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Monday Huddle: Questions Loom

Going into the season expectations were very high for the Kentucky football program as the team appeared to have its best on paper roster in quite some time. The Wildcats believed they could make some noise in the SEC-only schedule riding what should be a strong defense and an experienced quarterback playing behind one of the sport’s best offensive lines. Getting beat by 60 points in November was not on the blueprint.

Fresh off the worst loss of the Mark Stoops era, UK now sits at 3-5 in SEC play which was their exact record last season and is a better mark than what we saw in each of the first three years under Stoops. However, it is clear that this team has taken a significant step backwards and their SP+ ranking of 68th is set to be their worst finish since 2016 and their offensive rank of 90th would be the worst of the Stoops era. There’s not a lot of good right now and it appears UK could be without Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Jamin Davis for another week. It seems like the program is in the danger zone.

However, the season rolls on and the week where Kentucky should be playing Louisville has the Wildcats heading to The Swamp to play another Heisman Trophy contender at quarterback. The Wildcats are once again a very big underdog and will need to put together their best effort of the season if they hope to have a chance. Can this program circle the wagons?

First Down: Stoops Talks

For the first time since after the game, we’ll hear Mark Stoops talk at both his Monday afternoon press conference and radio show later in the evening. It will be the first time the head coach will take questions since seeing the tape of the game and we’ll see if he has any more comments on it. There can’t be much good after allowing seven touchdowns while your offense scored zero.

There should be plenty of questions about the status of the players that missed last week’s game and most notably Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Jamin Davis. For Kentucky to have any shot at Florida this weekend, they will need both of these guys back in the lineup but if they failed their test on Friday it’s likely that they will have to miss another game.

Expect some more quarterback questions and just what went wrong for UK’s defense who simply cannot buy a red zone stop in the last eight quarters. There will be a lot to unpack and it all starts today.

Second Down: Know the Foe

Dan Mullen is in his third season in Gainesville and the former Mississippi State head coach has the program performing at near peak powers. The Gators are 27-6 since the former offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer took over and the Gators are 17-6 in SEC play. Florida is well on their way to a third consecutive top-10 finish under Mullen and this year they are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the SEC East title race. Oh, they also once again have a Heisman contender at quarterback.

Kyle Trask waited his time and now the redshirt senior is lighting up every offense he has seen. The pocket passer from Texas leads all of college football in touchdown passes, is top-10 in yards per attempt, completion percentage and quarterback rating. He has been lights out and appears to be getting better with every outing.

Kyle Pitts is the best tight end in college football and is a walking mismatch for every defense Florida goes up against. He’s expected to make his return along with nine other players who have at least 100 yards receiving. Trask distributes the ball to plenty of players and stopping this passing game will be very, very hard. They aren’t as explosive as Alabama, but it appears that they have more answers as you never know where the ball is going to end up.

Running the ball has been an issue for the Gators as they have used three tailbacks, but each is averaging less than five yards per carry. They essentially get no explosive plays on the ground, but it hasn’t really mattered for an offense that is very pass heavy. Defensively, Todd Grantham is back and his unit has been the weakness of the team. The Gators rank 10th in the SEC in yards per play allowed and give up a ton of explosive plays. They sit at just 34th in defensive SP+ and if they can’t win a national title this year the defense will be the major reason why.

Kentucky has their hand’s full playing one of the best offenses in college football for the second week in a row and if they aren’t able to score points this thing will get ugly quick.

Third Down: Finishing Drives

One of the biggest takeaways from the beatdown at Alabama was just how UK did not give themselves a chance. After creating three scoring opportunities in their first four possessions, the Wildcats had just three points on the board and what should have been a close game at halftime turned into a blowout in the blink of an eye. Kentucky ranks 12th in the SEC when it comes to red zone touchdown rate and they are putting up just 3.73 points per scoring opportunity. This is really bad and is the biggest issue this offense is facing.

After giving up a ton of scores against Auburn and Ole Miss to start the season, we saw UK’s defense turn into one of the most stingy backed up defenses in college football during the middle of the season as they got a ton of extended red zone stops against Mississippi State, Tennessee, Missouri and Georgia allowing just 2.05 points per scoring opportunity. However, that has gone off the tracks in the last eight quarters with Vanderbilt and Alabama scoring 12 touchdowns in 13 scoring chances. Not getting these stops has made the defense look much worse than it is and now the Wildcats are allowing a very pedestrian 4.36 points per scoring opportunity.

As the game of football is changing and more offenses are able to march up and down the field, it is vital that you are able to get timely stops backed up and finish drives when scoring opportunities arise. The offense’s inability to finish quality possessions with touchdowns and the defense’s Jekyll & Hyde factor in this metric has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season.

