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10 Things That Made Absolutely No Sense in Kentucky’s 20-10 Loss to Missouri

Hello darkness, my old friend. Unfortunately, here we are again.

A week after the program seemingly took a giant leap forward with a dominant win over Tennessee at Neyland Stadium, the Kentucky Wildcats took two steps back with an embarrassing outing at Missouri, falling 20-10 to the Tigers by taking offensive ineptitude to new heights.

It’s difficult to make sense of the awfulness. How did we get here? Let’s start at the beginning.

1. Kentucky won the toss, elected to receive  

Mark Stoops is and always has been a “defer to the second half” kind of guy. It’s what you expect from a defensive-minded head coach. In the world of analytics you should defer at every opportunity, giving your team a chance to steal a possession near halftime. Deferring has been a regular thing since Kentucky’s ten-win 2018 season, but for whatever reason that was not the case today. The Wildcats are 0-3 this season when receiving the opening kickoff.

2. Three plays, three passes, three and out

The best rushing offense in the SEC threw three passes on its opening drive. Only one was completed, a gain of six to Josh Ali on third and ten. By receiving, Kentucky’s was supposed to set the tone offensively. It did exactly that, just in the worst way possible.

Why would Kentucky go away from the run game early and often? Entering today’s game Missouri’s pass defense was near the bottom of the SEC, giving up more than 307 yards per game. Similar to the scenario entering the Mississippi State game, it was awfully enticing for Eddie Gran to try to win with the pass. He could not resist the forbidden fruit.

Kentucky completed one pass on the following drive, then did not connect on another pass until the fourth quarter.

3. All About the Quarterback

Kentucky beat the dead horse until the carcass was bare.

Gran decided before the game that Terry Wilson was going to win the game for the Wildcats. Instead of letting the game come to Wilson by establishing the run through the running backs, the early incompletions got Wilson and the UK offense out of synch.

For example, on Kentucky’s second possession the Wildcats ran the ball three times with A.J. Rose and Chris Rodriguez to move the chains. On the following play, Gran called a QB option. Wilson made the wrong read and was tackled for a loss. Just like that, Kentucky’s offense was off-schedule.

You did not need to be an analytics guy to see that the running backs were Kentucky’s only positive form of offense. The analytics, in this case success rate, did reinforce that opinion. Let Adam Luckett, an AnaLucketts guy, explain:

If that isn’t clear enough, A.J. Rose had a 29-yard carry in the second quarter that helped set up a 50-yard field goal by Matt Ruffolo, tying a career-long he set last year against Arkansas. That one Rose run accounted for 44% of the 65 yards UK’s offense gained in the first half.

4. Aggravating Third Down Defense 

The turnover well was eventually going to run dry. You cannot expect a defense to average five forced turnovers a game for any extended stretch. However, you could count on the Cats to step up and get stops on third down after holding their previous two opponents to 6-for-29. Entering today’s game Kentucky’s third down defense ranked second in the SEC and nineteenth nationally by holding opponents to 31.4%.

With a freshman quarterback taking snaps, Missouri dinked and dunked underneath Kentucky’s zone defense to convert 10-of-20 third down attempts and 4-of-5 fourth down attempts (56% overall). On one third and ten Mizzou successfully ran it six yards to set up a fourth and manageable, moving the sticks on the following play.

5. A 21-Play Drive with No Points

Kentucky’s defense made a huge stop before half to force Missouri to take a field goal. Trailing 10-3 at intermission, as bad as the Wildcats played it was still a one-possession game. The sluggish first half could easily be forgotten with a stop and a score. That’s not exactly what happened.

Missouri methodically marched down the field a few yards at a time. Twenty plays later they reached the UK seven yard-line, one yard shy of a first down. Instead of taking a 10-point lead with a field goal, Eli Drinkwitz chose to go for it on fourth down. He put the ball in Connor Bazelak’s hands, who rolled to his right, right into Yusuf Corker.

Bazelak was sacked. Missouri ate up 9:35 of clock and did not score a point. Just like that, the Wildcats had new life.

