform, and the horses. Just a bad way to manage the pre-game excitement. And while the idea of the starting gate bell going off when the players run out is cool, the video had the horses racing and hitting the finish line, so it didn't make sense. And then you couldn't hear what charlie strong was saying in the video message. Overall, I really hope they get that fixed. It's not as bad as Coldplay was last year during timeouts, but it was pretty bad.
Kentucky Football: C+ Seriously, they've beaten us 4 years in a row, but they have another 6-6 or 7-5 season coming, and only because their OOC schedule is terrible and they drew both Mississippi's (one of which just lost to Jacksonville State) instead of Alabama or LSU from the SEC West. This isn't the year they beat South Carolina or Tennessee. They weren't that fast outside Cobb and Locke, and their defense has slipped from its high point of the last few years. In sum, they beat us today, but the 4 year run in which they beat us involved their best team in a generation beating our 6-6 team on a last second blown assignment, a 10-0 game that turned into 27-2 late, barely beating us at home last year with one of our worst teams in a decade, and then holding on today and "not losing" against the lowest talent UofL will have in awhile. Not exactly domination, mainly just taking advantage of Kragthorpe.
I'm sure I'm leaving out things/people/ideas but this is a simple thing: the cupboard is bare, the team played hard, UK did enough to win, and now we have to wait another year to get our crack at Kentucky. I'm sure Charlie Strong is already thinking about it.