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Offensive stats show Kentucky’s desperation for a reset

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It’s been a rough few weeks for the Wildcats. After opening the season 2-0, Kentucky has now lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2013, Mark Stoops’ rookie year.

The offensive outing against South Carolina was as poor as we’ve seen it; Eddie Gran compared the feeling to the 2016 Florida game. In case you’ve blocked that game from your memory, that’s when the Cats fell 45-7 in Gainesville for their 30th consecutive loss to the Gators.

But this time was different. In fact, the last two (ok, maybe three) weeks have been different.

To follow up last week’s 1-for-12 performance against Mississippi State, Kentucky went just 2-for-15 on third downs Saturday night against the Gamecocks. That’s good for 3-for-27 (11 percent) over the last two weeks. There aren’t many opponents out there – especially in the Southeastern Conference – you can beat with an 11 percent third-down conversion rate.

To make offensive matters worse, all three successful third down attempts were at the hands of one player: Ahmad Wagner. That’s right: Ahmad Wagner is the only Wildcat to convert on a third down in two weeks. Sure, he’s one of Kentucky’s best offensive weapons. That doesn’t mean Kentucky can afford to have him as their only offensive weapon.

“We didn’t have enough plays in the beginning of the game – in the first half – and that comes from not converting on third downs and not being efficient in the run game,” Mark Stoops said Saturday. “So no, we weren’t good enough at running the ball.”

Sawyer Smith’s play since Kentucky’s failed fourth-and-one conversion against the Gators has also only gotten exponentially worse (and his injuries have to be more severe than we were originally led to believe, right?). After completing 23-for-35 (66 percent) for 267 yards against the Gators, Smith simply hasn’t looked the same. He may have injured his wrist during the Florida game (although no specific injury has been released), and he had to have his shoulder X-rayed in the middle of the game against Mississippi State. The injuries are adding up, and they’re now greatly affecting his performance.

When Smith played against Mississippi State, he completed 15-41 (37 percent) for 232 yards of passing offense. Against South Carolina, he went 11-32 (34 percent) for just 90 yards. That’s good for 35.5 percent pass-completion rate. Based on these numbers, it’s almost impressive Kentucky has only lost their last two games by a combined 32 points. Almost.

“Sawyer [Smith] has given us everything he can. He’s banged up. He’s banged up, and that’s the bottom line,” Stoops said after the loss in Columbia. “We don’t need to make excuses – there are no excuses. We all need to do a better job, and we’ve got to get some guys healthy.”

It’s been said before and it will be said again: Kentucky’s bye week came at the perfect time. The Cats desperately need this additional week and a free weekend to re-group from the past three conference beatings and a handful of injuries.

Like Lynn Bowden said in a tweet, the season is a marathon, not a sprint. Let’s just hope Kentucky’s offense has enough gas in the tank to finish the race stronger than they’ve been running for the past few weeks.


Where to Eat and Drink in Columbia, South Carolina

For all the Kentucky fans heading to Columbia for Saturday’s game against South Carolina, I’m here to help.  Since my sister moved to town, I’ve become an unofficial expert on the Palmetto State’s capital.  I’ve tried just about every awesome place there is to try and am prepared to share this wealth of knowledge so that you can have the best road trip experience possible, starting with the best cuisine South Carolina has to offer.

The Best Breakfast

Start your day the right way at the Cinnamon Roll Deli.  A small gem not too far from the epicenter of town, the size of the massive cinnamon rolls will lure you in, but don’t fall for the trap.  The real treasures are the breakfast sandwiches.  Don’t worry, you aren’t missing out on the sweet deliciousness; each sandwich is served with a small cinnamon roll on the side.

The Best Hangover Sandwich

I will be too hungover for the sweet Saturday morning treat so I will be eating at Groucho’s.  Remember that fantastic feeling you had the first time you tried Canes’ sauce?  Groucho’s dipping sauce is like that, but better.  The steamy, cheesy sandwich with the tangy sauce is the perfect storm to settle your stomach.  There are five locations around town, with one located near where your problems probably started, Five Points.

Carolina’s Best BBQ

Debate all you want over which type of BBQ is the best.  I like them all, especially the mustard-based golden deliciousness in South Carolina.  Maurice’s receives all the local recommendations and lives up to the hype.  If you’re expecting something fancy, then maybe Southern Belly BBQ will do a better job appeasing your appetite.

The Mexican Food that has Better Margaritas

If you’re downtown, I recommend Cantina 76.  For Lexingtonians, think Local Taco.  In Five Points, Publico is the first place I’ve ever sampled a flight of margaritas.  The blueberry margarita was a sweet surprise.

The Place that Will Take You Back to 2016

Harambe’s Ethiopian Restaurant. RIP.

The College Bars

I can’t go any farther without explaining Five Points.  An intersection where five roads meet just a few blocks east of campus and downtown, if you’re looking for the rowdiest place possible, this is it.  A place I prefer to see only during the day, it turns into a sanctuary for shenanigans each night.

The “I Still Want to Feel Like I’m in College” Bar

When you can’t keep up with the kids at Five Points, there’s a Tin Roof downtown for that.

The Hole in the Wall

My favorite place in Columbia, I will reluctantly reveal the hole in the wall I must call home for a few hours on each excursion to Columbia.  Uncle Louie’s has a shuffleboard table, darts, a pool table and $2 Natty bottles.  What more can you want from a concrete-floored bar?

The Place to People Watch

At Pearlz Oyster Bar downtown, you will see every kind of person there is to see enjoying live jazz music.

The Hip Craft Beer Dive

If Pearlz isn’t weird enough, go to The Whig.  The coolest setup of any bar in the city, the dingy basement is beneath Columbia’s ABC-TV affiliate and across the street from the capital.  You feel like you’re in a different time while enjoying local draft beers.

When You Just Gotta Have Bourbon

Some people just can’t kick it, and I don’t blame ’em.  In the middle of downtown, the aptly named Bourbon has all of the bourbon you could ever want.

When You Want to be Like Drew

Drew Franklin will not be making the trip, but when he’s in Columbia and the night is getting late (and a little weird) he heads to The Woody.  I don’t recommend trying to go as hard as Drew, but that option should be available to everyone who dares to dance with the devil.