For UK to have any shot against Florida, this has to change while to beat South Carolina you probably want to go ahead and be more efficient here as well.

Fourth Down: Eddie Gran Watch

We just need to go ahead and address the elephant in the room at the moment. Kentucky’s offense is in a very bad spot and the unit has had multiple unacceptable performances this season. From the total ineptitude against Mississippi State, to the nightmare performance at Missouri, leading to scoring zero touchdown in eight quarters against both Alabama and Georgia, there is not much good going on. Kentucky is well on their way to their worst offensive finish of the Mark Stoops era and Gran deserves a heavy amount of blame for that.

The Wildcats have had major quarterback issues, recruiting misses have led to one of the worst wide receiver position rooms in the Power Five and the stubbornness in not making Chris Rodriguez Jr. a major focal point of the offense has to leave everyone scratching their head. It’s important to recognize that everything is off this season and Kentucky lost the heart and soul of their program in the passing of John Schlarman, but this isn’t where things should be.

Multiple times in five seasons we’ve seen Gran’s offenses lay total clunkers and it has costed Kentucky some victories. Most recently, it provided the most embarrassing loss this program has seen since the Joker Phillips days and it’s pretty obvious that things need to change. However, are things in order to make a change?

Stoops is at a crossroads and is going to have to make a hard decision once this season ends one way or another. It’s pretty obvious that something has to change and that would require at least one main staff change. Would now just be the right time to go ahead and overhaul the offensive staff? It certainly does seem like it.

Kentucky must figure out in a hurry what kind of offensive football program it wants to be and get everyone moving in that direction. Stoops has made it clear that he wants to get the passing game up and running and the recent recruiting results have proven that those statements aren’t just empty calories. However, what is going on with the current staff isn’t working and something has to be done.

The last eight quarters could change a lot, but there is no denying that we are set to enter a major offseason for the Kentucky football program.

Prep Corner

The first round of the state playoffs are in the books as we continue the march to the state championship. This past week, KSR was on hand to see Pikeville defeat Sayre in a hard fought game.

Our own Troy Howell was there to provide the recap as it is win or go home for the rest of the high school football season. Stay tuned to KSR for all of the coverage as we move forward towards a state championship.

The Week Ahead at KSR

It’ll be another jam-packed week of football content with Kentucky preparing to make the road trip to Gainesville. Make sure you are subscribed to all four of our podcasts: 11 PersonnelFree MoneyThe Depth Chart Podcast and The KSR Football Podcast. Each will be dropping at a different point some time this week.

Nick Roush will be here all week to provide practice reports, I’ll be dropping the Scouting Report for Florida later this week and Freddie Maggard will be providing his keys to the game along with much, much more. Stay tuned as Kentucky looks to go back-to-back in The Swamp. Only two more Saturdays left until the 2020 season is a wrap.

Article written by Adam Luckett

Twitter: @AdamLuckettKSR

25 Comments for Monday Huddle: Questions Loom

  1. dhard
    10:15 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

    But we almost won the time of possession against Alabama. Wouldnt be surprised if we won this battle against Florida while getting drubbed again as our offensive offense shows all of its lack of imagination.

  2. BlueBanker18
    10:30 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

    Gran needs to get with the program and call plays that win games or find a new job. We play the most boring, one dimensional, predictable football every single game. Our wins on the recruiting trail mean nothing if we don’t put them in position to win, and it will eventually out us back at square one struggling to get 3 star recruits.

    • BlueBanker18
      10:30 am November 23, 2020 Permalink


    • nocode96
      11:45 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Still don’t think that’s on Gran. All the OC’s we’ve had have run the same, boring offense when they’ve been here, and there’s only one common factor amongst all those guys. OC job at UK is 100% run by Stoops.

    • chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
      12:24 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Nocode is right. Gran ran a passing O at UC. Brown & Dawson are both Air Raid guys man, direct disciples of Mumme, but they had the cuffs put on them too.

    • Bluehender
      1:50 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      I agree with nocode and cg. I believe it’s on Stoops..time for Stoops to rethink his offensive strategies

    • Dave C
      3:45 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      How is it that both Gran and Neal Brown had the reputation of running Wide Open Offenses prior to coming here…but we get this? Is it Stoops? Lack of talent? Both?

  3. Pensacola_Cat_Fan
    10:31 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

    I’ve never seen a team so inept at 10 yard + passing. The scheme and the WR talent is dreadful and must change. We need an overhaul of coaches and Stoops must stop micro managing the offense.

  4. dhard
    10:34 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

    Dont know if the wide receiver talent is so bad as they dont have routes that get them open. We have 40 yard fades, 5 yard slants and that is about it.

