Offense Breaks Out In Big Road Win
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Offense Breaks Out In Big Road Win

Adam Luckettabout 2 years

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Article written by:Adam LuckettAdam Luckett

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After an ugly home loss in a big game, there was plenty of reasons for pessimism. UK headed to Nashville for their final road trip of the season and looking to not go winless away from Kroger Field in 2019. Behind over 400 yards rushing and an offense that did whatever it took to move the chains, UK rolled to a blowout victory in front of ton of people wearing blue at Vanderbilt Stadium. Meanwhile, the defense had just one bad drive before putting the clamps on Vanderbilt in the final seven possessions. It was a team performance. The Wildcats are back to .500 and will close out the season with two home games against UT Martin and Louisville. After a brutal loss to Tennessee, it was a very promising sign to see the team bounce back after another ugly start.

Offense

Kentucky rolled up 528 yards (401 rushing, 127 passing) in 72 snaps against Derek Mason's defense. The Wildcats collected 7.33 yards per play and this was their highest output of the season. Lynn Bowden, Jr. has gotten all of the attention, but it was a redshirt freshman who was the stole the show. Christopher Rodriguez, Jr. rushed for a career-high 129 yards on 15 carries and had two touchdowns from 20-plus yards out. The Georgia native and former three-star recruit put up 8.6 yards per carry and led the way for an offense that rushed for over 400 yards and collected seven yards per attempt. The redshirt freshman is now up to 341 rushing yards in his debut season and is putting up 6.8 yards per carry on his 50 rush attempts. A very solid season once you take out the fumble issues that plagued him in September. He was not the only one who had a big day on the ground. Lynn Bowden, Jr. rushed for over 100 yards for the fourth time in five games, but he only needed to carry the ball 17 times. Kavosiey Smoke was the first one off the bench and he put up 95 yards on 15 carries with a score. The redshirt freshman now leads the team in rushing touchdowns (6). A.J. Rose had two monster runs on his way to putting up 67 yards on four carries, but his fumble led to a defensive touchdown and we did not see him for the rest of the game. However, Mark Stoops is staying committed to his veteran running back. Those who were vocal about the offense needing balance probably can't say much after the win. The Wildcats threw for 127 yards on 15 passes, put up 8.5 yards per attempt and completed 73 percent of their throws. These were the highest numbers since the season opening win over Toledo. There was even a Sawyer Smith sighting. Bowden threw his second touchdown pass of the the season and Clevan Thomas, Jr. made a very nice run after catch to give Kentucky a first-and-goal inside the five. Keaton Upshaw made a nice grab in the red zone and was a broken tackle away from scoring. It was a very balance effort with efficiency and explosvieness. To do what Kentucky is doing right now you have to have excellent offensive line play. Behind the veteran group, this team is getting just that. John Schlarman's unit has paved the way for this new look offense and they are quietly having a really good season. Expect for Drake Jackson and Logan Stenberg to earn All-SEC honors once the season finishes. There was even some physicality shown on the perimeter. https://twitter.com/JtownOC/status/1195832603762405377?s=20 Kentucky had 10 possessions in the game and each of the first eight turned into a scoring opportunity (possession inside your foe's 40). The Wildcats were able to get 38 points out of those those and that was good enough for 4.75 points per trip. This was much improved after getting just 13 points last week on many, many opportunities. The Wildcats were 4-for-4 in the red zone (three touchdowns, one field goal) and moved the chains eight times in 11 third down snaps. They were successful in situational football.

Defense

Kentucky held Vanderbilt to 198 yards (108 rushing, 90 passing) on 49 snaps. The Commodores put up 4.04 yards per play and for the second game in a row, UK played less than 50 plays on defense. The offense has a lot to do with this, but it helps when you limit an opposing offense to 2 of 9 on third down. For the first time since September, Kentucky's defense recorded an interception. After being lit up by Jarrett Guarantano last week, Kentucky's pass defense got back to what it has been doing for most of the season. The Wildcats allowed fewer than six yards per throw for the fifth time in six games and while limiting Vandy to just 11 completions. Cedrick Dort, Jr. recorded two pass break-ups and UK had all of this success even without a sack being recorded. Creating negative plays still remains an issue for the defense and the Wildcats were only able to create two tackles for loss and both came from reserves. UK is currently in last place in the SEC and 118th nationally in tackles for loss. They leave themselves little room for error and when an offense is efficient there is a very good chance for a scoring drive. We saw that on Vandy's second possession of the game when the Commodores marched 75 yards in eight plays for their only offensive score of the night. Ke'Shawn Vaughn got the ground game rolling and some gadget plays helped the Commodores collect some chunks of yardage. After that, however, it was all Kentucky. Stopping good running backs has been an issue for this group all season and Ke'Shawn Vaughn is as talented as anyone. However, he is running behind a below average offensive line and has really bad quarterback play. After the quick start, Kentucky tightened the screws on the future NFL runner by limiting him to just 58 yards on 12 carries. Kentucky's run defense has not been good so you will take that any day of the week. After falling down 14-3, the Wildcats held Vanderbilt to just 3.6 yards per play while the offense went on a 35-0 run to close the football game. That is adjusting on the fly and responding when needed. We got to see a ton of young players make an impact in the second half. J.J. Weaver played a ton of snaps at Jack (five tackles, tackle for loss, QB hurry), junior college transfer Marquez Bembry got his first action at inside linebacker, Jalen Geiger nearly reeled in an interception, and Day Day Hawkins collected a tackle for loss. With the twos in, UK got a huge red zone stop by forcing a turnover on downs. In the past we've seen the backups allow a score late and that did not happen this time. A very good sign for the future.

Special Teams

Due to the efficiency of the offense, Max Duffy was only used once after punting just three times last week. Kentucky hasn't needed the potential All-American much the last couple of games and that has been fine with just everyone. On the other side, Josh Ali did a very good job fielding punts and saving the offense some hidden yardage. This has been an issue in the past and it was good to see the junior wide receiver feel comfortable back there. The kicking game remains a roller coaster, but let us take note of the positives first. Chance Poore hit a 32-yard field goal to get Kentucky on the board and was perfect on extra points. However, the low kick appeared to be tipped at the line of scrimmage and just made it across in what looked like a knuckleball. One of his extra points barely snuck in, but you'll take what you can get at this point. Quietly, Grant McKinniss has been an excellent kickoff specialist and he produced five touchbacks to bolster his touchback rate to 77.8 percent. It was a quality outing for the third phase.

Outlook

It was a rough week for the Big Blue Nation after two ugly losses last week. This was a fan base in desperate need of a win and a football team who really could not afford to let Tennessee beat them twice. After about nine minutes of football, it looked like Kentucky could be heading down the dreaded path. However, the team responded and ripped off five consecutive touchdown drives to turn a double-digit deficit into a runaway victory. Everyone involved needed a big win and that is what Mark Stoops and Kentucky delivered inside Vanderbilt Stadium on a beautiful November afternoon in Nashville. The victory gave the program its seventh SEC road win since 2014 and the Wildcats are now 16-16 in league play since Eddie Gran's arrival. With the SEC slate finished, there are just two non-conference games remaining to close out the 2019 season. Behind a dominant ground attack, Kentucky looks to finish the season on a high note. The Wildcats beat a bad football team on Saturday, but the remaining opponents don't really have the pieces to stop what Kentucky wants to do. Continue down the path of this new offense Eddie Gran has created and do what you do. Continue to finish drives and play ball control on offense. Limit the snaps on defense and get off the field on third down. Do those things and UK could be peeking entering bowl season. On to UT Martin. [mobile_ad]

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2022-01-17