With the disappointing loss to Ole Miss out of the way now and Operation: Whine taking over the message boards, the play-calling of Kentucky’s offense seems to be taking a few shots, in addition to the defensive unit and the quarterback that have been dodging bullets all season. The complaints about the offense are none too new, centering around peculiar play calls, mainly the draw plays on long yardage situations and the passing routes that don’t stretch beyond the first down marker. It’s the same belly-aching we’ve heard for the past several seasons, but with a pair of disappointing SEC performances in the books, they’ve become amplified.
For perspective (and to determine if you’re right or wrong), here are the third down situations the Cats have found themselves in over the past two games and the results of the play calls. On paper, it doesn’t look like there’s anything too nuts about the play calls on third down. Here are some fancy LHL-like charts:
Obviously, there are a number of factors that can’t be represented in an Excel table and, as fascinating and exciting as it is, you can’t really tell the whole story. But, what is obvious through watching the last two SEC games is that Kentucky’s offense has appeared timid and not nearly what we thought it would be in year one of an era that was publicly deemed “Operation: Win”. Even in a game on Saturday that saw them go for it on fourth down the first time they had the ball, the Cats still seemed to be playing “Operation: Oh, jeez, let’s not blow this” until they had no choice but to attempt a furious comeback through the air. Now, being that this is an offense that has established its identity through a powerful running game, it’s not surprising that the passing game has been a little conservative. However, when you consider that the defense has essentially proven itself unable to be effective enough to allow the offense to be elaborate and uncreative and that Joker promised throughout the pre-season that he expects his quarterback to “win” the game and not manage it, you can’t blame UK fans for being irritated.
But, the thing that’s the most frustrating isn’t just the calling of the plays. It’s what the play calls say to the fans. The staff says that they want to let their quarterback win the game, but rarely give him a shot to do more than anything but not mess it up. Is that what puts them in the best position to win? I don’t know. I certainly hope not because if that is truly the case, then the quarterback position is far worse off than any of us even expected. I believe that Mike Hartline can make the big throws when he needs to. He’s proven himself able to make those plays at times. But, if the staff doesn’t think that he can, which they’ve explicitly labeled to be their objective, then it makes you wonder if they have the right guy under center after all.
But, the good news is that there is one thing that can make it one big happy family again. Just beat Auburn. Make next Sunday easier for me.