The Solution Is Simple: Run The Damn Ball!
Let’s be honest, at the halfway point in the 2020 season, Kentucky’s performance thus far has been pretty disappointing. It’s frustrating because in hindsight the Cats should be 5-0, atop of the SEC East, and ranked inside of the top 10. In the first two weeks, all we were talking about was how poorly the defense was performing, but after two dominant weeks against Mississippi State and Tennessee, and a respectable performance against Mizzou (considering they were on the field for nearly 45 minutes), now the focus has shifted entirely to the offensive struggles.
I’m sorry, but the ongoing debate about Terry and Gatewood is a complete distraction from the real problem with our offense. QB play is not the issue with our team right now – it’s the play-calling. Over the past two seasons, Kentucky has formed an identity as a traditional SEC ground and pound offense. When the best players on your offensive unit are three linemen, three running backs, and two QBs (who’s strongest asset are their rushing ability), one would think you’d do everything in your power to utilize that advantage to its utmost potential. But the Cats haven’t this season, and it’s why the offense is struggling so much at the moment.
I did a deep-dive into Kentucky’s offense against Power-Five teams since 2018 and there’s a clear correlation between rushing attempts and winning.
In UK’s 14 wins against P5 opponents over the past two seasons, the Cats are averaging 40.5 rush attempts and only 16 pass attempts per game. In their 11 losses over that same stretch, the Cats are averaging 37.6 rush attempts per game and 26.5 pass attempts per game.
You may notice that some of the games on the chart above are marked in red – this is to denote an outlier, and the statistic in bold identifies why it is an outlier in comparison to the rest of the group. With those three wins and three losses omitted from the study, we begin to see a substantial difference in the rushing and passing attack in Kentucky’s wins and losses over the past two and a half seasons – as the Cats are averaging nearly 18 more rush attempts and 14 fewer pass attempts per game in their victories than in their losses (48.5 rush & 14.7 pass / 31.6 rush & 28.9 pass).
Here’s some other figures to help put this in perspective – Kentucky is:
· 12-4 when attempting 40 or more rushes
· 2-7 when attempting 35 or less rushes
· 13-5 when attempting less than 25 passes
· 1-6 when attempting more than 25 passes
· 8-2 when attempting 15 or fewer passes
· 0-4 when attempting 30 or fewer rushes
· 13-7 when attempting more rushes than passes
· 1-3 when attempting more passes than rushes
Now obviously everyone’s rebuttal to this is going to be “We had Benny and Lynn on those teams”, and while it is true and a very good point, it doesn’t change the fact that our best players on this current offense are (again) our linemen and running backs – and we should be running the ball significantly more than we are currently. In week-one against Auburn, Kavosiey Smoke torched the Tigers’ defense on the opening drive scoring a TD, but only received six touches the remainder of the game. Chris Rodriguez is averaging nearly SEVEN yards per carry – last week, with Smoke sidelined, he only had nine carries. That’s unacceptable.
The debate between Terry and Gatewood is pointless. None of the offensive struggles thus far have been Terry’s fault, and we haven’t seen anything from Gatewood yet that would prove him to be a better option. It’s the play-calling. If Kentucky wants any chance of pulling off an upset this weekend against Georgia and the best defense in the country, it has to change.
The formula for winning is simple – RUN THE DAMN BALL!
Follow me on Twitter: @GP_Tre_Ball