Vaught's Views: This time, Cardinals dominated

September 07, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LOUISVILLE - If this was supposed to be how the Kentucky offense would look like with a year to learn the system and a more mobile quarterback, then either the Louisville defense is one of the nation's best or Kentucky better think about junking its offense now.

Louisville D-O-M-I-N-A-T-E-D UK's offense. Don't look for any other word to use to describe how much better the Cardinals were in Sunday's 28-0 win.

Kentucky couldn't get to midfield the first half. When it finally reached the halfway mark of the second half, quarterback Shane Boyd threw an interception that the Cardinals returned for a touchdown. That made the score 14-0 and settled the game because Kentucky's offense could have played forever and never scored twice on the Cardinals.

"We didn't execute in all facets of the game. Up front. Quarterback. Receivers. Running back," said Kentucky offensive coordinator Ron Hudson. "We didn't dominate the line. We just did not play a good game. They got it done. We didn't."


How bad was it for UK? The Cats had just 66 yards rushing and only 172 yards passing. Even the passing total is misleading because 57 yards came on two meaningless plays in the final 11 seconds after Louisville had flaunted its dominance by taking a knee at the one-yard line rather than scoring again. Another 47 yards passing came the previous series. Take away those yards and UK had 66 yards rushing and 68 passing in the game's first 55 minutes.

Perhaps it was no real surprise the Cats were that bad. Boyd is a runner, not a passer. He was 14-for-34 throwing and while he was often under pressure, he did also miss open receivers at times just as he has most of his career.

The Cats' receivers were expected to be the team's strength. Not only did they have trouble getting open, but they also dropped some balls.

UK's inexperienced offensive line played that way. The Cardinals were able to blitz almost at will and worried about nothing except keeping Boyd from running outside.

Kentucky's running backs were slow and tentative. Louisville had at least three running backs that were far, far better than anyone UK had.

Louisville not only was more athletic than Kentucky at almost every position, but it was also far more physical.

"They are more athletic and they beat up on us," UK running back Arliss Beach said. "They have got good players. When a good team plays more physical, it makes them look even better. We've just got to be more physical. We got dominated. We've got to learn to play a whole lot better."

"We've got to get a mean streak," Kentucky defensive end Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns said. "They were just a lot more physical. We backed down at times. We missed tackles. We made bad plays. They are good, but we've got good athletes, too."

Kentucky has some good athletes, but not nearly enough based on how it looked Sunday. The Cardinals scored 28 points and were disappointed. Louisville tackle Travis Leffew, a former Boyle County standout, was disappointed in how the Cardinals performed even though they amassed 439 total yards, including 261 rushing, and averaged 6.3 yards per play against what was supposed to be an improved UK defense.

Kentucky's offense lacks direction

Louisville, though, has a plan. It seems to have a direction to its offense. Kentucky doesn't.

If Boyd is a running quarterback, shouldn't he have tried the option more than he did or perhaps tried rolling out and either passing or running? Boyd had nine carries, but most were not called runs.

Kentucky can't seem to determine what it wants to do offensively and was stymied by a Louisville defense that is supposed to be the Cardinals' weak link.

Hudson was a bit testy after Sunday's lopsided defeat when he was asked why fans should remain optimistic about UK's offense based on last year's 4-8 finish and Sunday's lack of production.

"They're fans. They're welcome to say anything they want," Hudson said. "If we're going to let the fans affect our players' attitude, and bring them down, then we're not doing our job.

"If you deal in the negative, they are going to play in the negative. This is a crushing blow to a lot of people. You can do two things - bow your head and walk around and mope or you can come back and try to compete and do things right."

You can also hope and pray that maybe, just maybe, Louisville is a lot better than any UK fan wants to admit. Sports Illustrated's website last week picked Louisville to be one of the nation's surprise team and predicted the Cardinals would win at Miami (Fla.). If the Hurricanes had UK's offense, the prediction would be a lock. But the Cardinals will face a far better, and more talented team, in that game.

However, when it comes to the Battle of the Bluegrass, Louisville is the dominant team. Moving the game to another week as some UK officials and coaches want won't change that, either. Louisville has won four of the last five matchups because it is better and Sunday's game only proved that the gap is widening, not closing, between the two rivals.

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