Confidence in predicting wins, losses, and production has been thrown out the Big Blue window following Kentucky’s six most recent quarters. I truly have a hard time believing this team is that bad and hold out hope for a turnaround performance. Here’s how the Cats win on Saturday:
Flip the Script
-- Kentucky surrendered 564 total yards off 83 plays a week ago against Florida. UK needs to accumulate 500 yards--40 plus points for a comprehensive and convincing win over New Mexico State. Furthermore, it will need to limit the Aggies to less than 400 total yards while forcing 3 turnovers on defense. Kentucky would greatly benefit from flipping the statistical script in its favor in order to rid itself of the bad taste that’s accumulated over two losses.
More Jordan Jones
-NMSU is coached by a Jerry Claiborne disciple, Doug Martin. Several “Claiborne Guys” come back to Lexington for home games but Saturday is special as they welcome home an old teammate. This week’s conversations with the middle aged Wildcat lettermen have centered around one player, LB Jordan Jones. The majority of discussions have referenced his effort, physical play, and relentless desire to compete on every snap. One former Cat eloquently said it best, “Of the eleven players on the field, at least 6 need to play like Jordan Jones. If this team ever gets all 11 playing like Jordan, look out.” Makes sense. I actually stole that line on for the KSR Football Podcast; sorry unnamed bro.
Kentucky will not win SEC or high level non-conference football games with superior talent. It should however strive to overachieve and play sixty minutes of football as if it was their last. Or, like Jordan Jones.
Rush for over 200 yards
-- UK’s run-game season totals: 59 rushes for 190 yards. This stat is shocking as Eddie Gran’s offense is based on a strong and determined ground game. 3.2 yards per carry will spell doom if sustained over the next ten football games. Many factors have led to substandard production. Lack of line-of-scrimmage (LOS) establishment is and will always be factor number one. Run game ineffectiveness will continue to falter until a consistent LOS push is established.
-- Another surprising revelation has been the lack of carries for the supposed five-deep running back rotation. Boom Williams and JoJo Kemp are the only two RB’s that have registered rushing attempts in 2016. A low number of offensive snaps has limited touches for Mikel Horton, Sihiem King, and Benny Snell. The Wildcats are averaging 49 offensive plays per game. Sustaining prolonged drives should be a high priority on Saturday.
Five Explosion Plays
-- Interceptions, forced fumbles, QB sacks, and tackles for loss are considered explosive defensive plays. The lack thereof has plagued throughout its last six quarters.
-- An obvious game-key to write about in this segment would have been stopping or slowing the NMSU running game. But, I don’t see that as being a realistic or consistent goal for the remainder of the schedule. An attacking, fundamentally sound, and intelligent risk-taking defensive scheme may be the only way to circumvent front seven deficiencies. Just imagine the Air Raid in reverse. So what does an explosive defense look like? See Jordan Jones reference above.
-- Kicker Austin MacGinniss is 0-2 on FG attempts. Getting the once All SEC performer back on track is vital.
-- Kentucky’s special team’s return for touchdown streak could end on Saturday. No data supports this claim, just call it a hunch.
Kentucky is a 19-point favorite on Saturday. The Wildcats need to flip the Florida script against New Mexico State by winning in dominant and unquestionable fashion.