Kentucky ended its 17-game winless streak against SEC opponents this afternoon, but it wasn't a pretty game unless you like your football with solid defense and a heaping side of inept offense. The score entering halftime was UK 17-7, and it wasn't really even that close at the time. If Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles doesn't throw a pick-six inside the UK 20-yard line, Vandy wouldn't have gotten on the scoreboard.
Kentucky's defense clearly outshined its offense today. Vanderbilt finished 2-for-12 on third downs, and appeared outmatched in the trenches and on the perimeter. UK would also hold Vandy to 139 total yards -- its lowest this season. The Wildcats forced three turnovers, had five tackles for loss and sacked freshman quarterback Wade Freebeck four times. Freeback took several other hits, and he seemed increasingly off his game as the body blows piled up. Kentucky can at least take pride in its defensive effort today.
Kentucky's offense, on the other hand, tallied 384 yards today, but little of it was pretty outside of the first half. Towles started sharp, completing his first 11 passes, and completed passes to 11 different receivers. Then the play-calling became conservative in the second half. When UK played Ohio in the second week of this season, the game played out in a similar manner. Get a comfortable lead, rely on the defense, and be content with heavy doses of inside zone plays and the Wildcat package. Towles finished the game 23-for-30 for 201 yards and one pick -- his fourth of the season.
Vanderbilt returns to Nashville with another loss on its hands and systemic offensive woes. UK exploited a young quarterback today with its blitz packages, and the Commodores' run game was largely ineffective outside of one or two drives. UK turned the ball over in its own territory three times, but only once was Vanderbilt able to put points on the board.
On the positive side, one can see improvement on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary miscues that were apparent against Carolina were not readily apparent in Lexington. Darius Sims is a legitimate play-maker, and Caleb Azubike is a force on the defensive line. The offense, though, needs shoring up before Vanderbilt can reliably knock-off higher-ranked teams.