I know one of the huge gripes with the Joker Phillips era so far has been what seems to be a more conservative, play to not lose, style of play-calling. Whether that means more runs or less deep passes, fans have generally been disappointed in the gameplans. But what did the WKU game show us? Did Joker Phillips and the offensive staff have enough variety in their playcalling, and were they more successful in certain situations than others. Below are plays broken down in down and distance (short or long) and then my interpretation of what it means.
1st down (20 plays)
13 rushes: 24 yards
7 passes: 2-6, 14 yards, 1 INT, 1 sack (-11 yards)
What this means: Well, it tells us a couple things. First of all, the rushing attack was pitiful on first down. It put UK in difficult 2nd down spots because they were getting less than 2 yards per carry. Rich Brooks used to always say he wanted to avoid 2nd and 3rd downs and long. UK did not accomplish that Thursday, and that was largely due to a poor rushing attack. To be honest, I was surprised to find their were 7 first down passes thrown. But, only 2 of those happened in the 2nd half, which is odd because the rushing was so bad. You would think they would have tried MORE passes on 1st down to mix it up, but I guess there wasn’t much confidence in either unit. For the time being though, I like a 65-35 ratio in run to pass on 1st down.
2nd down and 7 or less (3 plays)
3 rushes: 2 yards
2nd down and 8 or more (14 plays)
7 rushes: 7 yards
7 passes: 5-6, 83 yards, 1 TD, 1 sack (-11 yards)
What this means: It tells us that 1st down play were horrible. To have only THREE plays in the entire game of 2nd and 7 or less. But, the one positive in all this was on 2nd and long, the passing game was very effective. Newton hit his 2 longest passes on 2nd and long, and had his highest completion percentage was in these situations. It was also the best run-pass distribution of any play situation. This is where Joker and Co. had their bread buttered.
3rd down and 7 or less (8 plays)
3 rushes: 15 yards, 1 TD
5 passes: 0-4, 2 INT, 1 sack (-5 yards)
3rd down and 8 or more (5 plays)
4 rushes: 71 yards
1 pass: 0-1
What this means: Taking away Newton’s 58 yard scramble, a total of 12 plays were run on 3rd down for a total of 28 yards, including Clemons’ rushing TD. That just won’t cut it. Of the 13 plays run on 3rd down, only 3 were converted for 1st down or touchdowns. But of all the playcalling tendencies we see above, the one that bothers me the most are the 3rd and long numbers.
Five times Kentucky faced 3rd and long on Thursday. 4 times they rushed the ball. THAT IS CALLED GIVING UP. That is disappointing. I understand game situations dictate certain things, but to esentially concede to punting the ball 4 out of 5 times on 3rd and long is a poor attitude, in my opinion.