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What has happened to Kentucky’s offense? (and why it may be time for a change)

The offense has turned into nothing short of a disaster.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Kentucky started the 2018 season with a fairly good offense. They put up 35 points against Central Michigan, 27 points on Florida, and then 48 on Murray State. Terry Wilson was still raw, but had thrown for 595 yards and two touchdowns and added on 300 rushing yards and three touchdown’s.

Benny Snell had torched every defense he came in contact with through the first five games; rushing for 639 yards and eight touchdown’s, Benny was having himself a Heisman-esque start to the season.

Kentucky’s offense was rolling through the first five games of the season, so that brings up the question: What in the world has happened to Kentucky’s offense?

Through the first five games of the season, the Wildcats were averaging 407.2 yards per game. Not bad, right? We had seen flashes of what Wilson could be, with a dominating performance against Florida and Benny Snell doing Benny Snell things.

Then the second half against South Carolina came. Kentucky went into the second half leading 24-3 and dominating the Gamecocks, but in the second half, Kentucky put up exactly zero points and only managed to gain 35 yards of offense in the entire half after just putting up 237 yards and 24 points in the first half.

Was Eddie Gran too conservative with maintaining a lead rather than building a bigger one? Did South Carolina’s defense tighten up? These were questions fans were asking themselves after the game, and the start of the questions surrounding the offensive coordinator.

Against Texas A&M, Kentucky only managed 178 yards of offense. 178 yards. Now granted, Texas A&M has one of the best defenses in the entire country, as they stacked the box all night, but Mississippi State did the same thing and was torched for it.

So, what gives?

Wilson threw for 108 yards and one touchdown, but he did it while looking timid the entire night, and dramatic change from the previous five games where he was taking off running and showing off his elusiveness. Wilson ran for just four yards and refused to leave the pocket against the Aggies.

Snell rushed for only 60 yards all night on only 13 carries, including only six carries in the first half. And then with the game on the line, 4th and only 2 to go in overtime, Eddie Gran opted to not give the ball to Snell, almost not trusting him to get two measly yards. It was a baffling decision, even Gran admitted his mistake and said he should have given the ball to “Number 26.”

Coming out of a bye week, all the fans expected Kentucky to come out swinging. Maybe the team was banged up and needed a much deserved bye week. The Wildcats seemed much improved from the week before, putting up 298 yards, with Snell going for 169 yards and one touchdown. Wilson threw for only 18 yards and one touchdown. But the play-calling still left a lot to be desired, only putting up 14 points against the worst defense in the SEC.

Against Missouri, Wilson improved tremendously, throwing for 267 yards and one touchdown. Lynn Bowden showed he can be a big-time play-maker as well, catching 13 passes for 166 yards and one return touchdown. But up until 5 minutes left in the game, the Wildcats had only managed 3 points and a little over 300 total yards. Wilson was even benched for a brief period, with the coaching staff opting to go with Gunnar Hoak, who eventually gained 27 yards. Even though Terry bounced back and lead a game-winning drive, being benched even though you had performed terrifically had to have hurt Wilson’s confidence, as he was being punished for bad play-calling.

And finally against Tennessee, Kentucky mustered up 262 yards against a very bad Volunteers team. Kentucky stalled all game long, almost refusing to score any points even though Tennessee fielded one of the worst defenses in the conference. Wilson threw for 172 yards and one touchdown and Snell rushed for 81 yards. But again, the play-calling mirrored that of a stalemate, almost looking like the Wildcats were trying not to score. Now, it’s not all on Gran, at least not in the first half, as the Kentucky receivers dropped numerous passes from Wilson and the offensive line collapsing on nearly every play.

Through the last five games, Kentucky is averaging a significantly less 286.6 yards per game.

So what happened to the offense?

Most notably, teams have figured out how to stop Kentucky. The Wildcats are a one dimensional team, who can pass, yes, but their first, second, and third choice is to run the ball down your throat.

The offensive line is non-existent. Plain and simple. Since the bye week, the line has just not opened up enough holes for Benny, as he has been held under 100 yards in three out of four games. To make matters worse, Wilson has been sacked 12 times in the past three games. He was only sacked 10 times before the Missouri game and that included a six sack game by Texas A&M, in which the offensive struggles became very apparent.

Talks of a quarterback controversy during the best season in school history can’t bode well for your starter, but that is exactly what happened after the Texas A&M game when Stoops admitted they thought of switching QB’s. Wilson had just led Kentucky to a top-15 ranking and the staff was ready to make a change? I don’t care who you have your backup as, you leave your starter in if you’re fielding a nationally ranked team.

And finally, Eddie Gran has just not performed in the second half of the season in his play-calling. Eddie Gran’s offensive ranks over the past three seasons has been as followed: 61st (2016), 103rd (2017), and 112th (2018). This year’s offensive rank is one spot behind 2-8 Louisville who just fired their head coach and just two spots ahead of Kansas who has 3 wins this season, which is their most wins in a season since 2014 when they won 3 games. Eddie Gran has statistically gotten worse in his tenure at Kentucky and has only scored 50 points since the second half of the South Carolina game. 50 points in the past 5 games, including only 7 offensive touchdowns in the past five games. That is simply unacceptable when you have the best running back in school history, arguably the best tight end in school history, and an NFL caliber wide receiver at your disposal, along with an insanely athletic quarterback.

It may be time to make a change at the offensive coordinator position for the Kentucky Wildcats. With the program finally turning a corner in 2018, you simply can’t have an offensive coordinator weighing you down as you hope to take bigger and better steps as a football program. While Eddie Gran has helped Kentucky get where they are today, stats do not lie and these offensive ranks are very telling.