To say that things didn’t go the way the Cats planned on Saturday in Columbia is a vast understatement.
Watching Kentucky struggle just to put up a mere 145 yards of offensive doesn’t bode well for the rest of the year considering opponents like Georgia, Florida and Alabama remain on the final five game regular season schedule.
Instead of potentially taking a major leap forward and getting their record over .500 — Kentucky played uninspired football and fell to 2-3 on the season.
Like many, the loss to Missouri surprised me, but watching UK play with such apathy was more of a shock than the final score.
From the opening moments of the game, it just never felt like Mark Stoops and his team were mentally invested enough to pick up an SEC road victory.
Despite several chances along the way, there just wasn’t enough gas in Kentucky’s tank to ever make a serious run at the Tigers on their home field.
Winning on the road when your out-gained on offense by 276 yards is next to impossible. UK’s struggles on the offensive side of the ball are now a bonafide problem and need to be mended if wining any more games is on the table.
Eddie Gran will has some explaining to do this week as seemingly most of the fan base has completely lost confidence in whatever offensive scheme it is that the Cats are trying to execute.
Fans understand that his conference shows no sympathy and things surely won’t get any easier for Kentucky this week.
Due to the recent scheduling changes the Georgia Bulldogs, a top-ten team in America, will now make their way to Kroger Field for a noon battle on Halloween day. The game will be aired on the Sec Network or as always you can catch Tom Leach on the call by listening to 630 WLAP on iHeart.
There would be a heck of a lot more on the line if the Cats could have taken care of business against Missouri.
Instead, the mindset now shifts to avoiding panic and figuring out what to do offensively, so maybe, just maybe, UK can find a way to hang tight with Georgia at home on Saturday.
Who’s the Quarterback on Saturday?
A focal point of preparation this week will center around who will be taking snaps for Kentucky at quarterback. When asked that very question after UK’s loss to Missouri on Saturday, Head Coach Mark Stoops had a very short answer, “Not sure.” he told reporters.
That’s likely a very honest answer because I don’t think Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran or anyone really knows what the plan will be offensively against Georgia and that this week in practice will likely dictate the strategy.
On Saturday, Terry Wilson and Joey Gatewood split time under center with both having lackluster performances. Wilson went 3-9 passing for 35 yards and a touchdown while Gatewood tossed it just four times with only one completion for 14 yards.
If you watched the game, then you know it was brutal for both guys and based solely off the Missouri game it would be extremely difficult to come to any conclusions about who should take the majority of the snaps against the Dawgs.
Due to that uncertainty I would lean towards Terry Wilson starting the game and getting the first shot at the Georgia Bulldogs — the last remaining team in he SEC East that Mark Stoops has yet to beat since arriving in Lexington.
Georgia has shown some vulnerability on defense by giving up an average of over 250 yards through the air. A number that Kentucky has yet to hit, or even get close to since week one down at Auburn where Terry Wilson threw for 239 yards.
I think we would all agree that it would be a jaw-dropping change of pace if Kentucky was able to throw for more than 250 yards against a top ten team in America.
What happened to the running game?
In the not so great news department — Georgia is only giving up an average of 65 yards per game on the ground in their first four games this season. So it will be a tall order to get the running game going, which surely won’t do any favors to whichever Wildcat quarterback is under center trying to move the chains.
Out of the many peculiar decisions made on Saturday one of the more head-scratching sequences was when Kentucky, one of the best rushing teams in the SEC, chose to open the game with three straight passing plays. From that very first drive it just seemed like Eddie Gran and the Cats were out of sorts and never executed what most believed should have been there gamelan.
Chris Rodriguez only rushed the ball nine times for 48 yards while AJ Rose carried the ball a measly five times for 36 yards.
Getting Rodriguez the ball more often has to be a priority against Georgia and every game moving forward.
Missouri’s Larry Roundtree III had an insane 37 carries by himself. For perspective, Kentucky only ran 36 total plays in the game. The Tigers ran 56 more plays than UK while totally dominating time of possession.
It’s simple — If Kentucky can’t figure out how to run the ball consistently — they won’t beat Georgia or any opponent remaining on their schedule.
Kentucky’s defense sputtering
Despite not playing their best and getting zero help from the offense, Brad White’s defense still held Missouri to just 20 total points and prevented any touchdowns through the air. However, the Cats just couldn’t get off the field during crucial times and the turnover well finally ran dry.
It was naïve to except the defense to force as many turnovers as we’d seen over the past few weeks but getting zero coupled with a horrible offense isn’t going to translate to winning games in the SEC.
The Cats will have to force turnovers on Saturday against Georgia if they want to have a chance. UGA QB Stetson Bennett has thrown three picks in his first four games.
To point out the obvious, Kentucky’s defense giving up over 400 yards of offense like they did on Saturday is not going to be a great recipe for winning games.
Preventing another 400 yards offensive explosion will be easier said than done with Stetson Bennett and the Dawgs coming to town. Georgia is averaging 418 yards of offense lead by Bennett who’s chucked seven touchdowns this season.
You won’t many experts picking UK to pull off the upset in this one. ESPN’s match-up predictor gives UGA an 86% chance at victory while the team rankings pick center predicts a 32-16 loss for the Cats.
Crazier things have happened, and the game will be on Halloween after all, but based off their performance down in Columbia on Saturday there isn’t much logical optimism to be spread.
Do you think Kentucky turns things around on Saturday?
Game: Georgia Bulldogs at Kentucky Wildcats
Date: October 31st at 12:00 pm EST
Stadium: Kroger Field
TV Channel: SEC Network
Radio: UK Sports Network.
Early odds: Georgia opened as a 13-point favorite.
Early Prediction: TeamRankings projects a 32-16 victory for Georgia