WMD's Armchair QB: Big Finish Edition

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Dawgs Defense Finishes Strong in Close One

Peeps, it's always nice to get that first SEC win. It was a little dicey, but in the end, we found a way to win. On to the observations:

Defense:

1. Overall, I was really pleased with the defense. We held UK to under 350 yards of total offense. That's a good day's work in the offensive explosion era of college football. The only big negative was the 4th down conversions we gave up. But that's something that can be fixed. If you hold a team to 20 offensive points, that's good enough to win a lot of games from the defensive perspective.

2. Didn't see as much pressure from the front 7 as I'd have liked, but a lot of that had to do with UK's game plan. They got the ball out of the QB's hands very quickly in order to negate the pass rush and trusted their skill guys to make yards after the catch. But when we had to have it, the front 7 stepped up and stopped UK on the final drive.

3. Kendrick Market gets a special shoutout. I've been saying for a year this kid has a tremendous football IQ and instincts. He's not the most athletic, fastest, biggest, etc. But he's almost always in the right place at the right time and makes big plays. He saved the game by making a tackle to keep UK's RB from breaking it to the house. And I was surprised he dropped the pick on UK's last 4th down.

4. Nickoe Whitley: I've said for over a year that Nickoe has a football IQ of zero. After last night, I'm convinced his real life IQ is about the same. You've got to control your emotions. Throwing punches is unacceptable, period. Shoutout to the refs for ejecting him, because you really did us a favor. Please let Nickoe be riding the bench for SCar next weekend.

5. I continue to be impressed with Preston Smith. The guy is everywhere. Very good football player.

6. Props to Denico Autry on his first sack of the season. Couldn't have come at a better time.

7. I thought our secondary showed some improvement last night. A healthy Jamerson Love goes a long way for this unit. His pass defense on UK's shot to the endzone in the 1st Quarter couldn't have been played any better. Will Redmond is clearly a big edition to this unit, too. He had several nice plays. If this unit continues to improve, we're going to be a very tough team to score on.

8. Chris Jones is a man-child. When we need it most, he splits a double team and devours the UK QB. He might wind up  being the best to ever put on Maroon and White.

9. I'm still concerned about our tackling. We missed several tackles last night that should have been made. But as I say every week, it's an epidemic that isn't just limited to us. I see it in virtually every game of every level of football now. Tackling is becoming a lost art and is a reason why offenses are exploding for insane numbers.

10. Also concerned that we continue to give up points at the end of the half. I think part of it is having such a young team, but that has to be fixed ASAP. Can't do that against good teams and win.

Special Teams:

1. Return game was largely a non-factor. Give UK's kicker & punter some credit for good hang time all night. But Tubby almost got loose for a big return late.

2. Devon Bell: Just when I thought he couldn't get worse.....he does. Seriously, why is he even on the team, much less on scholarship? The dropped punt and safety was beyond awful. And does anyone expect him to make a FG now, much less one that's nearly 50 yards? Mullen deserves every ounce of criticism he receives for continuing to play the statistically worst kicker in the nation. Sobiesk literally could not be worse.

Offense:

1. Offense had a good gameplan. We came out and ran the ball well. Scoring on our first two possessions was huge.

2. I HATED the switch to Russell on the 3rd possession of the game. Dak has marched us the length of the field twice. So of course that means it's time to switch QBs and screw up the whole rhythm of the offense. I know Mullen promised TR the 3rd drive, but you can't switch QBs like that. As long as Dak is ending drives in TDs, leave him in there. We had a chance to go for the kill early and blew it with this stupid switch.

3. This is clearly Dak Prescott's team and offense. His Houdini act to break tackles then find Malcolm Johnson on the busted scramble play was huge. Nice to see us finally hit a play like that. Dak is also a beast to bring down, particularly in short yardage. His mechanics make him a little bit inconsistent passing, but it's something we can live with because of the big play potential he brings.