6. Avoiding Rodriguez

New life for the Wildcats was squashed in an instant. Backed up deep into their own territory, instead of feeding the powerful Chris Rodriguez to chew up some aggravating yards, Gran put the ball in Terry Wilson’s hands. A QB-designed run went for two yards, then there was an incompletion and a scramble/coverage sack that ended the drive.

Kentucky’s defense needed a reward for stalling a 21-play drive without any bloodshed. The Kentucky offense flipped them the bird in response with a three-and-out.

It wasn’t the only time Chris Rodriguez was omitted from the action when they needed it most.

Naturally, the three-and-out left the UK defense ripe for the picking. Missouri scored a touchdown five plays later, yet the Wildcats weren’t done. Rodriguez ripped off a 17-yard run on the opening play of ensuing drive. A penalty moved the chains on the next play and just like that, UK dialed up a successful shot to score its first touchdown of the night just as the fourth quarter began.

Finally, Kentucky had some momentum. The defense was got a much-needed a stop, treating the offense to a quick three-and-out, Missouri’s first of the night.

Kentucky had the ball with 11:09 to play and a chance to tie it with a touchdown. Chris Rodriguez did not get one touch. Rose was stopped after a two yard-gain, followed by two straight Terry Wilson incompletions. In the games most crucial moment, Gran avoided his most reliable playmaker. The opportunity was lost and so was the game.

7. So. Many. Plays.

Some of this game’s starts are inconceivable. Missouri ran 56 more plays than Kentucky. Running back Larry Rountree had more rushing attempts (37) than Kentucky had offensive plays (36). Missouri possessed the ball for 43:10, almost three entire quarters. How?!?!?

8. What the Hell was that Noise?

As bad as the game was, the SEC Network broadcast was worse. The crowd noise Missouri used must have been coming through a phonograph. The cameramen could not keep up with the action. There might have been a chance for reviews to go UK’s way, but you could not see anything at Faurot Field. Everything about this game was awful.

9. Sure, let’s try Joey Gatewood

Tonight we learned Kentucky’s offensive problems are not all Terry Wilson’s fault. Joey Gatewood received two series at quarterback before halftime and closed out the game taking snaps. Like Wilson, No. 2 had a couple decent plays, including an eight-yard rush that moved the sticks, but he failed to create the spark Stoops hoped Gatewood might provide coming off the bench.

10. Stubbornness 

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has been the target of the BBN’s criticism for years, yet the Wildcats have continued to have unprecedented success because of his ability to radically adapt the offense to his playmakers’ strengths. Drew Barker was billed as the future of Kentucky’s offense when he suffered a season-ending injury in the second game of the 2016 season. Gran rebuilt UK’s offense around Stephen Johnson, who led the Cats to seven wins, including one over the Heisman Trophy winner in the season finale. Three years later multiple quarterback injuries forced Gran to play a wide receiver under center. Lynn Bowden proceeded to lead UK to win six of their last eight games, including a 37-30 win over Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl.

Once the dynamic, agile play-caller, Gran’s stubbornness has held back Kentucky in 2020.

The offensive woes were apparent in week three against Mississippi State. It was clear then that the Wildcats needed to play the talented, albeit less experienced wide receivers, and make Chris Rodriguez the focal point of the offense. These necessary changes have only become clearer each week since.

The wide receivers can’t get open. When they do, they either drop the pass or fumble the ball away. A.J. Rose can be explosive at times, as evident by that 29-yard first half gain, but he only picked up 14 yards in his other four carries. Meanwhile, C-Rod is steadily picking up more than five yards per carry while receiving nominal touches, only nine at Missouri.

Entering the season we were sold on the fact that Terry Wilson was going to take this team to new heights. It’s apparent that will not be the case. Wilson is a fine quarterback that will make some big plays for this offense, but he does not have the pass-catchers to put the team on his back and carry the Wildcats to wins. The shoulders of the UK running backs can carry the heavy load. Tonight Rose and Rodriguez doubled the production of the quarterbacks with one less attempt. It’s clear and obvious that Kentucky needs to rely on its running backs to produce offense behind the Big Blue Wall. Why Eddie Gran stubbornly will not accept that fact makes absolutely no sense, just like everything else from Saturday’s embarrassing loss to Missouri.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

