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“Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”

Former University of Kentucky head coach Bear Bryant famously said, “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”

This age old adage has withstood the test of time. Mark Stoops is a defensive minded coach. The Cats have endured a coordinator change and a significant turnover in personnel in the past two seasons. However, statistics say that UK’s most recent stretch has resulted in championship level defense.

Atlanta is the program’s goal (site of the SEC Championship) and has been mentioned on several occasions, especially during the Vince Marrow saga. So, for the purposes of this post, I’ll compare Kentucky’s most recent two-year defensive statistics to those of Georgia and Florida during the same time frame. The Bulldogs and Gators are considered to be the division’s standard. Let’s take a deep dive into statistical averages over the course of the 2018 and 2019 seasons:

Points Allowed Per Game

Kentucky: 18.5 ppg

The Wildcats surrendered 19.3 points per game in 2019. UK finished 2nd in the SEC in 2018 after giving up just 16.8.

Georgia: 15.9 ppg
Florida: 17.75 ppg

Pass Defense

Kentucky: 177.05 ypg.

The Wildcats finished 2nd in the nation in 2019 after allowing just 167.8 passing yards per game. UK experienced success in this category after losing its entire secondary and OLB Josh Allen to the NFL.

Georgia: 190.7 ypg
Florida: 191.45 ypg

Total Defense

Kentucky: 330.05 ypg

Georgia: 295 ypg
Florida: 324.0 ypg

Quarterback Sacks

Kentucky: 35.5 sacks.

Josh Allen is now a Jacksonville Jaguar. This column was going to drop from 2018 to 2019, but it didn’t significantly lessen. Kentucky registered five fewer quarterback sacks in 2019 with Boogie Watson and Calvin Taylor Jr. filling in the blanks.

Georgia: 27.5 sacks
Florida: 43.0 sacks

Tackles for Loss

Kentucky: 80.5 TFLs

Josh Allen was again sorely missed here and could be mentioned in every category. The 2019 Cats registered 13 fewer TFL than its previous total from 2018.

Georgia: 70.5 TFLs
Florida: 94 TFLs

Red Zone Touchdowns Allowed

Kentucky: 54.05 percent of its opponent’s trips inside the 20-yard line resulted in a touchdown. 2018 was Kentucky’s best two-year number at 47.50 percent.

Georgia: 52.46%
Florida: 48.12%

Pass Breakups

Kentucky: 53.5 per year

UK led the SEC in Pass Defense in 2019.

Georgia: 55.5
Florida: 49.5

Allowed Opponent Long Scrimmage Plays

Kentucky: Gave up 155.5 plays of 10+ yards from the line of scrimmage.

Georgia: 140.5
Florida: 145.5

WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?

Statistically speaking, Kentucky played championship defense over the past two seasons. This doesn’t come as a surprise given Mark Stoops’ emphasis on this phase of the game. 2020 promises to be a year in which UK could potentially challenge for a trip to Atlanta. Remember, a divisional title has been within its grasp as recent at two seasons ago when the Wildcats played Georgia at Kroger Field.

Replacing defensive end starters Calvin Taylor Jr. and TJ Carter will be more of a challenge than most think. Stoops signed Kentucky’s best defensive line class in school history. But, true freshmen are rarely impactful in the trenches. Former defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc is now at Arkansas. New DL coach Anwar Stewart will have future pro NT Quinton Bohanna at his disposal as well as the promising and entertaining NT Marquan McCall. DE Phil Hoskins also returns after missing the 2019 season.

Long-time starter and the team’s emotional leader, LB Kash Daniel, will also need to be replaced. Linebackers Chris Oats and Deandre Square are now juniors and poised for breakout seasons. OLB Boogie Watson is the SEC’s top returner in the quarterback sack column.

Coach Steven Clinkscale loses starting safety Jordan Griffin to graduation, but will have tenured safety Davonte Robinson back from the injured reserve. With talented depth at every spot in the secondary, position battles will be heated.

Coordinator Brad White will have a plan and is an absolute star in the making.

If Kentucky’s two-year statistical averages are sustained, 2020 could result in a special season.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

16 Comments for “Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”



  1. CatsfaninFL
    7:06 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Giggity



  2. WKY Cat
    7:17 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Don’t tell LSU that.



    • ukkatzfan
      10:28 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

      LSU doesn’t stand in our way to Atlanta. And we don’t stand in their way.



    • WKY Cat
      10:48 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

      Ukkatzfan….now go back and read the title to the article and you’ll understand what I’m saying.



    • satcheluk
      10:16 am February 22, 2020 Permalink

      It doesn’t say it explicitly, but it would seem the article is referring to an SEC East Championship, given there is no mention of SEC West teams.



  3. Old_Pogue_Bourbon
    7:21 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Freddie…is Brad White as good as I think he is? On the surface it appears we may have one of the top 5 Defensive Coordinators in the country. Tell me I’m not wrong. Then tell me how we’re going to keep him for the next 2-3 years.



  4. Southky
    8:05 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Definitely playing championship caliber defense, but this is the SEC. If the Cats want to win an eastern division title, they must be able to get quite a bit more done offensively. I’m not bashing. I’m just stating the facts. It looks promising with Gatewood waiting in the wings for the next few years.



    • ClutchCargo
      9:54 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

      Agree. All of the contending teams are good offensively, so lack of defense loses championships.



  5. CombatMedic_98
    8:08 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Nice write up Sir…glad to have you. All in the mix…RLTW….Trauma7 out!



  6. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    8:37 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Our offense will be better and the triple option mixed in with Terry’s improved passing ability will put a lot of teams on their heels.



  7. az1006
    8:51 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Our defense the last two years has been outstanding, and not just by Kentucky standards. But I’m not sure if our passing yards allowed this past season is due to our secondary being better than expected, or our run-heavy offense that bled clock and allowed us to keep the opposing offense off the field for long stretches. My guess is it’s likely a combination of the two, but an impressive statistic, regardless.



  8. BlueFrank
    9:13 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Freddie you are the best. I missed your insight the last couple of years. So glad you are back. Thank you!!!



    • huck
      10:24 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

      I will second that, glad to have you back. I enjoyed watching you play, I’m from the Bill Ransdell class. Wonderful reads, thanks.



  9. Jesus H. Chrysler
    11:45 pm February 20, 2020 Permalink

    Smoke em if ya got em fellas



  10. zooboy7323
    2:51 am February 21, 2020 Permalink

    Love that Freddie is back! I always enjoy his insight. I remember him at UK as I predate him a few years!



  11. Thetruthshallsetbennyfree
    6:10 am February 21, 2020 Permalink

    My selfish half is glad his back, my Kentucky fandom half wishes he was back with the team. Freddie made those players better people and helped prepare them who not to listen to.