    • Irish son
      11:27 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

      I watch the MAC games they show during the week. You know, CMU vs.Toledo or Buffalo vs. EMU. Those games. I watched two games last week, and all four quarterbacks were better than what we have. How can MAC teams have better quarterback play than an SEC team? It has to be the quarterback coach and his lack of development for QB’s

    • ClutchCargo
      2:00 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      I watch those MAC games, too. Have you ever noticed those MAC QBs are playing against MAC defenses?

  5. UKinIN
    10:53 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

    I don’t believe that TV commentators are the End All/ Be All but, am I the only one that’s notices that you hear comments about the opponent’s play calling creating matchup problems for the defense but you never hear that about UK’s offensive play calling?

    • bigbowdennation
      11:13 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Yes. Also speaking of the TV commentators, they nailed it Saturday wondering why UK went away from what was working on offense in the first quarter. We had lots of motions and misdirections and we kept bama on their toes and we were having success moving the ball in the first quarter . It didn’t translate to points which is obviously concerning, but at least we moved the damn ball. Why Gran would go away from that after the first quarter is beyond me, and the commentators kept questioning it also. For a man who never adjusts mid game, to finally make an adjustment AWAY from what was working makes no sense. Then we just tried to throw a slant or fade every play and bama is smart enough to cover those plays.

    • bigbowdennation
      11:14 am November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Also how in the world do you call a timeout on 3rd and goal with a chance to go up on the number one team in the country, and your big plan out of the timeout is a qb draw. Hasn’t worked once all year and we go it on possibly the biggest play of the year.

  6. jaws2
    12:13 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    Gran has not, is not, and never will be the problem. Stoops is the CEO, it’s his business and he decides how to run his business. The way he wants it is what you see. For the life of me I can’t get why people keep calling out Gran. If lardass Stoops didn’t want this offense he wouldn’t have it.

  7. chris gettelfinger is not walking through that door
    12:26 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    “Questions loom” is the understatement of the year for UK football.

  8. Dave C
    1:49 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    I worry that another beat down this weekend will leave a taste that won’t be easily erased. Getting beat by better teams is one thing…Molested is another

    • Bluehender
      1:54 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Hey Alabama was considerate enough to play bench players in the second half. Not his fault we couldn’t stop them. Florida on the other hand, may try to run the score up on us, since we beat them down there last time…

  9. ukyelecteng
    1:53 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    But … but … Nick Roush said we were supposed to be really good this year. What a joke website

    • WILDCATS1968
      2:21 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Yes you nailed it. Coming off of an 8 win season, with a ton of those players back, and our QB who won 10 games, we where SUPPOSE to be good. So it is Nick’s fault ? Boy, you are truly a genius. So Nick and KSR are to blame ? Well you do have the deflect game on point, but your football knowledge ? Not so much. I would BAN you if I was KSR, you brought nothing of substance. If you hate the site so much,,, bounce. Nobody makes you come here.

    • ukyelecteng
      3:32 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      Underpromise, over deliver

  10. ClutchCargo
    2:13 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    Most concerning to me is that we are in year 8 of a head coach’s tenure, and we still haven’t decided on an effective offensive philosophy.

  11. VMI1957
    4:38 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    Stoops is too much of a WUSS to admit he will have to change his offensive scheme – oops I mean to allow Gran to coachlike he did when he was at Cinncy.

  12. UoKFB PHAN
    10:03 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

    ‘… there is no denying that we are set to enter a major offseason for the Kentucky football program…’
    I think many of us were thinking the same thing after the Missouri loss. This is just my thoughts, but the offseason will be pivotal in how Stoops and his time at Kentucky will be viewed. The two big areas I see are 1) making the correct hire for the O-line coaching positioning and 2) reconsidering the team’s offensive philosophy.

    1) Yes, Stoops hired Jeff Jagodzinski for rest of 2020 season but is he right guy going forward or is he a placeholder for the remainder of the season.

    2) I agree with several people that the lack of offensive production is probably due to Stoops micro-managing and being too involved in the play calling. Several have pointed out Gran’s and past OCs performances at other schools. Just for the record, last year I went back and did some research on Gran’s three years as OC at Cincinnati and here’s what I found: Year one run 52%, pass 48%, year two and three just flip the numbers: run 48% and pass 52% (these numbers are exact but they are really close). I do not think Gran is a true air raid guy but likes to run more of a balanced offense.
    Also take into account the twitter posts by the two previous receiver coaches about the receivers spending more practice time on blocking rather that running routes and getting open. One would think the receivers would spend more time practicing on getting separation to get open rather than blocking unless their role is to help the running game.
    I think Stoops might also have to look at Darin Hinshaw and how the QBs have, or have not, developed under him. Just my thoughts… sorry for the long post.

    • UoKFB PHAN
      10:13 pm November 23, 2020 Permalink

      (these numbers are * NOT * exact but they are really close)