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Cats get outplayed and embarrassed in Knoxville

© Randy Sartin | USATSI

© Randy Sartin | USATSI

Well, that wasn’t any fun.

A week after the tough loss to Georgia, UK was facing a schedule with three opponents they were clearly better than to close the season. If the Wildcats were able to win out, they were going to have double-digit victories and be in the top 10 heading to a New Year’s Six Bowl. It was a going to be a monumental achievement for this program.

That is out the window now.

On Saturday at Neyland Stadium, the Wildcats were outhustled, outschemed, and outwilled by an inferior Tennessee football team. The game played out like so many UK-UT games have in the past, but this year should’ve been different. The Wildcats were allowing explosive plays that they haven’t given up all season and the offense remained in a total funk. It was an all systems failure.

Offense

This result continues a brutal five-game stretch for the Wildcats. After scoring at least 24 points in each game to start the season, UK has only produced seven offensive touchdowns in the last 22 quarters. That is embarrassing, incompetent, and should not be tolerated.

Yesterday in Knoxville, the Wildcats collected just 262 total yards (77 rushing, 185 passing) on 73 plays. That’s good for 3.6 yards per play. Only the performance against against Texas A&M was worse for the Wildcats.

Once again, when Kentucky was able to put drives together they had a horrible time finishing them with scores. The Wildcats crossed midfield multiple times and only came away with seven points. On their first scoring possession of the day, a dropped snap and dropped pass forced a makeable field goal into a 51-yard attempt. Chance Poore missed and Kentucky went scoreless. This set the tone for the game.

Little mistakes continue to hamper the offense, but their inability to create explosive gives this group no room for error. The Wildcats are a run first team and every opponent they’ve face outside of Vanderbilt in this stretch has been totally able to shut down that ground attack. I think it’s fair to wonder if the guys upfront are being hampered by injuries or if UK’s style of play has just worn them down.

When you aren’t able to block at the point of attack that makes life very difficult for your quarterback. In only his fourth career road start, it was a very inconsistent day for Terry Wilson. The junior college transfer completed over 60% of his passes for the eighth time this season but the completions are not going anywhere. For the seventh time this year, Wilson’s yards per attempt average was under seven yards and that’s just not going to get the job done.

Wilson was constantly under pressure in the ballgame and was sacked five times. UK’s offensive line was incompetent all game long and they made life really difficult for the young quarterback. After running for at least 50 yards in four of the first seven games, the quarterback run has totally been eliminated by defenses in the last three. Taking away Wilson’s running ability eliminates a significant alternate weapon to Benny Snell.

Speaking of the junior tailback, it was a rough afternoon for UK’s star offensive player. It was clear that the gameplan was to get him rolling early, but Tennessee did a great job in keeping him contained. In the first quarter, the Vols stuffed Benny Snell on a third and short. 

The junior from Ohio collected 81 yards on 20 carries. If you take out the Vanderbilt game, he hasn’t recorded over 100 yards since rumbling through Mississippi State. If you’re looking for the biggest reason this offense is struggling look no further. UK’s identity is to pound the rock with Benny Snell and teams have totally eliminated it. Kentucky does not have a counterpunch in its arsenal and it is severely holding back this football team.

At receiver, the same issues are showing up. We saw bad drops on Saturday and this is now becoming a trend for this year’s offense. Outside of Lynn Bowden (six catches, 57 yards) no one is able to consistently create separation. UK is desperately looking for answers. In the last two games we’ve seen Zy’aire Hughes and Ahmad Wagner both receiving snaps and vertical targets in the passing game. Dorian Baker was nowhere to be found yesterday and the coaching staff is still unable to create plays for C.J. Conrad on a consistent basis.

It’s easy for us to say that UK needs to pass more but the coaches and players on this end need to produce when their number is called.

Defense

With the offense struggling like it did, Kentucky would need another flawless performance by its defense. Matt House’s unit was able to come through on the road at both Texas A&M and Mizzou to give the Wildcats a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. They were unable to do the same at Tennessee.

The Vols put up 412 yards (215 rushing, 197 passing) on 60 plays for a 6.9 yards per play average. That yardage total was the highest output in an SEC game this season for Tennessee. The one thing UK couldn’t allow was explosive plays and UT got a ton of them on Saturday.

After being one of the best defenses in the country at limiting big plays, both Georgia and Tennessee have been able find them against Kentucky the last two weeks. In the air is where the Vols did most of their damage.