50 Comments for 10 Things That Made Absolutely No Sense in Kentucky’s 20-10 Loss to Missouri

  1. Stop Hammer Time
    9:33 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Where’s Hunter?

  2. JohnnyCat
    9:45 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    I’ve been so frustrated by Eddie Gran’s anemic offense that I really failed to see the gravity how absolutely atrocious and soft the defense played. Losing Bohanna really hurt, especially if that front line can’t stop the run. Once they are forced to start blitzing and cheating more guys up in the box, then they get easily picked apart in the secondary. They have no consistent edge rushers and the linebackers have been below par from recent years. Irrespective of the MSU and UT games, this defense is not all that people made them out to be. They don’t fly to the ball and do not look particularly aggressive. The patented Stoops zone is easily sliced and diced without the hosses up front to hold the line.

    • Bluehender
      10:19 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

      I agree JohnnyCat…

    • TBW3011
      12:41 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      It’s Stoops, not the OC. How many fn air raid OC’s do we have to hire to hand the ball off to realize it isn’t the OC?

    • oldfanallin
      10:44 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      It’s all on the defense for not scoring enough points. The game plan was for the defense to score the other 11 points.

    • 44stewart
      11:08 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      I have been saying same thing. All these guys put up big numbers before and after Stoops. He handcuffs them. He plays to not lose.

  3. Cokely53
    9:58 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    If you’re going to plug Gatewood in, you have to give him more of a chance than that.

    Also didn’t help that Duffy wasn’t flipping the field like his normal self. Their offense had starting position each time.

  4. Philthy
    9:58 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Why do I constantly see opponent’s receivers running wide open in the secondary while the UK QB stares down one receiver (Ali) who is surrounded by multiple defenders?

  5. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    10:09 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Some dumb points. People act like we should just line up and run every play. I have no problem starting off with starting with 3 throwing plays to try and get Wilson going, but you can’t have Wilson throwing deep balls on 1st down and a screen on 3rd and long. Also, Gateway looked good and you can’t judge him on a couple of possessions.

    • tdub
      10:15 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

      Yep, can’t compare the qb’s when one has played in 20 games and the other has only had a few series.

    • Mulli
      12:08 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Defense on the field too much ….but they still held them to 20 points and in today’s college football world one would you need to score 24+ to win any game(seeNick Saban quote) … D couldn’t get off the field, but they still gave us a chance… the offense and our OC cost us today.

  6. kentuckybackupplayer
    10:15 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    This game was Joker Phillips embarrassing.

    • bbn606
      1:35 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Drop the mic. That’s the quote of the day.

  7. michaelb
    10:34 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    We’re better off using last years game plan for this season : run the ball a million diff ways & never throw it .

  8. TheBigjMan55
    10:37 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Gatewood should be QB1!!!

  9. clarks
    10:50 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Total offensive ineptitude. Sure maybe wasnt the defense best game but with being on field the whole game and only gave up 20, I would take that all day. If the offense controls the ball for 45% of the clock they probably dont score more than 14. They cant score the points every game

  10. ThankfulCat
    11:19 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    UGA 35
    Uk 6

    It’s coming

  11. UKCatAttack
    11:39 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Pretty accurate assessment of what was a complete disaster. I’m not sure what it is but I actually think QBs get worse when they come to UK. If you watch highlight videos on our current and former QBs they could really pass the ball. They come to UK and can’t hit a guy on a tunnel screen. Time for Gran to go. Gatewood is our future and he should be QB1 now!

  12. eyebleedblue
    11:45 pm October 24, 2020 Permalink

    Gran not giving the two younger backs the ball is equal to BillyG benching Jodie Meeks.

    • zoupman
      12:38 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Good point, eye blue. Good article.

  13. TBW3011
    12:40 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    It honestly makes total sense. In game we have the worst coaches in America residing in our athletic department. Cal is laughably bad, Stoops is laughably bad and Mitchell is whatever level is below laughably bad.

  14. VMI1957
    12:43 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Dag gummit!!! Next week’s game against Georgia has the Bulldogs winning 54-7 if not by a larger margin…..and that’s no trick or treat. Tonight’s game was beyond pathetic.

    • Bluehender
      9:55 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      You would know about “beyond pathetic”

    • Hi Im Reality
      5:15 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Well, yeah, he’s a lifelong UK fan.

