When the initial comment that Kentucky might throw the ball “40 or more times” this season was uttered, you just knew that would get UK fans in a tizzy, reminiscing about the days of the Air Raid attack and Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen slinging the ball all around the field and setting records. Mark Stoops has walked that comment back a little since, although Terry Wilson threw the number 50 around in a KSR interview so fans are still interested to see if the ball will be in the air a bunch in 2019 or not. But I am here to tell you that not only should we not expect to see a game of 40+ passes from Terry Wilson this year, I don’t think we should WANT to see a game of 40+ passes this year.
Because let us not forget that those days of Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen, no matter how much fun they were, also didn’t lead to a ton of winning. In the 6 seasons those guys played quarterback, UK went 27-42.
Taking it back to the Mark Stoops era, games in which UK aired it out haven’t exactly been the most winning strategy for the Cats:
More Than 35 Passes (3-10 record)
52 passes: 2015, Mississippi State (Towles 42, Barker 9)
45 passes: 2014, Florida (Towles 45)
44 passes: 2015, Auburn (Towles 44)
44 passes: 2014, Mississippi State (Towles 43, G.Johnson 1)
42 passes: 2015, Eastern Kentucky (Towles 42)
39 passes: 2018, Missouri (Wilson 31, Hoak 8)
39 passes: 2017, Northwestern (Johnson 36, Barker 3)
38 passes: 2018, Tennessee (Wilson 34, Hoak 4)
38 passes: 2013, Tennessee (Smith 38)
37 passes: 2017, Missouri (Johnson 36, Snell 1)
37 passes: 2014, Missouri (Towles 37)
37 passes: 2013, Louisville (Smith 20, Whitlow 17)
36 passes: 2014, LSU (Towles 36)
Kentucky has only thrown the ball over 40 times in 6 games in the Stoops era, all in 2014 and 2015, with Neal Brown and Shannon Dawson as the offensive coordinator. And UK went 1-4 in those games and the only win was against Eastern Kentucky. But check this out:
Less Than 17 Passes (7-1 record)
9 passes: 2018, Vanderbilt
14 passes: 2018, Mississippi State
14 passes: 2018, Middle Tennessee
14 passes: 2016, Florida
14 passes: 2016, Austin Peay
15 passes: 2018, Penn State
16 passes: 2018, Florida
16 passes: 2017, Tennessee
Now, some might say in games UK was winning they didn’t have to throw the ball as much, thus these numbers. But the bigger point is that why do we clamor for the stronger passing game? We don’t have a quarterback who is known as a great passer. We don’t have an experience wide receiver crew. We don’t have a coach who traditionally likes a pass-heavy attack. And we haven’t won many games when we have passed it a bunch.
These is no positive traditionally in throwing the ball 40+ times a game, whether with Mark Stoops or not. The idea the game is more exciting with more passes is a myth. The game is more exciting when you win. And the winning strategy with Mark Stoops is 15-30 passes a game maximum.