The bye week has come and gone and now we have officially entered November football. No matter what happens in any season, each team is remembered for what they do in the last month of the season and now the Kentucky football program has a chance to throw the rearview mirror out the window and close the 2020 season on a high note.
Up first, the Wildcats will be hosting Vanderbilt as the programs are set to meet for the 93rd time and despite not having a mark in the win column yet, Derek Mason has his team playing very hard. Another beautiful Saturday is in the forecast this week much to my chagrin, but it’s time to get another victory.
First Down: Stoops Talks
Mark Stoops is set to meet with our friends in the media virtually this afternoon to get the game week started and I have a feeling he’s going to get a few questions about the quarterback situation. Last week it was announced that Terry Wilson is back practicing with the team and should be available to play on Saturday. However, it would make sense to stick with Joey Gatewood moving forward because it’s clear that what they were doing wasn’t working in the first five games of the season.
We’ll also hear Stoops chime in on the return of Quinton Bohanna in addition to some more injury updates hopefully. Both starting guards Luke Fortner and Kenneth Horsey were injured against Georgia and right now their status is unknown. The same goes for linebacker DeAndre Square. I’m sure we’ll hear more about receivers and just maybe we’ll get an update on what might change with the offense moving forward.
To go along with a new depth chart there should be plenty to unpack.
Second Down: Know the Foe
Derek Mason is in his seventh season as the head coach at Vanderbilt and under him the Commodores are just 27-52 with just 10 SEC victories in that run. He’s now on his fourth offensive coordinator and has had a fair amount of turnover at defensive coordinator to boot. This year’s team was slayed by opt outs, but Mason has this group playing hard.
It appears that true freshman Ken Seals has the potential to be a cornerstone piece for this program, but he’s going through some struggles that you would expect a three-star rookie to go through playing nothing but SEC competition. Seals is completing 67.1% of his passes, but is only averaging 6.5 yards per attempt and has thrown eight interceptions in five games. There’s a future, but he’s swimming a little bit right now.
Vanderbilt has the worst rushing offense in the SEC outside of Mississippi State as their four tailbacks are putting up a paltry 3.82 yards per rush on 148 carries as this offense is consistently falling behind the chains. Their top two wideouts average under 11 yards per catch and it is easy to see why this unit has struggled. However, they’ve improved their yards per play output in each game and are fresh off nearly ringing up six yards per plays in 82 snaps against Mississippi State. They are getting better.
Defensively, the Commodores have had a ton of issues and outside of Mississippi State everyone has had their way with them. On the ground it has been particularly bad with every team outside of State putting up at least 4.6 yards per carry while South Carolina nearly reached the 300-yard threshold. The run can be established while the pass defense hasn’t been very good either.
Kentucky will enters this game with the better roster and the better team to this point in the season, but they are playing a squad that has gotten better each week and is still playing hard. That can be a dangerous combination coming off the bye week.
Third Down: Establish the Run
The biggest takeaway from the Georgia loss was that Kentucky found the alpha of its offense. Chris Rodriguez Jr. put up a 60% rushing success rate with two explosive carries in 20 attempts against the best rush defense in college football. He is this team’s workhorse back and is one of the most efficient offensive players in college football. He will help you get ahead of the chains to start drives and everything else should feed off him. It’s time to feed No. 24 the rock, but he is going to need some help.
The run game has been pretty bad when it comes to an efficiency standpoint outside of Rodriguez. A.J. Rose has just a 37.5% rush success rate on 48 carries while Joey Gatewood and Terry Wilson have combined for just a 41.67% rush success rate. The QBs and Rose combined have produced very little chunk plays on the ground and that’s what they were suppose to provide for the offense. UK must find a way to fix this.
The QB run game is going to be a very important element to end this season and the Wildcats must find a way to make it a more effective part of the offense. Meanwhile, JuTahn McClain and Kavosiey Smoke have combined to have a 50% rush success rate on 20 attempts with four explosive runs and a 6.55 yards per carry average. It’s time to give them some more touches.
The pass game is what it is, but Kentucky’s run game should be better. It needs to start playing to its potential.
Fourth Down: Just Be You
After Florida blitzed Georgia this past Saturday, Kentucky now finds itself tied for first place in the SEC in yards per play defense. UK has been very good on the defensive side of the football as they once again have a very good pass defense and they are combining it with the best run defense of the Mark Stoops era. You add that in with 11 interceptions in the last four games on top of the league’s best scoring defense and you have a pretty strong unit.
UK will need this unit to continue to be a rock as the season moves forward and that needs to start on Saturday afternoon at Kroger Field. They are set to go up against one of the worst offenses in the SEC, but it is a group that is getting better. Vanderbilt just put up a very effective day against a good Mississippi State defense and seems to be growing each week with new offensive coordinator Tim Fitch. They are a pass heavy attack ranking fourth in the SEC with a pass rate just under 50%. Kentucky needs to rise up to the challenge.
If the Wildcats aren’t able to get off the field and are picked apart by Vandy’s short passing game it could mean a long night for the team. Get off the field, get the pass rush ramped up on third downs and make some plays on the ball in the air and it should lead to good things.
Kentucky’s defense got better each week during the season before the bye and we need to see that trend continue against an offense that is slowly surging in the right direction.
Our KSR Game of the Week once again delivered this past weekend with a monster upset. Lexington Catholic stunned Covington Catholic with a blocked field goal on the final play to seal a big time 29-28 victory. Our own Troy Howell was there to get you caught up to speed on the thrilling action.
“We knew we were going for 2” – Lexington Catholic uses late 2-pt conversion, blocked FG to upset Covington Catholichttps://t.co/zDK9iixqyh ? ?@JacksonCorbett2? ?@LexCathFootball? ?@jacksonklein_5? ?@JackHMonday? ?@Jackgohmann2022? LexCath CovCath
— Troy Howell (@teeroyhowell) November 7, 2020
Stay tuned for the announcement of our next landing spot and for our state rankings that will drop on the site later today. In the meantime, check out the highlights from Lexington Catholic’s big win.
The Week Ahead at KSR
We’ll have another packed week of football content here on your favorite website as we get you ready for Kentucky’s first game of November. 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 Vanderbilt on Thursday and Freddie Maggard will be providing his keys to the game along with much, much more. Stay tuned as Kentucky attempts to get their fifth consecutive win over the Commodores. It’s time to get a victory and see what damage this team can cause to end a wild year.