Week one is in the books and Kentucky is 0-1 after a trip to the Plains. Auburn seized control of the football game following a UK fumble and botched fake punt on back-to-back possessions in the fourth quarter as the team with experience came up short in crunch time. Now Lane Kiffin makes the trip to Lexington for the first time in over a decade with an Ole Miss offense that collected an impressive 7.9 yards per play against Florida in a season-opening loss. The gauntlet is here.
This week on the Monday Huddle, we are officially turning the page to game two as UK makes its 2020 debut at The Kroge on Saturday. After throwing the ball all over the yard in the loss to Auburn, Kentucky must get back to its winning recipe this week.
First Down: Loaded Press Conference
Mark Stoops is scheduled to speak with the media later today and we’ll get to hear his take on a ton of different subjects. First off, what exactly did he see when he watched the tape? My guess is he won’t be too upset about the play rather than just lack of execution from both players and staff in a couple of key spots. UK did some good things on both sides of the ball, but just could not make the important plays in the red zone when opportunities presented themselves. On third down, three plays really stuck out. Seth Williams made two incredible 50/50 ball receptions while Terry Wilson threw an interception to end the half. That’s 21 points at stake and Auburn came up winners in all three. That was kind of the game.
Under Kevin Steele, Auburn has had one of the best defenses in the country and they passed the test this week. They forced Kentucky to get away from the running game and I think UK will be very persistent in getting back to that this week after the Rebels allowed Florida to rush for 7.1 yards per carry despite being lit up for 446 passing yards. This might be the SEC’s worst defense.
We’ll also get to hear about the Chris Rodriguez Jr. touchdown fiasco in addition to if there is anymore news regarding Joey Gatewood’s transfer waiver. Stay tuned as there will likely be a lot to unpack from both the press conference and his weekly radio show today.
Second Down: Know the Foe
After losing the Egg Bowl following last season, Ole Miss quickly moved on by firing Matt Luke and winning a bidding war with Arkansas for the services of Lane Kiffin. The SEC bad boy who left Tennessee after just one season and was yelled at a trillion times by Nick Saban while the Alabama offensive coordinator from 2014-16 is back in the league after winning two C-USA title in three years at Florida Atlantic.
Kiffin is an offensive mastermind and the 45-year-old showed that again in the loss against Florida. The Rebels rolled up 613 total yards as Matt Corral threw for 395 and three touchdowns as they had a ton of success against a Todd Grantham defense that a lot of people think is going to be pretty good. However, the defense might be really bad.
Kyle Trask threw for six touchdowns and the Gators averaged over 7.1 yards per carry. Florida scored on all five of their red zone possessions and the Rebels certainly looked like the worst defense in this conference. Kentucky figures to have a monster advantage with their offensive line and running game so expect to see the Wildcats approach around 50 rush attempts on Saturday.
Both Ole Miss and Kentucky were bad in the red zone in their openers as they combined to go 5 of 11 in these scoring opportunities. This game could come down to what happens when the ball approaches the endzone.
Speaking of the Egg Bowl, slot receiver Elijah Moore had a monster day in the new offense with 10 receptions for 227 yards with two plays of 50-plus yards. UK will have to play nickel and dime this week and they must find a way to neutralize the former blue-chipper who was peeing in the endzone in the last time we saw him.
Third Down: Explosiveness vs. Big Play Prevention
Throughout the last few seasons, Kentucky has been one of the best big play defenses in college football. The main reason why UK’s pass defense was so good in 2019 is because they just did not give up the big play. In their first game of the 2020 against Auburn, that remained true as the Tigers only had one pass play go for over 30 yards. However, they will be facing a difficult challenge this week.
Lane Kiffin has adopted a lot of principles from what we saw from the Art Briles teams at Baylor and that means a lot of vertical shots. The Rebels will not be afraid to come out in 10 personnel (one running back, four wide receivers) and if the numbers are right they are going to sling it vertically multiple times in a football game.
Former top-100 recruit Matt Corral has a big arm at quarterback and had seven completions of 30-plus yards against what should be one of the better secondaries in college football in Florida. Ole Miss will attack every part the field and UK’s corners and safeties will find themselves in some isolation situations. Unlike last week, UK must win some 50/50 battles at Kroger Field on Saturday.
Whoever gets the edge in these scenarios will have the best shot at victory in the 43rd meeting between the two programs.
Fourth Down: Pound the Rock
UK is not built to win a game when they are asking their quarterback to dropback 40-plus times. It is not the strength of the football team. The Wildcats got a little away from their identity on Saturday and tried to lean on play-making in the passing game to pickup a big road win. Now it’s time to get back to what they do best.
UK will be facing an Ole Miss defensive front that they are much better than and last time they played this team Eddie Gran’s offense rolled up over 200 yards on the ground which setup a big passing day for Stephen Johnson (204 yards, 8.5 yards per attempt). Kentucky will need more of the same this weekend when they welcome Ole Miss to Lexington.
UK’s Big Blue Wall must control the game against a defensive front they have an advantage over in both talent and experience. It’s a bounce back spot for the offensive line and we should expect this group to play well.
KSR headed north on Friday to Simon Kenton to see the Pioneers host Johnson Central and the Golden Eagles looked like one of the best teams in the state. KSR’s Troy Howell got us caught up to speed on the Pancake Platoon led by UK recruiting target Grant Bingham who is a high three-star prospect in the class of 2021. The offensive tackle has a great chance to become a blue-chipper and he is leading the way for one of the state’s best teams.
— Troy Howell (@teeroyhowell) September 26, 2020
This week the KSR team will be heading down to Bowling Green where South Warren will host the Purples of Bowling Green in a very big rivalry matchup. Caden Veltkamp is another class of 2021 prospect and the South Warren quarterback has an offer from Kentucky. On Bowling Green’s roster, tight end Jordan Dingle just may be the top remaining prospect on Kentucky’s 2020 recruiting board as they look to finish out strong in the state and land a tight end with a very impressive skill set.
KSR’s top 15 is back and there was a little bit of movement after an exciting weekend of action. St. Xavier and Trinity are set to renew their historic rivalry this Friday and it will take place on a high school campus for the first time in a very, very long time.
- Johnson Central
- Boyle County
- North Hardin
- Bowling Green
- Frederick Douglass
- South Warren
- St. Xavier
- Covington Catholic
- Scott County
The Week Ahead at KSR
Similar to last week, expect a loaded week of content as we get you ready for Kentucky’s home opener this weekend. Make sure you are subscribed to all four of our podcasts: 11 Personnel, Free Money, The 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 Ole Miss on Thursday and Freddie Maggard will be providing his keys to the game along with much, much more. Stay tuned as Mark Stoops attempts to achieve wins over an SEC West opponent in consecutive seasons for the first time in his coaching career.