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Inside The Play: Short-Yardage Blunder

Through three quarters on Saturday night, Kentucky dominated the football game. The Wildcats owned an 11-point lead heading into the final quarter and if it wasn’t for some ball security issues, they might have pitched a shutout. The offense was rolling, but the Wildcats needed to pickup a 4th-and-1 at the Florida 38 to move the chains and land a knockout punch.

Before we take a look at this unsuccessful play, we must take a peek back to last season. A.J. Rose received some short-yardage opportunities out of the wildcat formation and they didn’t have much success.

Fresh off a Penn State touchdown, Kentucky needed to move the chains to stem the momentum the Nittany Lions were building in the fourth quarter. On their first third down of the drive, they went with a wildcat formation look with A.J. Rose in the backfield. On the split zone, Rose does not allow his blocks to set up and runs right into the Mike linebacker at the line of scrimmage. Fast forward to last weekend and we saw more of the same.

On the most important offensive play of the game, Kentucky comes out in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three receivers) with trips lined up in the field. Right before the snap, Sawyer Smith motions into the boundary while Florida’s free safety sneaks into the box to give the defense an eight-man look against an obvious running formation. What comes next is one of Kentucky’s biggest staple plays.

What differs split zone from inside zone the kickback block element. On split zone, the playside tight end/H-back/fullback will be responsible for the backside defensive end/outside linebacker in order to prevent a chase down tackle on a slow developing play and/or create an alley for a backside cut if the defense over pursues. That’s why you see Justin Rigg run out of the picture.

In theory, Drake Jackson will work on the nose with left guard Logan Stenberg on a double team and then climb onto the Mike linebacker while right guard Mason Wolfe handles playside defensive end/outside linebacker who runs a twist stunt on the snap with the defensive tackle.

If Kentucky does all of that, there’s a great chance that this play turns into a touchdown. However, Florida nose tackle and former UK recruiting target makes a great move Tedarrell Slaton on the stunt call by Todd Grantham.

Slaton is lined as a shaded nose in between Drake Jackson and Mason Wolfe in the playside A gap. Before the snap, Jackson is thinking he’s going to have a one-on-one block with Logan Stenberg coming down to help. This will allow A.J. Rose to sneak right in behind the two for the first down. However, Slaton pulls out a great inside swim move and jumps from one A gap to the other. This catches Jackson off guard and off balance. That means it is Rose vs. Mike linebacker David Reese for all the marbles since the double team has now been neutralized.

Instead of taking his time and waiting on the blocks to develop, A.J. Rose decides to plow straight forward to pick up the yards to gain. That may work if you’re a 240-pound power back, but that is not Rose. There are not many backs in the country that are going to win that matchup with David Reese in the hole and the result ends up being a fourth down stop. If Rose hesitates and use a jump cut into the B gap (between the guard and tackle), he may have been off to the races if he could just slip one tackle.

This was not a bad play call. The wildcat formation has worked well for Kentucky in the past and it’s clear that the head football coach loves to use it. He forced Shannon Dawson to run it in 2015 after two months of not using it. It’s been a staple since Eddie Gran arrived in Lexington and has been a very successful short-yardage option in the past. However, the running style of Rose gives UK a small chance to convert in these situations.

In the zone run game, vision is the most important attribute a running back can have. There is no assigned gap for this play to go through and that is important to remember. You are running a track and you have to adjust on the fly to take what the defense gives you. Despite the center being blown up, there was still an alley for Rose if he could’ve made just one man miss. Instead he tried to steamroll one of the best inside linebackers in college football.

You can bet that Kentucky is going over this play ad nauseam in their team meetings this week. This is the most used run play in Eddie Gran’s playbook and it is one the Wildcats must be able to go to no matter what the defense is doing on the other side. Outside of Drake Jackson, the play was actually blocked fairly well. The center lost his individual battle and the running back did not react quick enough to help move the chains.

The wildcat formation is not going anywhere and UK is still going to use it in short-yardage situations. Expect Drake Jackson to adjust and correct this mistake, but if Rose cannot start reading the play better it may be time to give Kavosiey Smoke or Christopher Rodriguez, Jr. a shot as the primary short-yardage back.

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Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

31 Comments for Inside The Play: Short-Yardage Blunder



  1. Smyrna_Cat
    11:47 am September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Good analysis of the play.



    • The Original WTF Guy
      12:01 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Sorry, Smyrna_Cat, not responding to you.

      Adam, if you are going to write here, in the future begin you posts like this, “This was not a bad play call. The wildcat formation has worked well for Kentucky in the past” so I will know not to read them.

      The Wildcat is, 99% of the time, not a bad play call. It is a TERRIBLE play call. Why get in a formation that pretty much tells everyone in the stadium exactly what you are about to do and/or needs perfect execution to work. The Wildcat worked under Randall Cobb because he was an exceptional athlete and, although we never did it, he could throw out of it. That is the reason the Wildcat might work with Bowden. But until defenses have any sense that any UK running back will do anything other than run, why do it? Furthermore, what is the advantage of running the Wildcat compared to lining the back up behind the QB and simply handing the ball off? The Wildcat is indicative of an offensive coordinator who simply cannot think of anything else to do. Does that sound like Eddie Gran? Why, yes, it does. So before you are critical of the execution, step back and minute and question the moron who made, and continues to make, this stupid playcall.

      How many times do you see Bama, Clemson, UGA, etc run the Wildcat? 0.



    • 2andToodleLoo
      1:24 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Adam – love the play break downs going back to last year. Good insights. Keep it up!



    • KYCat4EVER
      9:09 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      SPOT ON “original”.. SPOT ON!



