WKU football blog: UK postgame

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Opportunities missed: 

Similar to the season opener at Indiana, Western Kentucky let several chances to swing the tide of the game slip through its fingers Saturday at Kentucky.

The first chance came early in the first quarter after senior Marcus Minor picked off a high pass from UK sophomore Mike Hartline and brought the ball down to the Wildcat 41. With the score at just 3-0 in favor of Kentucky, the opportunity to take the crowd out of the game and take its first lead against a BCS opponent this season was in WKU’s grasp.

But three offensive plays resulted in a loss of eight yards and the Hilltoppers were forced to punt the ball away.

After Tony Dixon’s one-yard run put the Wildcats up 10-0 early in the second, WKU was able to use a direct snap run from redshirt freshman Bobby Rainey to once again move into Kentucky territory — giving itself a great chance to get at least three points on the board. But once again, the next three plays resulted in a loss of yardage — minus three — and Jeremy Moore had to punt yet again. 

Perhaps the biggest missed chance of the game — and the one that most likely did WKU in — was after Tanner Siewert booted a career-long 50-yard field goal with just 3:07 to play in the half. As dreadful as WKU looked on offense in the first half, it was in prime position to go into the lockerroom only down a touchdown.

But UK sophomore Derrick Locke scrapped that when he went virtually untouched down the WKU sideline on the ensuing kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown. 

WKU didn’t do itself any favors defensively on the first drive of the second half, letting UK rip down the field in just six plays to go up 24-7 — but the Locke touchdown appeared to take any wind left out of the Hilltopper sails. 

On top of all that, WKU allowed UK to convert 7-of-13 third downs and failed to get one sack on a struggling young quarterback in Hartline. 

If there have been two themes this season for WKU, they’ve clearly been slow starts and missed chances — and those two themes have directly resulted in a 2-3 record and an 0-3 mark against BCS opponents.

Brooks defends Hartline:

Once again, UK quarterback Mike Hartline didn’t exactly light up the scoreboard or turn any heads with his play. 

But Wildcat coach Rich Brooks doesn’t seem to care about any of that, as his sophomore quarterback has yet to lose as a starter.

“Mike Hartline is 4-0 as a starting quarterback,” Brooks said. “He’s thrown one interception and I don’t know how many touchdowns, quite a few. He’s doing a really good job of handling situations — he made some mistakes out there tonight that he’ll continue to learn from.

“The great news is that we have a young quarterback learning while we win.”

Other notes from the UK sidelines: The Wildcats have won 13 consecutive non-conference games, the longest such streak since a 17-game stretch from 1954-1960. … The last time Kentucky started two consecutive seasons 4-0 was 1983-84. … Through four games this season, UK has yet to allow a rushing touchdown and dating back to last season, the WIldcats have scored at least 20 points in six straight games.

Topper tidbits: 

For the first time all season, WKU failed to get into the redzone for an entire game. … The 158 yards of total offense is exactly one yard less than the Hilltoppers gained in their 41-7 loss to their other 2008 SEC opponent — Alabama. The Hilltoppers averaged about 3.2 yards per play in both defeats. … The eight punts by WKU on Saturday was a season-high, as the team punted eight times during its opening week defeat at Indiana. … Saturday was the lowest penalized game all season for the Hilltoppers, as they committed just one infraction for 15 yards. … In three losses to BCS schools this season, WKU has allowed an average of 264.6 yards per game on the ground.

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