In the not-so-far-away history of this Kentucky football team, an overtime loss where the defense had a dominant performance and the offense couldn’t move the ball across midfield, lines would be drawn.
“If this was previous years, there’s finger pointing, dudes in corners,” Kash Daniel said on Saturday night after No. 13 UK’s defense gave the Cats a chance to win at Texas A&M. But the offense couldn’t close the deal, and UK fell to the Aggies 20-14 in overtime at Kyle Field.
“We’re not blaming anybody. We win as a team; we lose as a team. That shows you how this organization has grown. There’s no blame game.”
Maybe there’s no blame, but the Aggies exposed just how much work the Cats have to do on offense.
“Our defense was outstanding,” Coach Jimbo Fisher said of the Aggies, who allowed just 41 yards on the final 33 plays after the previously unbeaten Cats grabbed a 7-0 lead on a 54-yard Lynn Bowden touchdown.
“I think they gave up 112 yards in the first quarter and then after that, they basically shut (Kentucky) out.”
The goal was to put pressure on the Cats’ Terry Wilson, which Texas A&M did on the regular, sacking the quarterback six times and holding him to just 54 yards beyond that Bowden pass.
“They did a nice job of affecting the quarterback and that is with coverage and push in the pocket,” Coach Mark Stoops said after the loss ended UK’s five-game win streak to start this season. “He was not comfortable all night. That’s on everybody, not just on him.”
His lack of comfort was most apparent on the final offensive play of the night when instead of making the play on third-and-2 in overtime, Wilson was sacked for an 8-yard loss. The Cats struggled on third down all night, completing just two of 13 attempts.
“Just got to get the ball out faster. That’s on me,” Wilson said. “I just can’t take a sack on third-and-2.”
The sack ultimately set up a 43-yard field goal attempt for kicker Miles Butler, whose kick wobbled its way toward the uprights before clanking off the crossbar.
“It was right on his range,” Stoops said of Butler, a former walk-on. “I had faith in him to get it done. He hit a good kick. He missed it by what, half yard? He didn’t quite hit it like he can.”
Texas A&M got the scoring it needed in the overtime in front of 99,829 at Kyle Field on Saturday night via a Trayveon Williams 10-yard touchdown run to end it.
The junior running back had 138 yards and a touchdown in the victory. He also caught six passes for 72 yards from Kellon Mond, who completed 18 of 29 pass attempts for 226 yards.
In all, the Aggies gained 390 yards on offense and held Kentucky to 178 yards of total offense. Texas A&M’s defense, which came into the game allowing a league-low 85 yards on the ground held UK to 70 total yards, including 60 for Benny Snell.
Kentucky (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) punted on seven straight drives and six of those were three-and-outs.
“We were beating ourselves,” Snell said. “Penalties, just didn’t click as an offense.”
And even though the Cats said there’s no blame game, Snell was frustrated that the UK offense didn’t rise up to meet the defense
“They were amazing,” Snell said. “They stepped it up so much. From where we were as a team before to where we are now, I’ve never been this proud of the defense.”
The biggest moment of the night for the Cats’ defense was came courtesy of safety Darius West, who scooped up a forced fumble by Derrick Baity and took it back 40 yards to even the score 14-14 with 4:17 to play and the game looking completely out of reach.
The Aggies (4-2, 2-1) had gone up 14-7 early in the fourth quarter when Mond found tight end Jace Sternberger for a 45-yard pass. Mond had evened things up late in the first half when he hit Quartney Davis with a three-yard pass.
West led the Kentucky defense with 10 tackles and the fumble recovery as well as an interception. Fellow senior safety Mike Edwards added nine tackles. True freshman DeAndre Square added six tackles and a quarterback hurry.
“To get the strip and get the touchdown was a huge play,” Stoops said of West. “Couldn’t be more proud of the defense, to play and hang in there as long as they did. … They were playing really good and we couldn’t get much done offensively.”
Kentucky has a bye week to regroup before meeting Vanderbilt on Oct. 20. There are some things on offense that the Cats know they need to figure out between now and then.
“We’ll find a way to get better in the bye week,” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. “Coaches, players. This is a strong group. This is a great football team. I wish I’d have done a better job, and that’s my job the next two weeks to find out, not to put them in this position again.”
There are a lot of bumps and bruises that will have time to heal up as Kentucky prepares for its final six games of the regular season.
And there’s still plenty to play for after that as long as the Cats stay unified.
“We have good leadership on this team,” Stoops said. “We’re going to hit the reset button here and look at things we did successfully to get it to 5-1 and we’ll look at the things we need to improve and work on those things.”