Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops has established a ground-and-pound style of play in Lexington, one he has rarely gone away from, regardless of circumstances. Stoops experimented with the approach in his early days with the likes of Jojo Kemp and Boom Williams in the backfield, but really established a run-heavy offense when Benny Snell broke through as a superstar in 2017 and 2018. And then last year, Kentucky was forced to implement a near run-only attack when Lynn Bowden Jr. took over as the team’s starting quarterback midway through the 2019 season.
The production has backed up the approach, as Kentucky has shattered nearly every rushing record the school had to offer in recent years, and the wins have racked up as a result. Stoops did just pass Paul “Bear” Bryant on Kentucky’s career home wins list following the team’s victory over Vanderbilt last week, after all.
This year, though, the run-heavy approach has resulted in a completely one-dimensional offense, as Kentucky has failed to showcase any semblance of a passing attack. As a result, teams are focusing exclusively on stopping the run, and it’s working. Heading into the week, Kentucky was tied for No. 96 in the nation in scoring offense at 23.3 points per game, No. 115 in the nation with 318.0 total yards per game, and No. 116 in the country in passing offense.
The team is ranked No. 37 in rushing yards with 195.0 per game, but a slightly-above-average rushing attack combined with an atrocious passing attack has been a disaster for the Kentucky offense.
To add insult to injury, Alabama head coach Nick Saban threw a wet blanket on Kentucky’s go-to offensive plan of attack, noting that winning the time of possession battle means absolutely nothing if you can’t score points in this league.
And as Kentucky proved again Saturday afternoon, they simply can’t right now, especially against elite competition.
“The last time I checked, you get nothing for time of possession,” Saban said following Alabama’s 63-3 massacre of the Wildcats. “If you score fast on offense, you don’t have very much time of possession.
“If you keep the ball for six minutes and you don’t score, what do you get for that? You get zero.”
Kentucky would end the day losing the time of possession battle by just over two minutes (31:05 to 28:55), the only statistic relatively close to that of the Crimson Tide. Beyond that, Kentucky was destroyed in total yards (509 to 179), passing yards (283 to 120), rushing yards (226 to 59), first downs (29 to 12), and average yards per play (7.7 to 3.1), among other numbers.
UK’s grind-it-out approach has worked in recent years with elite offensive pieces at its disposal, but this season, the system has been nothing short of a disaster.