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Chris Rodriguez and Sawyer Smith Sneaks could be a Short Yardage Solution

There are a few plays in the Florida game one can point to that ultimately decided the outcome. Three of them happened when UK had the ball on third and fourth down with just a yard to go.

The first play of the fourth quarter stands above the rest. Broken down by Adam Luckett, there was an obvious missed assignment at the line of scrimmage. Even so, Eddie Gran places some of the responsibility on the running back.

“We had a pretty good play on the fourth and one. It’s really frustrating,” said UK’s offensive coordinator. “Backs have to make sure that they get square to the line of scrimmage, half a man and not straight up, not turn out shoulders and they gotta help them out on some of those goal line stuff. You got guys that are not gonna be blocked. That’s going to happen and you gotta get a yard. It’s partly the back and it’s partly when we don’t block them right. That’s what we gotta do.”

Benny Snell made breaking tackles look natural. For others who struggle to break free, there are techniques that are tried and true.

“They’ve got to go half a man and you can’t go stripe-to-stripe with a guy. You gotta get near-leg, near shoulder. You gotta bring your knees to your eyeballs. You gotta be a full-grown man in short yardage.”

If you didn’t understand Gran’s football jargon, it’s physics. Instead of trying to break through an entire defender, a running back can weaken their ability to tackle by splitting them in half.

Who Gran will turn to in the future is still up in the air. By Jeff Drummond’s calculations, UK is 12-of-24 in “one yard to go” situations this year. A.J. Rose is 3-of-6 and Kavosiey Smoke is 4-of-8. After the game Gran self-scouted the situation and realized that it could be Chris Rodriguez.

“I’m trying to find out, as we talked about Saturday, who that guy is he. Maybe he (Rodriguez) has a role,” Gran said. “Chris is going to be in there regardless, whether it’s a short down situation or not. He’s really earned that right. I think through this whole year when you go through 12, 13 games, we’re going to need him. We got get his confidence back and he’s showing that on the practice field.”

They may not need to hand the ball off at all. It didn’t work out of the Wildcat, but it did work twice when Sawyer Smith ran the quarterback sneak, one of which resulted in a touchdown.

“I thought they were absolutely fantastic,” said Gran. “We had great push. He’s a bigger body, he’s square to the line of scrimmage and we got the yard. We were awful last year at quarterback sneaks. We were bad. Terry had to get better at that. It was something we worked on in the offseason. But Sawyer’s got a knack for it, which is good because that’s important, especially when it’s third and inches or something like that. It’s tough.”

In spite of the short yardage woes, Kentucky is still converting 50 percent of its third downs, tied with Alabama for the third-best mark in the SEC. Where short yardage has reared its ugly head is in the red zone. UK has scored touchdowns on only eight of its 12 red zone appearances, which ranks 12th in the SEC. To reverse that trend, Kentucky has to find a way to earn those tough yards that Benny Snell made look so easy.

“It’s tough down there,” said Gran. “Those backs have to run people over and you’ve got to get a body on a body. It’s a mentality and that’s what we’re trying to get to.”


Article written by Nick Roush

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

15 Comments for Chris Rodriguez and Sawyer Smith Sneaks could be a Short Yardage Solution

  1. terwilliger
    6:22 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink


  2. The Professor
    6:27 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    So maybe if we are only 12 for 24 in 1 yard needed situations we should mix up the play calling a bit. Gran is very predictable making us easy to defend. I would be happy to never see another Wildcat formation.

  3. 4everUKblue
    6:37 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Too bad that didn’t occur to them last Saturday.

    • Slam242424
      6:53 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink


  4. zoupman
    7:12 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    If the play had worked everyone would be happy. The Florida guy made a play.

  5. kybirdieman
    7:57 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Wildcat wildcat wildcat all Gran knows.

  6. mashburnfan1
    8:34 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    play action would have got us a TD if we had lined up under center. UF would have sold out thinking sneak and it would have been wide open. I still would have run the sneak, got 3 yards on each of the previous 2 sneaks. Seemed like an easy call even for Gran.

    • 4everUKblue
      8:30 am September 20, 2019 Permalink

      I just don’t understand why you weren’t hired as the OC.

  7. dcforuk
    9:39 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Things are not a problem until they are a problem. Last I checked timely detective and corrective controls qualify as good internal controls. Not everything has to be 100% preventive. Timely as a keyword. Remember that Rodriguez lost a little bit of trust with a fumble or multiple fumbles actually.

  8. jaws2
    10:10 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Regardless, we proved the QB sneak worked on prior downs. To not sneak at 3 and 1 was simply inexcusable. Smith could fall down twice with his size and make 1 yard in 2 tries. I’ve never understood why in this scenario you want to start the pay 5-6 yards from the line of scrimmage. There’s just too many ways to blow it. Bad snap, bad handoff, bad blocking from another running back, or the running back making a bad choice. Snap the damn balll to Smith and let him fall twice!!

    • dcforuk
      10:13 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

      So QB sneak it then is what you are saying. Boring and predictable are awfully good and exciting when they work!

  9. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    10:32 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Did you see how many guys FL had in the box. Missed block or no the % was in FL’s favor to get a dman free. That’s why some one who’d actually broken a few tackles should have been back there or a guy who could pass. This bs about if it would have worked everyone would have been happy is just that bs, we’re not mad at the team for it not working we’re mad at the coaches for calling it in the first place. The majority of people who’ve watched these games know they got nervous when they seen Rose back there.

  10. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    10:36 pm September 19, 2019 Permalink

    Something else that bugs me is if Stoops knew he was short a man up front due to injury why didn’t Peter’s get the call. If nothing else he brings in enough depth to cover Carter going out. We could have moved Paschal down to the edge and put him at lb for the last couple of minutes. When I played if our coach would have done us like Stoops we would have believed he had no faith in us, which makes it hard to win games when players can’t play.

  11. Bluenblood
    8:43 am September 20, 2019 Permalink

    Out coached again. How can Gran be so clueless. Thinks we are Alabama

  12. zoupman
    10:59 am September 20, 2019 Permalink

    Snells freshmen year he didn’t play until the 3rd game. Why are they not figuring things out during Summer practice?