In their first football game of 2020, and quarterback Terry Wilson’s first game in over a year, the Cats faced the daunting task of traveling to Jordan-Hare Stadium to take on Auburn.  Here are 16 thoughts on the Wildcats 29-13 loss to the Tigers. 

1. I can’t believe we fell for the ole “Swinging Gate” play. Auburn clearly had this planned to run whenever they scored their first TD of the game, and it worked to perfection.  I guess I should take it as a compliment that Auburn felt they needed to run trick plays against Kentucky to win the game. I have a feeling this one will be heavily dissected in the special teams meeting this week.

2. There was some incredible punting. Maybe it was just me, but I found it incredibly annoying each time Auburn’s QB, Bo Nix, did a pooch punt on 4th down.  One human-being should not be so talented at both throwing and kicking a football.  On the plus side, UK punter Max Duffy drilled a 75-yard punt in the 3rd quarter from the back of his own end zone, which was good enough to be the 3rd longest punt in the history of UK football.  And that ends what will probably be the longest paragraph ever written on this site about punting.

3. AJ Rose struggled running the ball, managing a merger 31 yards on 10 carries. He was a little more effective catching the ball out of the backfield. On a side note, are we calling him AJ Rose or Asim Rose?  The announcers referred to him as both names today, and I need some clarity.  Asim might be more fitting, as he, uh, seems to be losing his starting job to…

4. Kavosiey Smoke! The sophomore running back really seemed to enjoy being back in his home state of Alabama, averaging almost 9 yards a carry (7 rushes for 62 yards), including the first score of the game on a 35-yard scamper. Smoke was by far the most effective runner in blue and white, and should have earned himself a more prominent role in the offense moving forward.

5. Can someone please inform Terry Wilson that when the other team jumps offsides, it’s a FREE PLAY! Throw it DEEP!  Not once, but TWICE, in the first quarter an Auburn defender was offsides and Terry threw a little dink and dunk pass both times.  After the second one, the SEC Network announcers were wondering (aloud) why he didn’t try to connect on a long ball either time. 

6. The defense made some big stops to keep UK in this game, especially in the 2nd quarter when Auburn decided to go for it on 4th & 1, DeAndre Square made a HUGE tackle to stop D. J. Williams for no gain.  That was an NFL caliber play from Square.  The defense then forced a 3-and-out at the end of the quarter, that set up one of the most bizarre endings to a drive that I have ever seen…

7. The call by the referees to not give a touchdown to Chris Rodriguez on his plunge from the 1-yard line seemed questionable at best. In every camera angle shown, he appeared to not only have the ball across the goal-line, but had his entire body across the goal-line.

8. But it didn’t end there. The play went to a review.  All the announcers were saying this was an easy call, and that it should be a touchdown.  But the referees doubled-down and said “no soup for you, Mr. Rodriguez”.  I can only assume the TV monitors they were watching the review on were in black-and-white with rabbit ears. There is no excuse for missing that call.

9. But it didn’t end there. After a failed QB sneak by Terry Wilson, Eddie Gran decided that instead of utilizing the Big Blue Wall to pave the way for one of our 3-headed monsters at running back to punch this in, that it would be a good idea to run a pass play instead.  Maybe he should have consulted Pete Carroll before dialing that one up. Just like Carroll’s call in the end of Super Bowl XLIX, the pass was intercepted. 

10. But it didn’t end there. Not only was Wilson intercepted, but Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.  So instead of UK going into halftime with a 14-8 lead, they were now facing a 15-7 deficit.

11. But it didn’t end there. During the return, Auburn defensive end Derick Hall was flagged for targeting, which nullified the touchdown and making the halftime score Auburn-8, UK-7.

12. The decision by the referees to rule Chris Rodriguez down inside the 1-yard line, may be the worst call I can remember in a UK football game. The only other one that compares were the refs letting Florida run a play after the clock expired in the Swamp to beat the Cats in 2014.

13. Seth Williams was the difference in the game, and Kentucky had no answer for him. While only having 6 receptions, the Auburn wide receiver managed to turn them into 112 yards and 2 touchdowns.  On both TD’s, Williams skyed above UK corners to make incredible catches that no other player on the field could have made.  The dude is going to be playing on Sunday’s real soon.

14. Terry Wilson played OK, but made a few too many bad decisions for Kentucky to win a game of this caliber. Example 1:  The above referenced interception in the end zone; Example 2:  Throwing the ball away on a 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game; Example 3:  The backbreaking fumble in the 4th quarter that sealed the game for Auburn.

15. After the game, I still felt optimistic that this can be a great season for Kentucky. Terry made mistakes, but they are correctable.  The offensive line looked as good as advertised, clearing holes for the running backs and providing Terry with plenty of time in the pocket.  Not to mention Kentucky went on the road against a top-10 team, and won virtually every statistic that matters:  We had more first downs, more rushing yards, more passing yards, and dominated the time of possession.  That is how you win football games.

16. I felt less optimistic after seeing that our next 2 opponents, Ole Miss and Mississippi State, played out of their minds today. Lane Kiffen’s Rebels put up 35 points against Florida, and Mike Leach led the Bulldogs to a shocking upset at LSU, in which quarterback K.J. Costello threw for 623 yards and 5 touchdowns. When the schedule was announced these 2 games were penciled in as wins for the Cats, but after today I think one thing is clear.  There are no guaranteed wins on this schedule.  Stoops and company will have to bring their A game every single week to achieve the success we know they are capable of.