Count me as one of many who resisted the urge to shout-out to Rich Brooks that he should make a change at the quarterback position. I thought the UK head coach was wise to afford Mike Hartline every opportunity to succeed as the starting quarterback. And Brooks did just that, but with an assist from Dicky Lyons' season ending injury, the coach made the right call, at the right time. At least in my opinion.
Now, all that seems so foolish. I don't think I was being foolish, but it sure SEEMS as if I were.
Since making the switch to Randall Cobb as UK's starting quarterback, the 'Cats previously feeble offense has sprung to delightful life. I credit the sudden sea change in UK's offensive fortunes to not only naming Cobb the starter, but also to "The Change" made at halftime of the Mississippi State game last week; Joker Phillips and Rich Brooks decided to take the option look from the practice field, to the playing field.
Where in the previous seven-and-a-half games the shotgun, and or spread look, was missing in action, but beginning with the second half of the MSU game we have witnessed a genesis in the Kentucky offensive sets: Versus Georgia, UK ran 79 offensive plays, 50 of those plays were run from the shotgun formation (63%). Usually, there were two running backs in the backfield with Cobb, and multiple wide-outs spreading the field. In the second half of Saturday's game, UK ran out of the shotgun on 28 of 39 offensive snaps (72%), and scored 24 points.
Here are some more tangible results due to "The Change:"
Prior to the second half of the MSU game, UK as a team, had rushed for 1,033 yards on 273 carries (3.8 yards per carry). In the game-and-a-half since, UK has rushed for 325 yards on 72 carries (4.5 yards per carry). That's nearly a yard more per carry.
- Tony Dixon has to be pleased with "The Change." He's progressed from averaging less than three-and-a-half yards per carry, to 111 yards on only 24 carries (4.6 yards per carry).
- Alfonso Smith has carried 14 times for 71 yards (5.1 yards per carry) since "The Change."
- Randall Cobb's production has been phenomenal since "The Change." He's carried the ball 24 times for a total of 115 yards (4.8 yards per carry). He's also recorded four rushing touchdowns.
Lighting up the Scoreboard?
The best and most accurate method to gauge whether "The Change" is working, or not, is to gaze at the scoreboard.
In the last six quarters UK has scored 52 points, which extrapolates out to 34.4 points per game. It goes without saying that 34 points a game is significantly better than the 12.7 points per game UK averaged for their first four-and-a-half SEC contests.
The yardage increase has been nearly as noticeable; UK gained 331 yards versus Georgia (the 'Dogs give up 306 yards on average). In the second half against MSU Kentucky gained 152 yards on a team that averages giving up only 274 total yards.
In SEC play, prior to "The Change," UK was averaging only 279 yards per game.
Although Rich Brooks said that he's looking to "next week," and not next year, one has to think that Randall Cobb is, to this point, making an air-tight argument for himself being the prohibitive favorite to start at quarterback next year. Up to this point I've considered Cobb to be merely a seat-warmer for either Newton, Mossakowski, or Hartline in '09. But, that may merit reconsideration.
Cobb certainly has not played mistake-free football; he has thrown a few ill-conceived passes which were intercepted, and he has a penchant for fumbling the ball (both a product of his youth), but man, what about his incredible athleticism. He has accounted for four rushing touchdowns, and one passing touchdown in the last six quarters played. That's an incredible output against quality competition. With Cobb at quarterback, the opposing defense has to pay an inordinate amount of attention to only one guy. That in itself makes him dangerous.
Who said an ol' dog will resist change? Papa Brooks seems to have embraced "The Change," even though some will say he waited too long to make his move.
If UK wins out against Vandy, Tennessee, and a bowl victim, I would bet that next year UK will resemble the West Virginia of three and four years ago (or some variation thereof). The more success that Cobb has, the easier Brooks' decision will be.
I'm betting Rich Brooks knows what to do with a thoroughbred.
It seems that junior UK wide receiver has been told by doctors that he should quit playing football. Ford has experienced several head injuries over the last few years (he's suffered two concussions this year).
DeMoreo will always be remembered for his 70 yard touchdown scamper in the Music City Bowl two years ago versus Clemson.
We wish you well.
Thanks for reading, and Go 'Cats.