KSR’s Monday Huddle is back after a wild weekend.
Kentucky had to scratch and claw their way to victory over Chattanooga on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats were unable to pull away from the 31-point underdogs and needed a fourth-quarter comeback and pick-six to win the game.
That game and result are now in the past. It’s time to turn the page and look to the future.
The Wildcats are 3-0 and are set to hit the road for the first time this season to take on a 2-1 South Carolina team under first-year head coach Shane Beamer. This will be a challenge.
KSR’s Monday Huddle will set the table for another pivotal moment of the Kentucky football season. The Wildcats have the chance to set the stage for a monster three-game run in October. However, that is dependent on Kentucky beating South Carolina on the road.
First down: Establish the run
Against ULM, Kentucky rushed for just 145 yards averaging just over four yards per attempt. Against Chattanooga, Kentucky rushed for only 102 yards averaging under four yards per attempt.
However, the Wildcats went all-in on the ground game against Missouri rushing 341 yards and averaging over six yards per attempt with a run play rate of 74.29 percent. Kentucky must get back to its bread and butter at Williams-Brice Stadium.
“Last week, the run game fed everything, and this week we just didn’t play very well,” said offensive coordinator Liam Coen said after the win. “We didn’t practice great yesterday. Today, in my opinion, was a similar reflection to how we practiced.
“We need to be able to run the ball better, and we didn’t run the ball very well today.”
Expect the coaches to have the attention of the players this week. Kentucky’s offense could come out and hammer the rock to get the crowd out of the game in their first game away from Kroger Field.
Second down: Turnover battle
Despite finding themselves at minus-six in the turnover column, Kentucky owns a 3-0 record with two wins by a single possession. The Wildcats are fortunate to be where they are at this point in the year.
The Wildcats have 10 fumbles on the season to go along with four interceptions. On the other side, the defense has only been able to force a pair of takeaways. Now Kentucky must face the top turnover defense in the SEC.
South Carolina has forced seven takeaways in three games this season leading the SEC. The Gamecocks have two non-offensive touchdowns, and some turnovers in the Georgia game resulted in immediate scoring opportunities.
Kentucky could be in trouble on Saturday if the Wildcats are unable to protect the rock.
Third Down: Stopping the run
After not seeing much run action against Missouri, Chattanooga tried their best to establish the run despite having a run rate (44.44%) that was below their season average.
An inefficient running game was able to have some success against Kentucky’s front.
Chattanooga rushed for 171 yards and averaged over six yards per attempt despite having a rushing success rate of just 39.29 percent. However, the Mocs were able to squeeze in two rushes of 30-plus yards to bolster their numbers.
Now Kentucky is facing a South Carolina offense that has a play-caller from the NFL and a run play rate of 60 percent. The Gamecocks want to establish the run with their plethora of tailbacks despite averaging just 3.83 yards per rush as a team.
The South Carolina offensive line is having some issues, and this group needs to be better. This experienced unit will be challenged this week by the coaching staff in Columbia as the Gamecocks will watch the Chattanooga tape and think the run can be established against this Kentucky front.
Saturday will be a huge test for Brad White’s defense. The Wildcats must prove their run defense is for real and that the performance was a fluke against Chattanooga.
The Week Ahead at KSR
As always, this will be another jam-packed football week full of content at KSR as Kentucky hits the road for the first time this season.
On Monday afternoon, we’ll have coverage of Mark Stoops’ weekly press conference to go along with his radio show in the evening. Practice reports will come throughout the week. Podcasts galore will be available for your consumption.
Can the Wildcats get to 4-0 to set up a huge home tilt with Florida? We’re about to find out.