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UFR: Georgia

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The defense let the team down more than ill-timed drops against Georgia. Also, this has been an unlucky team.

CAMRA British Beer Festival 2008
Half full or half empty?
Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Losing gives meaning to winning - it rarely seems to work the other way around. BBN had more in common with Mississippi State fans than ever last Saturday night. Sooner or later UK will be on the other side of the last second field goal victory, and then the pattern will repeat again.

Small mistakes scattered throughout the game added up, and UK was left with loss that effectively ends aspirations for a divisional crown. UK no longer controls its own destiny, but a win Saturday at Tennessee would almost assure UK seven regular season wins, and keep dim hopes alive for the SEC East championship.

This week, let’s kick it old school with some Bill Connelly stats, and a brief focus on luck this season.

The Five Factors

For the few that are uninitiated, The Five Factors measure the five most important, and basic, variables in football. First up, explosiveness. A theme will quickly emerge.

1. Explosiveness

  • Runs of 10+ yards: Georgia 8 and Kentucky 5
  • Passes of 20+ yards: Georgia 3 and Kentucky 2
  • Overall Explosive Rate: Georgia 15% and Kentucky 13%

This measure shows two equally matched teams, but keep in mind that Georgia ran nearly 20 more plays than Kentucky. If either Kentucky’s defense could have gotten the Bulldogs off the field, or if Kentucky’s offense could have sustained drives, Kentucky probably would have had a higher number of explosive plays. It’s tough for Kentucky to win only running 55 plays.

For its part, the defense allowed too many explosive plays. For comparison’s sake, it also allowed 15% of explosive plays against New Mexico State. Not good enough.

2. Efficiency

According to Bill C., if you win the efficiency battle, you win 83% of the time. Georgia won this category easily.

  • Run Success Rate: Georgia 57% and Kentucky 40%
  • Pass Success Rate: Georgia 36% and Kentucky 26%
  • Overall Success Rate: Georgia 48% and Kentucky 35%
  • Red Zone Success Rate: Georgia 25% and Kentucky 56%

Georgia operated extremely efficiently against Kentucky’s defense to the point that every other play it got most of the yards it needed on that down to stay on or ahead of schedule. For comparison’s sake, Kentucky’s defense allowed New Mexico State 50% overall success rate.

What kept Kentucky in this game is the success in the red zone. Kentucky had four trips inside Georgia’s red zone, and walked away with 24 points. Georgia, on the other hand, only had two trips inside Kentucky’s red zone, but could only muster six points.

If you want to break it down by players, Stephen Johnson had a completion percentage of 44%, but only a Pass Success Rate of 22%. Benny Snell had a Run Success Rate of 56% while Boom was 21%. The receiver corps only had Dorian Baker (25%) and Garrett Johnson (50%) with Success Rates higher than 0%.

Georgia running back Sony Michel had an astronomical 68% Run Success Rate while Nick Chubb had 52%. The defense did not slow down the Georgia run game.

3. Field Position

  • Average Starting Position: Georgia Own 29 and Kentucky Own 32
  • Plays in Opponents Territory: Georgia 27 and Kentucky 21
  • Percentage of Total: Georgia 37% and Kentucky 39%

Kentucky had a small advantage in starting field position after drives stalled out, and punts pinned Georgia in their own territory, Georgia overcame that to have more plays in Kentucky’s territory. That happens when you are operating efficiently.

4. Finish Drives

The Wildcats only had five trips inside Georgia’s 40 yard line (out of 13 possessions), but still managed to get four trips into the red zone from there, and later 24 total points.

Georgia, with itself 13 possessions, had seven trips inside Kentucky’s 40 yard line, but only needed two red zone trips to still score 27 points. The Wildcats’ defense biggest breakdowns came on their side of the 50 yard-line. Georgia finished their drives from a distance.

Lady Luck Is A Fickle Spirit

The fifth factor is turnovers, but I thought we’d look at this variable from a season-long perspective (against Georgia UK was +1 in turnover margin).

Luck plays a major role in turnovers. Some games the ball bounces your way, and other games it doesn’t. Think of the ball falling out of the running backs cradle only for him to scoop right back up prior to being tackled, or the linebacker who has a quarterback hit him right in the numbers across the middle of the field - and then drop it.

In 2016, Kentucky has fumbled the ball 14 times in nine games. They’ve lost nine of those fumbles or 65%. I can’t find the link before deadline, but last season in the NFL, Football Outsiders research indicated teams recovered their own fumbles 53% of the time.

For perspective, in 2015 Kentucky fumbled the ball 10 times but only lost the ball four times or 40%. Just like wins or losses in one-score games, things tend to balance out over time.

UK’s interceptions lost are down this year (nine in nine games compared to 16 in all of last season), which is good considering there are first year starters under center, but the defense hasn’t been creating its own turnovers thereby keeping the ball out of Snell and Boom’s hands.

  • 2016 Turnovers Forced (9 games): 12
  • 2015 Turnovers Forced: 20
  • 2014 Turnovers Forced: 23

In effect, both UK’s offense and defense have been a bit unlucky this season - just as the program had become more competitive - unlike previous seasons when both sides of the ball were fortunate when it came to turnovers (that’s without mentioning UK scored six defensive touchdowns in 2014).

In a way, that makes the progress in 2016 all the more impressive as it was an uphill battle as far as turnover luck was concerned.

TL;DR

The defense cost UK the game against Georgia if you’re looking to point fingers. The Bulldogs averaged 5.1 yard per carry, and eight yards per pass. They’ve won every game this season when they’ve hit those marks at the same time. Kentucky’s defense has improved, but Saturday night wasn’t its best showing.

Yet, from a season-wide perspective, this season is going very well given the lack of turnover luck. If the ball bounces UK’s way the next three games, the Wildcats have proven they are good enough to capitalize on good fortune.