Kentucky Football: Wildcats Performance Management Makes Big Improvement

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday, the Wildcats played like a team to be reckoned with, particularly on defense. The team held their gaps and the result was that Miami was unable to score against our defense. The big question is how much was attributable to good play from UK or bad play by Miami?

Kentucky has an offense with big play capability. That has shown through loud and clear against WKU (which got a dose of reality at Tennessee) and Miami.

It was good to hear the Air Raid siren again. It has been far too long since we've heard it. After two games, Neal Brown has still not completely unleashed the Air Raid. The Cats have run 71 plays on the ground and 63 plays through the air for a 53-47 percent ratio. The ground game has worked and an opposing defense can't be sure what either Smith or Whitlow is going to do on any particular given play.

Kentucky also showed vast improvement on defense. Players kept their assignments and held their gaps. Miami was unable to score against the boys in blue. Even more impressive, for me, was that Stoops and Eliot changed the defense on the spot after watching Miami warm up. When was the last time that's happened?

Za'Darius Smith leads the nation in sacks and he's tied for 9th in Tackles for Loss. Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow earned SEC helmet stickers from ESPN. Kevin Mitchell was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the week. Max Smith ranks 9th in Passing Efficiency. For individual stats, you can go to the UK Athletics site. You will be impressed with the first year players (freshmen and JUCOs).

Some stats you may not be aware of:

Last year, only 21 teams put up more than our 675 total yards and only 22 teams had more than UK's 9.1 yards per play, according to "Virginia Blue" @ WCN who keeps stats on 2,764 teams over 1,382 games. He also points out the only 2 teams allowed their opponents fewer yards per play than did UK's defense today and only 4 teams allowed their opponents fewer total yards in a single game. You can read his post by clicking on the link.

Kentucky showed improvement in almost every statisical category. Here's where we stand statistically in the NCAA (stats & national rank).

Offense:

Rushing Offense: 239 (t-32nd) Improved from 37th last week

Passing Offense: 308 (25th) Improved from 66th last week

Passing Efficiency: 171.34 (23rd) Improved from 57th last week

Red Zone Offense: 88.9% (t-48th) Dropped from 1st last week thanks to the knee

Scoring Offense: 33.5 (t-55th) Improved from 64th last week

Total Offense: 547 (t-16th) That's a jump from 57th last week

Tackles for Loss Allowed: 10 (t-72nd) Improved from 100th last week

Sacks Allowed: 1.5 (t-44th) Improved from 81st last week

Time of possession: 27:00 (100th) Dropped from 98th last week thanks to the knee

3rd Down Conversion %: 38.5% (71st) Dropped from 56th last week

4th Down Conversion %: 100% (t-1st) No Change

First Downs: 42 (t-55th) Improved from 88th last week

Defense

Rushing Defense: 157.5 (70th) Improved from 88th last week

Passing Defense: 147 (21st) Improved from 79th last week

Scoring Defense: 21 (t-47th) Improved from 82nd last wee4

Passing Efficiency Defense: 122.9 (64th) Improved from 88th last week

Passes Intercepted: 0 (No Ranking) No Change

Tackles for Loss: 5.0 (t-78th) Improved from 92nd last week

Sacks: 3.50 (t-10th) Improved from 59th last week

Total Defense: 304.5 (30th) Improved from 87th last week

3rd Down Conversion %: 11.5% (2nd) Improved from14th last week

4th Down Conversion %: 66.7% (t- 48th) Dropped from 34th last week

First Downs: 30 (t-34th) Improved from 69th last week

Other

Fewest Penalty Yards: 93 (t-120th) Dropped from 83rd last week

Fewest Penalties: 10.5 (120th) Dropped from 101st last week

Turnover Margin: 0 (t-58th) Dropped from 22nd last week

Net Punting: 32.18 (105th) Dropped from 86th last week

Punt Returns: 8.7 (47th) Dropped from 3rd last week

Punt Return Defense: 9.86 (88th) Dropped from 62nd last week

Kickoff Returns: 26.00 (27th) Improved from 28th last week

Kickoff Return Defense: 23.00 (t-82nd) Dropped from 58th last week

Early last month, Neal Brown talked about his expectations:

Plays per game: 75

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 48%

on 1st Down: 4 or more yards

Actual

Saturday's plays: 74

3rd Down Conversion Rate: 38.5%

1st Down yards: 4 or more yards has occurred 63.89% of first down plays. We've run the ball 23 times on first down and have passed 19 times.

All things considered, the Miami game was a much needed shot in the arm.

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