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Kentucky’s Passing Attack: Fools Gold?

Much has been made so far on the young season about Maxwell Smith and Kentucky’s improved passing attack.  In comparison to last year’s ranking of 120th out of 120 in passing efficiency, it’s an absolute blessing to see the ball being tossed around the field.  As it currently stands, the Wildcat offense is ranked 13th nationally in pass yards per game, and 30th in completion percentage, which would appear to indicate that our pass offense is great in comparison to the nation.  But, unfortunately if we delve a bit deeper we’ll see that the elite level numbers are more flawed than we perceive.  I wrote this summer on how pass yards per game are largely an irrelevant stat in College Football due to the fact a vast majority of teams rush more than they throw, a much more significant statistic is Yards per Attempt which Kentucky ranks 88th nationally.  While that number is very revealing about the truth in Kentucky’s passing game, something to solidify it further would be percentage of plays where gains exceed 10 yards.  So in order to give more insight on UK’s passing game I researched what percentage of plays go for big gains in comparison to the rest of the nation.  Below is a table containing Kentucky’s percentages, national rank, and national average.


A brief explanation of what you see above, Percent of Passes Thrown simply tell you how many times (in percentage) Kentucky busts a pass play for 10+, 20+, or 30+ yards.  Raw numbers would show bias to teams like Kentucky who throw the ball more than the average FBS team, so percentage is used to eliminate that.  As you can see, our pass offense is not the model of efficiency like some have come to believe.  Despite what passing yards per game say, Kentucky is not a very efficient passing team.  The above data does nothing but reinforce Kentucky’s 88th ranked Yard per Passing Attempt numbers which correlate much higher to winning football games than do yards per game.

It’s certainly discouraging to know that the offense isn’t what we think it is, but even more depressing is knowing that the problem has potential to get much worse.  It’s no secret that our schedule has been relatively easy thus far (despite what our 1-2 record says), that changes this weekend as the Wildcats travel to Gainesville to battle Will Muschamp’s defensive minded Gator squad.  On the season, Florida has only surrendered a pass that goes for 10+ yards on 18.8% of attempts, 20+ yards on 7.1% of attempts, and 30+ on .7% of attempts, so our already inefficient pass game is in trouble come Saturday.

While our offense rates high nationally in basic passing numbers, it’s actually fools gold. Once more advanced numbers like Yards per Attempt or percentage of big plays earned are used we get a much more telling picture of our team’s ability to move the ball through the air.  And that picture shows a Kentucky team that has no real deep threat.  Once SEC play starts this weekend we’ll start to see teams take advantage of this and load the box taking away our short passes and rushes forcing a slightly improved offense near last year’s status.  So while on the surface our passing game is golden, once we take it in to sell, the Pawn Shop owner gives the same reaction that Joe Dirt got when he tried to sell his meteor.



Article written by Jonathan Schuette

18 Comments for Kentucky’s Passing Attack: Fools Gold?

  1. Opti
    12:51 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Where did you get the national numbers to compare?

  2. MadTex
    1:02 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Fool’s Gold? The way this UK football team plays (not real good I might add) I’ll take any kind of improvement over last year. What really sucks is that the defense is atrocious, putrid, rank, smelly, etc, etc. If we take this years passing attack and throw in Claiborne’s defense (when he use to coach here back in the early 80’s) then this team might be something. Mitch needs to wake up to the fact that he needs a new football coach – one who knows how to win in the SEC especially. They are out there but I think Mitch is too chicken to spend money on a REAL coach though earlier this year he says money is no object. Putup or resign Mitch!!!

  3. Common Sense
    1:15 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Maxwell Smith may be 3rd in passing yards but, as this graph shows, a lot of his yards are from WR’s making plays.

  4. WeAreSoScrewed
    1:17 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    We are so screwed!

  5. Dolfan66r
    1:22 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Andre Woodson called Max Smith the next great QB at UK. Of course he included himself and he was mediocre at best

  6. Head Bussa
    1:23 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Can someone please explain to me why Daryl Collins barely got to play the other night?

  7. Head Bussa
    1:24 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Daryl Collins is far and away our best offensive weapon yet Joker still wants to play Eugene McCaskill more than him.

  8. ponderer
    1:24 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Why do you keep running stories about football that imply things ought to be better than that are. How about the Kernel story outlining athletic dept finances? There’s no way we’ll have a decent team with the shenanigans going on. And where’d Jones get the ‘70% wouldn’t approve of Petrino’ figure???? Looks made up. KSR your agenda is showing.

  9. John
    1:40 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The numbers are skewed slightly with all of the 1st down passes that are designed to pick up only 4 yards per play. Just like Air Raid, this play is designed to put the offense in 3rd and short positions. It is essentially a ball control offense, yet when used with a hurry up format and completion percentages under 60% the “control” doesn’t show up in the time of possession.

  10. John
    1:41 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The telling numbers would be to pull the 1st down pass attempts and completions out of the mix and see what the true passing game is looking like. The 1st down passes are designed to basically be a run play.

  11. Ian
    1:45 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    One thing you fail to mention here is UK’s offensive style of play. Kentucky employs a pro style offense. the object of said offense is to work your way down the field making short accurate passes. What you have shown here is that they are in fact accomplishing their offense mandate. If we were running the spread offense then yes, this would be quite concerning.

  12. dave
    2:02 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    There is no way to defend what is going on with UK football. Changes are needed.

  13. ukgags86
    2:08 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    What matters is that the offense is or has improved which should be pretty obvious to anyone that watched last year’s games. Unfortunately this year our defense blows and allows anyone with a marginal to good running attack to control the clock.

    Not sure how you can refer to it as “fool’s gold” when the offense has obviously improved.

  14. ukdave
    2:30 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    The only stat that matters offensively is the numbers on the scoreboard and this offense has shown it is capable of putting points on the board. Of course, I’m sure your “analysis” could help us realize that those points are not real. Geeez!

  15. Reality
    2:36 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Please go read the ESPN the Magazine “Franchise” article. It ranks D1 football programs in various categories, like coaching (no surprise we are very, very low there) and revenue. UK football is #23 in Revenue…think about that!! The only way to get your voice heard is to QUIT GOING TO ANY FOOTBALL GAMES until Barnfart hires a real, big-time HC, like Petrino!!! The time for UK football is now!!! Go Cats!!!!

  16. Duck Fuke
    3:08 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Thanks for that post. Before I only thought we sucked but now I know we technically suck.

  17. Vick
    3:15 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    Well! That’s very depressing! I still want Joker to some how pull out a miracle but the fact is that he is trying to play SEC football with non-SEC type athletes. Ultimately that is going to be his downfall is thinking that he can play the way everyone else plays. We need gimmicks and we need to call more aggressive plays because we can’t just line up and run over people or throw over them. We need to catch people off guard but he has shown he is not going to do that and because of that he will be fired at the end of the year…

  18. UL2UK8
    8:17 pm September 18, 2012 Permalink

    UK needs a more balanced offensive attack. 61 passes and 19 runs for 41 yards against WKU is crazy.