Jarrett Guarantano only threw the football 20 times but they were effective. The redshirt sophomore completed sixty percent of his attempts and averaged just under 10 yards per throw. The biggest one occurred right as the second quarter expired to put UT up an insurmountable three scores.

The Vols were able to consistently create separation vertically down the field. Things improved for the Wildcats when Darius West returned in the second half, but Tennessee’s wide receivers outplayed UK’s secondary. However, this wasn’t the most disappointing part of the performance.

Tennessee entered the game as the worst rushing offense in the SEC and their yards per carry averaged ranked 117th in the FBS. A week after being exposed by Georgia on the ground, the Wildcats weren’t able to iron out their issues in just one week.

The Vols ran for 215 yards and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. Tennessee was able to get UK’s front moving horizontally and the running backs were quick enough to burst through the line of scrimmage and consistently come away with productive gains. At times, UK was able to produce tackles for loss but they weren’t enough to prevent Tennessee from having one of their most productive rushing performances of the season.

The Wildcats did make some solid adjustments in the second half and were able to keep it close enough for their offense to have plenty of chances to mount a comeback. But for the second week in a row, UK gave up over 20 points and six yards per play. Neither of those happened in the first eight weeks of the season. After carrying the offense for most of the season, it could be that this group is starting to wear down.

If you’re looking for some positives, UK had some young guys really perform well. Chris Oats looks like he belongs and he’s going to be a star at linebacker for this defense. He deserves more playing time. Marquan McCall also contributed and it’s clear he can be a dominant force at nose. UK will be losing a lot of this year’s defense but there is definitely young talent waiting for their turn.

Special Teams

Saturday was another disappointing performance for Dean Hood’s unit.

Max Duffy has been excellent all season and he boomed a 50-plus yard punt out of the endzone when UK desperately needed it. However, when his punts are returnable, UK’s coverage team is getting shredded. Another big return this week gave Tennessee great starting field position and this resulted in a field goal. With the way UK plays, they cannot afford to give up short fields.

The kicking woes continue for the Wildcats as Chance Poore missed his first career kicks. The first one came from 51 yards and had the leg but was just wide. The next was from 30 yards and was blocked. On the kick it appeared that the ball came out extremely low and that cannot happen. If UK makes it, then it becomes a two score game in the fourth quarter.

For the season, the Wildcats are now just 5-for-11 on field goal attempts and there’s been quite a few occasions where Mark Stoops has decided not to kick because of UK’s place kicking issues. We’ve talked ad nauseam about UK’s inability to finish drives and kicking field goals has a lot to do with it. UK is reeling from the loss of Austin MacGinnis and not having a reliable kicker is just another thing hurting this offense.

Outlook

Before we go into the obvious offensive issues that need to be pointed out, I think it’s only fair to point out each level’s ineffectiveness on Saturday. The defense allowed the worst rushing offense in the SEC to roll up over 200 yards and the secondary consistently got beat vertically down the field. The pass rush had a very difficult time getting home and it was blatantly obvious that this defense missed Darius West in the first half. In the kicking game, UK’s punt coverage still is giving up far too many big returns and the place kicking issues are wasting solid drives the offense puts together.

But at the end of the day, you cannot score just a touchdown and expect to keep it close against anyone. This was the third time this season that an SEC opponent has limited Kentucky’s offense to just one offensive touchdown. That is inexcusable and must be fixed.

This may be rock bottom.

The Wildcats need to get through the season but once this year is over, Mark Stoops is going to have to make a difficult decision. Under Eddie Gran’s watch, the offense has declined in production each season. The passing game has been nowhere to be found and without an all-time great place kicker this group doesn’t have someone to bail them out when things are going bad.

At Cincinnati, Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw utilized an offense that went with tempo and threw the ball around the yard. Balance was key but scoring was never an issue. UC put up over 30 points per game each season with Gran. At Kentucky, however, Mark Stoops has made it clear he wants an offense to limit possessions, be physical, and put his defense in good spots. They are doing that but you have to score points too.

This style of play may have wasted what could’ve been an all-time great season for UK and I think its fair to take a step back and consider adjusting the offensive philosophy.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

37 Comments for Cats get outplayed and embarrassed in Knoxville



  1. davis2319
    7:15 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Somebody needs to be held accountable for that offensive output. Our defense is so damn tired they have spent wayyyyy more time on the field these last 22 quarters. Our offense is obviously not good enough to put up points, but they can’t even give our defense a good break! No wonder teams are starting to gash us now. You don’t go from allowing 12 points per game to giving up 58 in the last two combined. One of those against Tennessee’s brutally bad offense. I still can’t believe we lost to those scrubs yesterday. We made their players look like ALL-SEC. I’m dumbfounded really.



