Well, that stunk. Kentucky turned in its most disappointing loss of the football season on Saturday, dropping a very winnable game to South Carolina 17-14. The ‘Cats are now 1-5 in their last six games after starting the season 5-0, including a win over Florida.
Typically teams improve over the season, however, this Kentucky squad has seemingly regressed. The upbeat, positive, confident vibes we saw at the start of the season have also devolved into public complaints, most notably from Ray Davis who voiced displeasure over his 12 carries against the Gamecocks, despite reeling off a long touchdown and averaging 5.1 yards per attempt.
The defense played better than the offense, but their inability to get stops on third and long continued to haunt Brad White’s unit. Some players made great plays, but overall, it was an extremely frustrating day all the way around.
Let’s see what the analytics guys over at PFF had to say about players’ individual performances and see if they line up with what the naked eye told us.
Spoiler alert: they do.
Ramon Jefferson turned in his best game of the season
7th-year senior, Ramon Jefferson, maximized his nine snaps on the day, turning six rushes into 50 yards on the ground. He topped all offensive players with a grade of 77.4. Most of Big Blue Nation would agree that they are extremely happy for Jefferson while also acknowledging that if the team’s third-string running back graded out as the team’s best player, that doesn’t set up well for a win.
The disgruntled Ray Davis finished with a grade of 72.2, good for third on the offense. These numbers would suggest the rushing game was working for the ‘Cats, yet Liam Coen seemed insistent on making the passing game work, as the team finished the day with a 38-23 pass-to-run play call ratio.
This split was especially concerning considering Devin Leary‘s struggles. Leary finished with his worst PFF grade of the season, coming in at 49.3. It was a day of missed opportunities for Kentucky and one they wish they had back.
Kentucky Offensive PFF Grades and Snap Counts versus South Carolina
(Minimum 5 snaps)
Jackson, Walker, and Hairston stood out on defense
It is not too controversial to say that D’Eryk Jackson, Deone Walker, and Maxwell Hairston have been Kentucky’s best defensive players all season long and it showed against South Carolina. All three players finished with PFF grades in the 80s and stood out as the most talented three men on defense.
Walker was a disrupter in the backfield all game long, Hairston only allowed one catch of the four targets thrown toward the man he was guarding, and Jackson led the team in tackles with eight.
Ultimately, the defense as a whole, did not force any South Carolina turnovers, and the three balls that Kentucky’s offense coughed up made a huge difference in the game.
Kentucky Defensive PFF Grades and Snap Counts versus South Carolina
(Minimum 5 snaps)