Kentucky’s passing game failed to take flight against Central Michigan. The coaches were quick to shoulder the blame, but Terry Wilson did not shy away from his mistakes.
“I got off to a slow start. I had some jitters in me,” Wilson said. “It’s all on me. I gotta bounce back from that. I can’t allow that to happen. I just gotta rely on my technique and just relax. I can’t let the game get to me. Just play football.”
However, it was tough for Terry to “just play football.” The RPO-heavy offense forced the quarterbacks to make too many reads in the first half.
“I think early on…we could do a better job of putting a little bit less pressure on Terry,” Mark Stoops said after the game. “A lot of those plays are reads. We’ll look into that, try to put him into a situation to get him comfortable and get him started.”
The beginning of the game was highlighted by offensive mistakes. The Cats turned it over four times in the first half and struggled to find a rhythm. Terry Wilson fumbled an RPO exchange, threw two interceptions and completed just 6-of-11 passes before he was sent to the halftime locker room early with a shoulder bruise.
“We can’t turn the ball over like we did in the first half,” said quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw. “We put our defense in horrible situations. We put our team in horrible situations. The great thing is we did overcome it as a team. That was awesome. We reacted. ”
Gunnar Hoak was the first to react. He marched the Cats down the field and threw the go-ahead score with a minute to play in the half. Stoops was proud of Hoak’s play, but the offense had to make changes at halftime.
At Stoops’ request, Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw applied the “KISS” method: keep it simple stupid. It’s a mantra the offense will live by until the quarterbacks become more comfortable within the offense.
“We’re going to take some of the decision-making off them and put less on their plates so we can get them to play a little bit faster, little bit better decision-making with our RPOs and in passing the football,” said Hinshaw.
Earlier this week, Hinshaw said that 95 percent of Kentucky’s runs can be throws, and on every single run there is a read. The first half proved that was too much reading for a first-time quarterback.
Instead of completely opening up the playbook, the offense will tighten up ahead of their trip to The Swamp. They will not have to reinvent the wheel to simplify the offense.
“It can be routes,” Hinshaw said. “We can make him half-read instead of the full field. We can take our RPOs down where you’re reading only the end and you don’t have a throw. We can do stuff where we have a throw and that’s it, instead of having a run possibility in both, because Terry just got confused some times.”
Kentucky’s offense moved much better in the second half once the scheme was simplified, but the final result wasn’t good enough. It’s hard to win football games when your quarterbacks only complete 55 percent of their passes for 128 yards.
“From scrimmage one to scrimmage two, we had a huge improvement at quarterback,” said Hinshaw. “We have to have a huge improvement at quarterback from game one to game two.”