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Kentucky Football: 4 Takeaways from practice in EKU Week

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The coaches like where this team is at, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Southern Mississippi Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Kentucky Wildcats are moving on from Southern Miss and preparing for EKU. Head coach Mark Stoops, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and defensive coordinator Matt House have given updates to how their sides are growing from USM.

The Run Game

On Tuesday Gran addressed the running issues, Lynn Bowden’s involvement and more. In the run game, he talked specifically about Snell and what led to some impatience.

“A couple times we went the wrong way schematically and we had guys come free and therefore he had to be impatient and he had to just go,” Gran said. “Then when we got it right, he was impatient. So he saw that on film and had a great day of being technique sound today.”

Gran added that they shouldn’t have those issues again. Snell fumbled out of the Wildcat on Saturday, Kentucky’s only turnover of the day. He also said that he was a bit stubborn with his playcalling, specifically with the Wildcat offense.

“I got a little bit stubborn with it,” Gran said. “But we were close so many times. Couple of those were 12 yards and if he breaks a tackle it’s going to be a house call. I could’ve opened it up a little bit more. We were 6 of 9 efficient in passing the ball, but we won the game. Period. The end. That’s a great road win for us. We were plus-2 in the turnover margin. That’s huge. We can build off that.”

Gran also gave praise to EKU’s defense, and how well they’re coached in his eyes.

“They’re coached really well first of all,” Gran said. “They run to the ball, they swarm, their backers are downhill. I think up front they get in the midline of you and it’s hard to get off on combination blocks. They do a great job. This game is not about them at all. This game is about us. This game is totally about us.”

The EKU defense surrendered 31 points in a loss to WKU in Week 1.

Lynn Bowden

Moving onto this week, Gran said he wants to get Bowden more involved in the offense.

“We’ve got packages for about four guys, four positions, and then it goes to individually,” he said. “It didn’t work out, but Benny got his opportunity about Week 3 when he was ready. Lynn was late, and he understands that. But absolutely more touches as we continue for sure.”

Judging by Bowden’s tweets, he’ll be happy to hear that. He didn’t get any touches last week.

On Thursday, Stoops also added that they want to get him involved, and that hasn’t changed since Stoops talked to him about his tweets.

“Well, we’re just looking to get him involved,” Stoops said. “Again, we had plans last week. I wanna say we had him in in the second series of the game, but like I told you last week, we didn’t want to put him in and the first time he was touching the ball. We had plans to get him the ball soon after that, but first downs didn’t present itself. Any young player that we think is gonna have an opportunity to contribute we try to bring along.”

Defensive Improvements

Matt House spoke on Wednesday about the defense through Week 1, saying it looked good on film, and discussing improvements in stopping the run, among other things.

The improvement on run defense was big, which House attributed to a number of things.

“Guys doing their job,” House said. “Guys straining. Guys playing with great leverage. You heard it over and over in training camp, and it doesn’t change from week to week: Playing fundamentally sound football and having guys with hats to the ball with great leverage and pad level.”

Southern Miss totaled just 55 rushing yards against the Cats, averaging only 1.4 yards per carry. UK also racked up eight tackles for loss.

House did want more from the secondary, however. Specifically in defending the ball once it’s in the air.

“I think we’ve gotta play the ball in the air better,” House said. “This quarterback does a good job. He gets rid of the ball on time. He’s got good receivers to throw to, so they’ll certainly present a challenge.”

House also said he wants the defensive backs to become receivers on the 50/50 balls. Despite that, House was very happy with safety Darius West’s performance.

“He did the uncommon things uncommonly well is what we’re telling him,” House said. “If you do those things, most of the time you’re going to make plays.”

House also noted that Matt Elam did well on the goal line, Courtney Love had a great game and Josh Paschal rushed the passer well.

Bunchy Stallings

In additional news, Stoops said on Thursday that Bunchy Stallings is expected back. He’s “gimpy,” Stoops said, but he hopes to have him active. Stoops added that the Cats had a healthy week of practice.

A big reason why Kentucky struggled on the ground in Week 1 was because Stallings went out of the game early with an ankle sprain. He’s also learning a new position after switching from guard to center this year. Kentucky really needs him to play this week and get more chemistry built with this offensive line.

Kentucky plays EKU on Saturday at Noon ET on the SEC Network.