    • henderblue
      9:33 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Somebody needs to be held accountable for posting another article about the football game. How bout we move on??



    • michaelb
      9:57 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Lololol hender



    • CombatMedic_98
      10:24 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Who’s the MORON that brought this dude to be our QB…”cause he’s fast”! That is who needs fired!!! Who recommended him and or chose him needs dismissed along with TW after this season



    • CATandMONKEY
      10:30 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      “Who’s the moron . . ”
      Most unwittingly ironic post of the day.



  2. davis2319
    7:15 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Tennessee will lose to Mizzou and even Vanderbilt



  3. N-UR-i
    7:47 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Fire Eddie Gran



  4. Booby Petrino
    7:52 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Tennessee isn’t as awful as some of yall make them out to be. They have a tough schedule, the only “bad” team they’ve lost to is South Carolina. They beat a decent Auburn team. I get that they didn’t put up many points against Charlotte, but I don’t know why everyone thought that should be an easy win for us.



    • bigbluebanana
      8:03 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      As per usual, you’re the same voice of reason around here.



    • BigolBlue
      8:04 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Yeah the ksr blue blooders had us at an easy 10-2



    • henderblue
      9:36 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      No BigolBluecardinal, we had yall at 2-10…don’t forget 77-16



  5. FunkyMonkey
    8:02 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Getting smashed yesterday and don’t throw to CJ? Gran should be fired for incompetence. Vince Marrow should request his firing as Gran will throw his recruiting into a funk.



  6. Jiminy Crickets
    8:36 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Louisville wins 7+ games 8 straight years, and 8+ over last 6 years. One bad season and coach is fired before season ends. Stoops has late year collapse every year he’s been here with maybe the first 8 win season (I don’t believe we beat Louisville) and he’ll get an extension.



    • Booby Petrino
      9:08 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Petrino didn’t have to pick Louisville up off the floor after Strong left, and Stoops had to start from the basement. And Louisville isn’t just losing this year, they’re getting smashed by everyone plus they have 20 players asking to transfer. Apples to oranges.



    • kjd
      8:00 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Booby: could it be the 20 players “asking” for transfer papers was the angle to unload Petrino? My prediction: Louisville will give us a tough game. With our offense, I say 60% chance at best, we win.



    • CATandMONKEY
      10:31 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

      Booby is correct.



    • ClutchCargo
      12:53 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Perspective is important, Jiminy Cricketa.



  7. KyZoneBlitz
    11:27 pm November 11, 2018 Permalink

    Also, Tennessee is loaded with talent, yes they’ve been a trainwreck, but Guarantano was a 4* QB, Chandler was a near 5*, high 4* RB, their TE Wolfe was a 4*, 2 of their st arting WR were 4*, and their defense is loaded with 4* players, including their Dline who has 4 and 5 star talent all over it. Look them up if you don’t believe me. Yes, they’ve played bad, yes we were the better team, but all it takes is for them to be on the same page for them to become a good team just because of their talent. That happened Saturday.



    • kurofmi
      6:33 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      I concur. Our offense is a Train Wreck. The Louisville game will bring sobriety. Why our fan base keeps it’s head in the sand is beyond me. I say this as a UK fan since the mid 60’s.



  8. UKPROF
    12:00 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

    UK may not see another win in the win column this year. THEN what will you be saying?



    • ClutchCargo
      12:55 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      We will be saying stick to whatever worthless correspondence course you teach. Leave sports to those who know what they’re talking about.



    • ChetSteadmansSalisburySteak
      8:13 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Why does everyone seemingly think a win against MTSU or UL is a formality? What team have you been watching that gives you the confidence that they can score on anyone? News flash, MTSU and UL have the ability to move the ball and score. And if they score more than we do, they win. Should we win? Yes. Will we win? That’s far from a guarantee.



    • bigbluebanana
      9:52 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      What other column would a win go in?



    • Catsby80
      9:54 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Chet – “UL has the ability to move the ball and score”? What? Louisville averages 20.7ppg while UK averages 20.1. If you’re going to say they can move the ball and score, then you have to say that we can, too.



    • ChetSteadmansSalisburySteak
      12:59 pm November 12, 2018 Permalink

      7 touchdowns in the last 22 quarters of football is exact definition of not being able to move the ball and score.



