Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen learned a big lesson back in 2021 the last time the Wildcats made the trip to Sanford Stadium. In a matchup against No. 1 Georgia and a stellar defense run by Kirby Smart and Dan Lanning, Coen’s unit was not aggressive enough.
The Wildcats will look to avoid those same mistakes on Saturday night “between the hedges”.
“I remember walking out of that game saying ‘man, the first 20 plays of the game I didn’t call aggressive enough’. Then we got a little bit more aggressive and were able to move the football and do some things,” Coen told reporters on Tuesday. “I think it’s definitely a balance and fine line, but we need to be aggressive. We need to give our kids an opportunity and a chance to go compete.”
Over the last four years, Kentucky has competed with Georgia. The Wildcats are on a 4-0 against-the-spread run against the Bulldogs and have only allowed more than 21 points once. Now it’s time for the offense to do its part and give this team a chance to land a monster divisional win.
“At the end of the day, it’s a game, and anything can happen,” said Coen. “The way that we practice this week and the way that we prepare, the way that we travel, the way that we approach this thing I think will tell a lot about where things are at on Saturday.”
“I do believe that there’s a real belief here.”
Fixing the passing game
There is no hiding from the fact that Kentucky’s passing game has underachieved through six games this season. Devin Leary has made some bad reads and inaccurate throws. Kentucky wideouts keep dropping very catchable passes. At this point, the throw-and-catch portion of the passing game is holding this offense back.
The offense is working to fix the problem.
“It’s a chemistry, it’s a connection. When you lead the country in drops it’s not really a good thing. I just talked to the guys about there’s 24 hours in a day. You’re at school, you’re eating, you’re doing things. Well, let’s get on the jugs. Let’s get some extra work in,” Coen told reporters. “We had a great throwing session last night after practice with a bunch of guys. I think they want to do it, but we have to do it.”
Kentucky is saying the right things, but the results are the results. Through 24 quarters of football, this passing game is leaving a lot of meat on the bone. To have a chance to beat Georgia, the Wildcats must get the throw game rolling.
“We have to fix it and we have to fix it in a hurry,” said Coen.
Kentucky is still working on execution
Football is a game of execution. For most of the season, Kentucky’s offensive execution has been lacking. The Wildcats have scored points this season thanks to some splash plays, but consistent execution is still needed.
In preparation for No. 1 Georgia, the offense is focusing on the small things.
“We’re just really focusing on the situational football. Every single phase of the offense. Every single phase of the game plan,” Coen said. “If we can execute that just a little bit better, that’s what we have to do in order to beat Georgia.
“We need to focus on ourselves and execute at a higher level. If we play as physical as we did with the same energy and juice then good things should happen.”
Kentucky believes that they are close to breaking through in a big way on offense. Will that occur on Saturday?
Kentucky has found its lost identity
Kentucky’s offense has had an identity under Mark Stoops. The Wildcats have been able to run the football and play good defense. The former went away last year. When Liam Coen was re-hired, the Wildcats went to find itself.
A top goal this offseason was to re-establish the run for the Wildcats. Through the first month of the season, this offseason has created chunk plays on the ground but failed to put together the type of efficient performances we’ve seen in the past where the Big Blue Wall dominated the line of scrimmage.
That finally occurred in Saturday’s win over Florida.
“That’s always kind of been what we were. Two years ago, that was kind of our identity was running the football and being physical. It’s what we stressed since we walked in the door here in January,” Coen said about the run game. “It was the No. 1 thing we were trying to get better at was being physical and dominating people in the run game. That was nice to see. It was good to see it happen.”
Repeating that performance against Georgia will be difficult. However, the standard has now been re-established in Lexington. Kentucky ranks No. 2 nationally in yards per rush (6.48) and has shown the ability to win with efficiency and explosiveness on the ground. That should lead to good things this season.
“The No. 1 thing we want to do is run the football and be physical and be violent,” Coen told reporters. “Establish the line of scrimmage. Hopefully, that can continue.”