    • Irish son
      12:18 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      But he;s wrong , It’s ALWAYS a bad play call when you hike it back 15 feet to gain TWO FEET. Put your QB under center and fall forward



  2. cats646
    11:50 am September 17, 2019 Permalink

    If that block was picked up, it could’ve been an easy touchdown. Man that sucks!!



  3. RackEmWillie
    11:52 am September 17, 2019 Permalink

    There is a very big lack of constraint on the defense when we line up in The Wildcat. It takes minimal effort and defensive planning to account for the few other possibilities aside from an inside run.



    • notFromhere
      12:42 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      If passing out of the wildcat is NOT an option, and we have to prove it is, then the defense has an advantage on the play. They don’t have to commit a man on a man outside, unless we can throw the ball from that formation.



  4. blueblood80
    12:06 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Without question, you are an expert, and I enjoy the analysis. A good SEC offensive line, such as ours is advertised, should be able to gain one yard. This game was 3 days ago, I don’t know why I read and continue the pain. The next two games will determine the success of the season. Win two, New Years Day Bowl, win one, good bowl, lose both, go to lightly attended bowl in Memphis or Charlotte.



  5. Adam Luckett
    12:08 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Bama ran the wildcat with Josh Jacobs against Georgia and Oklahoma in the postseason last year. Georgia scores a TD out of the wildcat in the national title game two years ago.



  6. notFromhere
    12:11 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    My problem with the play is Rose’s vision and ability to break a tackle. There is clearly a gaping hole to the right , yet he runs straight into the MLB with a soft wince. Rodriguez or Smoke might have bounced another yard or 2 out of the play.

    WHERETF is ChrisRod, btw?!

    Better not have that kid in the doghouse



    • dave1964
      12:18 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      My guess is Rod can’t hold on to the ball so no playing time who know. Rose should have cut right.



    • AlwaysTrueBlue
      12:53 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Agree this was supposed to be our short yardage back.



  7. UKfansNKY
    12:19 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Just continue to give the rock to SMOKE!!!!!



  8. blueblood80
    12:28 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Adam,
    Forget the criticism, you receive in post #1. You write what you want – it adds value, and attacks not one person. You obviously have football play calling and analysis experience. Great job!



  9. UKFanSC
    12:29 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    I’m growing weary of the extended autopsy of this game….. we lost, move on.



  10. mashburnfan1
    12:32 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Have no issue with it in general but this game we had already run 2 QB sneaks. Smith was never even tackled on the end zone sneak and got 3 yards later on a sneak. That was the play call there, only other option would have been a play action roll out based on the fact UF would have sold out on the sneak.



    • AlwaysTrueBlue
      12:50 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      The sneak in my mind is a horrible call. We are completing like 80+% of passes on 3rd/4th down. Have the QB roll out and give him a decision to run or throw.



    • notFromhere
      1:55 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Perfect call, imo, if you’re not opening up the playbook



    • notFromhere
      1:57 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Prefer roll out option



    • notFromhere
      2:03 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Sneak once on 3rd down, line itbup immediately and fake the same, pull up and flip it to either Upshaw or Wagner on quick slant. Florida was vulnerable over the middle all day against UK AND MIAMI



  11. The Professor
    1:02 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    We had 6 players blocking 8 people. That is not going to succeed very often. The Wildcat play has been mostly useless for the last 2+ seasons. It had failed numerous times no matter who was running the ball.



  12. blueblood80
    1:13 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Adam,
    Can’t we run the Wildcat with a two back set? Come to think of it, we never have Rose and Smoke in together. At least there is another option, since we never pull it and pass…



  13. JASUN74
    1:29 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    We have the best weapon in football to kick there and push Florida back at the five or less yard line. Lol. Of course if it works, it’s great, but we had the lead, we had the momentum, and they have a cold Quarterback. Kick the ball, Put the ball on the five and bring the pressure and I like our chances. Again, if it works, we’re probably not discussing this, but the smart play at that time was to kick the ball in my opinion.

    Again, this is just my opinion, but the game changed with 230 to go before the half!! We had the lead and the ball with 2:30 to go and just pretty much lay down and might as well have taken a knee. That killed me!! If we go and actually try to score before halftime, instead of just trying to run the damn clock off, it’s a whole different ballgame!!

    Ohh well. I still love this team, and Georgia is the only team we play the rest of the year that’s actually better. We may lose more than one more game of course, but it won’t be because they’re the better team. We have come so far and it’s only getting better every day.
    Now let’s go beat Miss St and show the SEC and the rest of the country that we’re for real. Go Cats!



  14. enguk28
    2:23 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Are we just going to ignore the fact that sawyer smith is being covered by the safety who is on the hash mark 10 yards up field? AJ could’ve pitched to him and smith could’ve gotten 5 yards



    • cats646
      2:38 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Nice eye! I hadn’t even noticed that. Jesus Christ that would’ve been so easy!!



    • AlwaysTrueBlue
      2:49 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

      Yikes! That’s why I like the roll out or something else with the QB to make a decision. Good eye as cats646 said. Let’s be real we outplayed them, 6 plays one going our way we win. No Fumble, no pick, missed field goal, pick up the 4th down earlier in the 4th, don’t have blown coverage on the 1st TD, and finally a different play call and pick up the first down here. It’s sad but I walked away from Commonwealth (it will always be that to me) feeling like we won even though we lost. Funny feeling. We can still have 11+ wins this season. The team showed me it’s possible. Don’t know if it’s likely but it’s possible.



  15. blueblood80
    3:58 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Yep, AlwaysTrueBlue, they have the talent to win many games! The youngsters need to adapt to the away environment right away. We historically have not played well after devastating loses….Tenn. last year for example. Hope your right!



  16. TBW3011
    6:02 pm September 17, 2019 Permalink

    Well if you say Rose has very little chance at getting the 1st down then it’s hard to also say it was a good play call.