  9. Larkin123
    6:38 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

    There is truth. If Kentucky was going to be successful under Stoops, It was always going to be on his terms with running the ball and defense.



  10. sonnyg333
    7:10 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

    No shock, When your only offense is run Benny and punt your not going to win big games against anyone. Kentucky needs pass protection and a quarterback.



    • Wade
      8:55 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Run protect is just hard with 7 guys coming straight up the middle because the code to beat us is just get to the gaps and bottle them up and terry won’t do shit if you get a guy near him. Panic will set in and if he runs good bc it ends in arm tackles and fumbles. No one is scared of terry he is a receiver. The o line is tired of this crap and blocking for Benny all game and terry bc he can’t pass and they’re having to do too much. This defense is tired of watching and having to bail them out against offenses that move the ball and when they see that happen, they know we can’t match on offense if some big plays happen! They have to play perfect and stooops is dumb if he thinks that happens in the sec! What’s the point. Confidence is at a all time low! We manage a few first downs and a lot of 3 and outs! The recipe is new qb I like Clark! Throw and run evenly mix it up get creative and rejuvenate this defense with some stellar play on O! Terry at wr would be awesome I think! Worth a shot. Lynn needs to be the wildcat back and give him some throws!



    • kjd
      9:21 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      IMO, we don’t have an adequate QB on the team.



  11. kjd
    7:53 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

    The video of third and one looks like Benny should have cut behind Conrad’s block for the first down.



    • Le Docteur
      9:09 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      The video of 3rd and one showed that SOMEONE should have had Conrad in motion to come block the DE who was otherwise unblocked. Because he got all the way to mid-backfield before Conrad made contact made a cut-back impossible. Have Conrad come in motion and block him on our left side of the line and Bennie could have done a cut-back and run for 5-10 yards. Very likely, that is a pre-snap read that Wilson missed. Also, same video shows that Tennessee absolutely knew exactly where we were running the ball, same as my 12 year-old Labrador Retriever and every other creature on earth. Video also shows Stenberg blatantly holding because Tennessee’s DL knew exactly where we were going and shot the gap. Same video shows Bunchy and Jackson doing an admirable job trying to block 3 guys who knew where the ball was going. Oh, but the problem’s not Wilson — it’s the OL. Among the many things Wilson sucks at: pre-snap reads.



    • Middy
      9:17 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      I thought the same. O line got no push but there was a cut back lane. Benny has lost his patience. A lot of his runs are right up the back of his O line. He’s not waiting or looking for a hole. Have to say that was a weak block by CJ. He almost whiffed entirely. Everyone wants to pin things on Terry because he is the QB, but there is blame to go around. He has faults but he complete a high percentage and makes some really good throws at times. Our WR’s don’t separate but the running game is suffering in part because they don’t block either which is why we can’t get the edge. Watch the next WR screen we throw to Lynn. There will be no blocking and it will only work if Lynn makes someone miss. We have good players who have demonstrated they can move the ball on good teams when they’re clicking. It’s all about attention to detail. Coaches are allowing bad habits to go uncorrected. Looking at you Coach Gran and the entire offensive staff.



    • Le Docteur
      9:17 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

      Same video shows Big George and Price actually winning their one on one battles. Price’s guy — like all the Tennessee DL — aggressively beat him to the punch but Price then responded by pushing the guy 2 yards past the LOS. But of course, it’s the OL’s fault.



    • TWhite
      1:17 pm November 12, 2018 Permalink

      The Benny play he got tripped up in the back field before he had a chance to read blocks. That’s just bad luck. The screen to Bowden was a terrible play call. They had the same amount of players under 10 yards that we did. Typically that should be a pre snap read. Read the players within 10 yards of the LOS. If we they only have one out there, you throw it. They had 2, meaning either Lynn would have to catch the ball and win a one on one, or George would have to be able to get out there and block a man in space from the snap. Either way, thats not a good play call. Much like a toss sweep to the boundary on 2nd and 9.



  12. Catsby80
    9:56 am November 12, 2018 Permalink

    I think the biggest part of the problem is that it would appear that Stoops wants to handcuff Gran. I honestly believe that if he would let go of the offense altogether, we’d be in a much better place. Our defense is awesome and Stoops is a big part of why it is awesome. But he is NOT an offensive minded coach and if he’d just let Gran and Hinshaw play the style on that side of the ball that they want to, we’d be in a much better place.



  13. Larkin123
    4:27 pm November 12, 2018 Permalink

    Softball questions by media…