    • Bluehender
      8:41 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      If you think he’s a Cat fan, you don’t know what reality is

  15. makeitstop
    4:09 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Last week’s win masked the problem on offense. The defense scored or set up half the scores. QB1 had 100 yards passing for the game. The week before the defense out scored the offense which, like yesterday, was held to 150 yards. This week, against a mediocre team w a freshman QB, it became impossible to hide the fact Terry Wilson is not going to make that leap u hoped for. Tentative. Easy to bring down. Poor decisions lead to sacks or missed receivers. I have my doubts the receivers could hold onto the ball even if Allen or Gatewood got it to them in better places and in stride but we’re going to have to find out. Gran has a week to get one of them ready to face one of the best defenses in the country. It’s clear Wilson can’t do it, and it would be a massacre if he tried. We need Smoke back… and we need a guy who can make some passes downfield, and we need it now while 5-5 is still in reach.

    • CatfaninCinci
      7:33 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Sensible response.

      It’s what I’ve said all along. And I was dubbed a TW hater.

      He’s got holes in his game you can’t fix. Throwing the ball in spots for his WR to have success is one of those holes. His throws require the WR to make a great play. And that’s the problem. They can’t.

      So here we are

  16. CatfaninCinci
    7:28 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    I’ve got an 11th thing… Who wants to hear it?

    11. The fact that Nick Roush can’t let go of his fandom for TW long enough to be objective that maybe, JUST MAYBE, he makes bad reads, takes bad sacks, doesn’t have a great arm, and isn’t SEC caliber. Gran is bad, no doubt and I’ll get to him, but Wilson does not have the IT factor needed to lead. I’m sorry Roush. I’m sorry you can’t see that.

    For all you people out there, when I was wanting rid of Gran after Snell carried him to 9 wins (he’s the reason we didn’t have 11 wins), this game is for you. When you defended him over and over and over. This loss is on you! You wanted this.

    • dkcr96
      10:03 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Catfincincy- truer words have never been spoken. Roush is the definition of a homer. Stoops has built a program that wins in spite of the qb instead of because of the qb. It’s admirable in allot of ways, stoops basically asks the qb not to lose the game and let the defense, special teams and running game win it. Problem is that’s a recipe to beat lesser teams. When you play teams parallel or better you have to make plays on offense to give your team a chance. Wilson will have 1 good series every couple games and people act like that’s acceptable, it’s not.

      In my opinion stoops offense or lack thereof is the main reason he wasn’t a primary candidate for the Florida state job and other high profile jobs available last year.

  17. bbn606
    8:52 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    It’s quite obvious that we don’t have decent receivers. At one time during the broadcast, they said Ali had 30 targets and 9 catches on the season and he is our best. He may have caught one or two after that and he fumbled so he is fumbling away 20% of his catches. It’s time to start playing those freshman receivers as this is a lost season. Meanwhile, I’ll be watching highlights from the Tennessee game and be thankful for that.

  18. oldfanallin
    10:53 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Play Allen before he transfers. He is the real future.

    • oldfanallin
      10:55 am October 25, 2020 Permalink

      And the freshman receivers so the grow u together.

  19. WildcatFannin
    12:01 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    I’m fed up with Rose. He’s talented but gives zero effort and runs out of bounds to avoid contact. Rodriguez should be our RB1 and let’s start using our Freshman RBs who want to be in there. Rose just sets a terrible example with his lacadasical approach.

  20. wild horses
    12:03 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Regardless of yesterday, Stoops is still a super coach. Not perfect and, yes, he does play not to lose. However, we have won games at a clip few can remember around here. For my money, the defense killed us yesterday as much as the offense. Show of hands who thinks Bazelak would have beat us deep? Me either. Why we kept giving them the underneath floors me… and we never adjusted.
    I still can’t be too mad at anyone though. We have won too many games the past 4 years to keep complaining the way we do when get outplayed.
    One last thing… TW does one good thing at QB. He throws a beautiful deep ball. It’s his mid and short game that really hurt. Accuracy kind of goes away. But… he’s still a CAT and I’m still in his corner rooting for him or whoever is out there.
    I guess 2 more things… this was an emotional let down in ways. They were living the UT game all week and played like it and Coach Shlarman getting worse took it’s toll. I don’t think there are many among us that could put it together under those circumstances.