4. Speaking of MoJo, his drops were killer. You can't have 3 drops as bad as he had last night. Honestly, I've been very disappointed with him so far this year. He's got to clean it up, because he's one of the biggest mismatch weapons we have.

5. We got too cute in the second half. We'd had success early by running the ball on early downs and then taking our shots in the passing game. So the first two drives of the second half we come out slinging it around the yard. On the 3rd drive, we went back to what worked: running the ball on 1st down and then taking our shots. Suddenly the offense started moving the ball again.

6. Loved seeing the offense get the ball and immediately march downfield for a momentum-killing TD after UK kicked the FG to cut it to 2. That's the kind of killer instinct we've been lacking on offense for a while.

7. I also really enjoyed the long drive we put together with 5 minutes left to go in the game. We ate up a lot of the clock and got ourselves into scoring position, if we had a kicker.

8. Dak took a couple of bad sacks, but a lot of it is on our offensive scheme. We have almost no checkdowns, safety valves, or quick underneath hot routes to get the ball out of our QBs hands quickly. When the blitz comes, those guys are just screwed. That's something that needs to be addressed in the offseason when we review the playbook.

9. Jameon Lewis continues to show why he's becoming one of the best WRs in the SEC. His moves have moves. For the second time this season he rushes, catches, and throws for a TD in the same game. But doing it against an SEC team is ridiculous.

10. Robert Johnson stepped up last night. He got a lot of YAC and was very physical with the ball in his hands. It was nice to see.

11. We used all 4 of our TEs effectively last night. MoJo had the homerun play. Rufus Warren had a big catch. Brandon Hill was solid as usual. And Artimas Samuel had a really nice catch. Good overall job by this unit.

12. I was very, very impressed with Jamaal Clayborn. He looked really good, especially for a true freshman. He got good push in the run game and was solid in pass protection. I also liked how athletic he looked when he was the pulling guard. UK's DLine is pretty good, so playing that well against them was a very encouraging sign. The future is bright for this kid.

13. Nice night for the RBs, but can we PLEASE use JRob and/or Shumpert at the end of games? How many times do we have to watch Perk get stuffed trying to run between the tackles before we try something different?

14. Continue to love the use of Nick Griffin as a FB. If anyone has earned a way onto the field, it's Griff. And was it just me, or did he look like he had a little more explosiveness last night?

15. Over 450 yards of total offense again last night. We're on pace to have the best offense in school history. The thing I loved most was that we were 10-18 on 3rd down conversions. That's a gigantic improvement from early in the season.

16. I really like the no huddle we use with Dak. We need to see more of that.

17. You all know how I feel about pre-snap penalties by now. Too many of them aGAIN last night. We're killing too many drives with false starts and illegal procedure.

Coaching & Miscellaneous:

1. Dan gets an F just because of Devon Bell. You can't keep running the worst kicker in the nation out there. I don't care if he looks like Morten Andersen in practice, because he's not making kicks in games. And then you even expand his role because he supposedly punted better than Swedenburg in practice? It's asinine. Swedenburg is the best punter in the nation. You don't reduce his role unless he's hurt.

2. Our second half struggles last night weren't so much UK adjusting to us as it was us stopping ourselves. Look at offensive point 5. Keep doing what works until they stop it.

3. Mark Stoops has UK playing hard. They don't have a ton of talent, especially on offense, but they're giving it everything they've got. Their DLine and RB are both actually pretty good. If they had a QB, they'd be dangerous.

4. Nice to see our young guys gut out a close SEC win. That's part of the learning curve when you only have a handful of seniors on the roster.

5. Our student section is pathetic. I know it was fall break, but their turnout was abysmal. Thursday night nationally televised game and the student section is barely half full. Absolute embarrassment to the university. I was at State during The Kang's last season and the Croom Error, and my crew sat through every second of every awful game. We'd have killed for a winning team and coach as good as Mullen. I haven't complained about them before, but I'm complaining now. I hope the student ticket allotment gets cut next season. There's just no excuse for not showing up last night.

That's how I saw it. As always, feel free to discuss.

In Mullen We Trust,

WMD

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