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30-Point Loss To Vandy A Serious Blow To UK’s Phillips; Defense The Biggest Issue

Did Rich Brooks get while the gettin’ was good, knowing that there were tough times ahead for Kentucky?  Or have most of Joker Phillips’ moves — getting rid of some of Brooks’ old assistants, for example — just been bad ones?

Either way, Phillips is captaining a ship that appears to be sinking.  Right after Brooks spent years raising it from the bottom of the Big Blue sea.

How bad have things gotten in the Bluegrass State?  John Clay of The Lexington Herald-Leader wrote this of the Wildcat football program this morning:

“With two games remaining in this 2011 season, it’s painfully obvious that the last two years under Rich Brooks, and probably even the first season under Phillips as head coach, Kentucky’s recruiting was not as advertised.

This is still a team bereft of playmakers on offense, that lacks stoppers on defense, that does not have the kind of difference-makers you need to compete, much less win in the SEC.

That being said, too many times in Phillips’ 23-game tenure as head coach, Kentucky has shown up flat and ill-prepared.  That’s the combination that produces performances indicative of poorly coached teams. 

It was striking on Saturday that Vanderbilt, playing under a first-year coach in James Franklin who had never been around the Commodores program until last spring, played with so much more energy and enthusiasm than did Kentucky, a team playing under a second-year head coach who served as an assistant at the same school the previous seven years.”

In Brooks’ final four seasons, the Cats finished 8-5, 8-5, 7-6 and 7-6.  Phillips’s first season ended at 6-7 and UK is currently 4-6 with games remaining against Georgia and Tennessee.

While the offense has gone into hibernation this fall without solid replacements for Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Mike Hartline, it’s the defense that’s been the cause of Kentucky’s greatest woes… under both Brooks and Phillips.

In 2006, the Cats gave up an average of 34.5 points per game to SEC foes.  That number dropped to 29.8 ppg in 2008.  It dropped again in 2009 to 27.8.  And from there it’s risen under Phillips — from 33.4 last season to a ridiculous 36.0 points per SEC contest this fall.

When your best work in a five-year span is holding SEC opponents to 27.8 points per game, you’re not going to win many contests.  The fact that the defense has gotten worse under Phillips’ leadership — by more than a touchdown per game in SEC play — stands as the biggest difference between Brooks’ Cats and Phillips’.

If he can’t turn that around next season — when defensive coordinator Rick Minter will be in his second season — Phillips likely won’t be back in Lexington for Year Four.


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