SEC Network analyst Jordan Rogers spent most of the fourth quarter pleading with the Kentucky offense to throw the ball downfield. Those throws never happened. Mark Stoops said after the game it was not for a lack of effort.
“You have to make some big plays to beat a team like that and we didn’t do it,” said Kentucky’s head coach.
“We tried. Sometimes they were covered and they went to check downs so it looks like a three-yard gain when in fact we had something called down the field to try to hit some verticals, try to hit some slants, try to hit some big plays that they took away. It’s not like we didn’t have those plays called. We did. We need to create them. We need to make some plays down the field, obviously. We definitely were working at that today. It didn’t always show up.”
In his first career start, quarterback Joey Gatewood completed 15-of-25 passes for 91 yards, an inefficient 3.6 yards per attempt. Kentucky’s longest pass play of the day went for only 11 yards.
Is the quarterback to blame for the lack of shots downfield or the wide receivers? Stoops is unable to appropriately diagnose the problem before studying the film, but Georgia’s highly-touted defense certainly deserves some of the credit.
“You saw late in the game in predictable pass how dangerous they can be. If you watch them this year, they can overwhelm you and obviously blow the game wide open with their defense, with strip sacks, with interceptions for touchdowns, creating havoc with their defense in predictable situations,” said Stoops.
Georgia sacked Gatewood four times, forced a fumble on a QB run and just dropped a pick six in the fourth quarter.
“First off, credit Georgia’s defense,” said Gatewood. “They’re a good, physical team up front and the secondary is obviously pretty good. Ya know, things just happen in the moment. If everything went the way I would have liked it to, it would have gone otherwise, but credit to them. They were a physical, good team, prepared. We’ll learn from all this and go from there.”
Since before the start of the 2019 season, the UK offense has been searching for explosive playmakers in the passing game. If the Wildcats cannot find ways to make big plays through the air, they will struggle to score against anybody, not just against the talented Georgia defense.
“We knew Georgia had one of the best defenses in the country, if not the best,” said Stoops. “They really played well, put a lot of pressure on us, did some really good things. I thought we gave ourselves an opportunity. We were better. I really liked our team’s energy, their focus all week. They played with great energy, played very physical. We’re playing physical enough on both sides of the line of scrimmage to win a game like that. We have to be able to create more opportunities for big plays. We have to get the ball in the end zone.
“We had a couple opportunities. The long drive we had in the second quarter we got three out of it. You need to be able to punch that in, put some pressure on them and that was the big difference in the game, obviously, our inability to create big plays and punch it in the end zone.”