    • oldfanallin
      12:15 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      I agree, but yesterday hurts. And we have to be able pass to move up in the SEC.

    • CatfaninCinci
      12:31 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      The defense tends to hurt you when they have to play 96 plays to your offense’s 36.

      That’s why the defense broke. They were dogged carrying the offense that couldn’t stay on the field.

  21. mashman 93
    12:31 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Maybe Eddie Gran isn’t stubborn at all maybe it’s Mark Stoops meddling in the play calling, maybe our receivers are not that good. Gran threw it all over the yard at Cincinnati and has done none of that at Kentucky. GO CATS!!!

    • CatfaninCinci
      12:42 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

      Gran got used to hiding behind stars like Snell and Bowden.

  22. kjd
    12:46 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Stoops took the ball first because Gran had the first play ready. However, TW miserably under threw Josh Ali for a big gain or more.
    Another series, it wasn’t Gran’s play call, but TW poor decision that put us in bad a position. IMO the problem with our coaching is personnel. Rodriguez is the obvious #1 RB. The two young guys need playing time ahead of Rose. Miss the injured Smoke. WRs including Ali are not good enough. Have to give reps to younger talent. Gatewood is the better passer, equal rushing ability, unfortunately, equal decision making as TW. Team has issues due to coaching.

  23. Middy
    12:59 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    They were dogged because we allowed multiple 15-20 play drives because we allowed them to dink and dunk all the way down the field. We stayed soft underneath without adjusting the entire game. Had we adjusted and not allowed 60% conversions on 3rd and 4th downs, they would not have been as tired. The offense didn’t help, but the D was an issue in the first half. DI athletes aren’t worn out in the first quarter.

  24. dhard
    3:07 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    Number 11. Piss poor coaching.
    Number 12. Piss poor coaching caused the first 10 items.

  25. CombatMedic_98
    7:58 pm October 25, 2020 Permalink

    The defense has saved the offense every win TW has played except the Florida win and that was all because of Bowden…

  26. WILDCATS1968
    10:38 am October 26, 2020 Permalink

    The worst part of it to me, and there are several issues, Missouri pass defense was one of the absolute worst in the nation coming into the game. They have a great LB and good against the run, I can see why Gran was trying to attack their weakness. The problem is, we couldn’t pass the ball against a team giving up 38 PPG. It is a very telling sign that your QB and WR’s are just not up to par SEC wise to get it done against one of the worst secondary’s in the country. WTF is gonna happen facing Georgia’s ? It is really bad how Terry Wilson has regressed after the injury and I think he is playing scared, then when he makes good throws the WR drops it. Snake bit is the old term used for that. He runs out of bounds, takes the 1st read, not tucking it and runner hard, all are signs he is playing scared. When terry Wilson is most dangerous was when he extended plays with his legs and got the defense back on its heels, not the design runs, the scrambling runs was what made him dangerous. And also, let us not let the O-Line get a free pass, several times defenders got pass them to the QB and several times the ball carrier did not have an opening. IF the o-Line can contain the pass rush, it might be time to take a look at a true pocket passer, it can’t get any worse, dial up Beau Allen and some of the younger guys (Drennen). hell i am pretty sure Sawyer Smith would produce more.

  27. RackEmWillie
    11:57 am October 26, 2020 Permalink

    Things I don’t fully get with the offense:

    1. Stoops really puts an emphasis on time of possession, and “shortening” the game, but we’ll still rely on little dinks and dunks and screens. I don’t know many defensive minded coaches who think like Stoops does, who are on board with the lateral offense type throws.

    2. Why does Eddie panic when he gets off schedule by a little bit? It feels like so many 2nd and long situations, he wants to get ahead of schedule on that single play. The ground game will overwhelmingly get them back in managable situations, but he doesn’t always seem to believe that, and he didn’t with Benny or Bowden, either.

    3. Why do we not utilize more multiple back sets when we have as many as we do? C-Rod on a dive and Rose keeping pitch relationship? Mark, that’s gonna get you some yards and points.

    I have very strong football opinions, and so many offensive decisions confuse me. And they have since Eddie got hired.