Here is a list of things that would make my day if they happened during the Kentucky vs. Norfolk State game.
1. Run blocking. Chalk it up to first game jitters, new starters or whatever, butt run blocking was a big disappointment against Louisville. To make matters worse for Saturday, Garry Williams had surgery to repair some torn cartilage in his knee and will be out for a few weeks. According to the sources I’ve seen, He should be back to speed during the bye week, which means he would be able to play against Alabama. Given the defensive domination of Alabama last week, Kentucky will need all the help they can get, and a healthy Williams will make a huge difference. Until then, Williams’ injury opens the door for the Cats’ younger tackles to get some playing time against weaker opponents.
2. Sweeps. I understand why Kentucky kept running up the gut against Louisville. It was hot, Kentucky had field position and the lead. It was a battle of attrition. It also didn’t get a lot of yardage. If the lanes were there for the backs to get to the outside against Louisville, they should be there against Norfolk State.
3. Derrick Locke and Alfonso Smith. Tony Dixon is good in short yardage situations, but he fumbles too much to be a lead back. Also, Dixon doesn’t have the breakaway speed that Locke and Smith possess. I’d love to see these guys get more carries, even though I understand why they don’t (Locke is small and Smith doesn’t pick up the blitz well). Hopefully they’ll get their chance on Saturday.
4. Enough of a passing game to keep the defense honest. Mike Hartline did pretty much all the right things on Sunday against Louisville. The one mistake, the safety, was more the fault of Joker Phillips than Hartline. He didn’t make many bad throws, but one was a surefire touchdown that sailed over the head of TC Drake. I think he got so excited that Drake was wide open over the middle that he just gunned it. Well, now that Mike has a college start in a rivalry game under his belt, he should be a little calmer during this game. If his receivers start catching balls, defenses won’t put eight in the box, and that’s when the running game will take over.
5. Continued excellence on defense. I couldn’t have been any prouder of a defensive unit than I was after the Louisville game. I have no idea when Kentucky last kept an offense from scoring. I know there was a shutout in 1998, but that was against Eastern Kentucky. The Kentucky defense wrapped up better than any UK defense I’ve ever seen, which isn’t saying much, but they did do an excellent job in that area. Hopefully Jeremy Jarmon will bust loose for some big plays, now that Myron Pryor has started to play out of his mind. If the UK front seven can control the line of scrimmage against Louisville, I’d like to think they can do it in the next three games.
6. Win the field position battle with special teams. This was the most surprising story of Saturday, even more surprising than the defense. Tim Masthay just killed kickoffs, especially the one after the safety. I think Louisville got to return one kick all day. Masthay and Ryan Tydlacka pinned Louisville deep in their own territory in the punting game. On the other side, Dicky Lyons Jr. had a couple of nice punt returns that set Kentucky up for scores. These simple plays win ballgames, especially in a league like the SEC where every team is so good on defense.
7. Win while avoiding major injury. Obviously injuries are part of football and are often unavoidable, so this might be wishful thinking. But it would make my day, which is why it’s on my list.
I’m Seth Stogsdill, and I hope Kentucky makes my day on Saturday.