I don’t even know how to feel about Kentucky’s 20-10 loss to Missouri last night. None of it made sense.
Usually, as a Kentucky football optimist, I feel some sort of emotion after the result of a Kentucky football game. But, after that dud of a performance, I genuinely can’t pinpoint an emotion about this loss, or this team.
Disappointment? Sure. Angry? Not necessarily. Pessimistic? You could say that. Expected? Yeah, a little. But what I am more than anything is, just like the rest of the BBN, flat out confused.
Let’s first address how the game played out. I feel like most Kentucky fans smelled this trap game coming ever since the schedule changed a week and a half ago, and it was more evident after Kentucky beat the brakes off of Tennesee a week ago. After a historic 34-7 win against Tennesee, you would like to carry that momentum into a Georgia game at home, especially after they’re licking their wounds from a loss to Alabama. Kentucky then becomes a trap game for Georgia.
Instead, after a historic win, you’ve got to travel to quite possibly the most boring place in the SEC: Columbia, Missouri. A place with no tradition, no history, a place that would get up once a year when their biggest football rival was Kansas. Oh, and you’ve got to do it in the middle of the day too. It’s so boring I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open a few minutes before halftime.
Of course, Kentucky was going to start out flat, but the bad thing is, as mentioned on last night’s post-game show, this didn’t play out like a trap game. Kentucky had their chances, and they blew it. Let’s start with confusing example number one, the obvious one.
Where in the hell is Chris Rodriguez?
Nick Roush touched on this last night, in great detail in fact, but it’s worth mentioning a second time. It is absolutely criminal that Chris Rodriguez is not the focal point on this stagnant Kentucky offense. Last week I sat here and gave the good folks of the BBN every reason why we should expect Chris Rodriguez to not only take over the workload in the backfield but that he should be the focal point. Instead, Rodriguez was only up to five carries just seconds before the start of the fourth quarter. He ended the game leading the team in carries with nine, but nine attempts for him is way too small. He has proven he can thrive in a Benny Snell type workload.
Aside from Rodriguez, there is no reason this Kentucky backfield should only be getting 14 carries in a game. Eddie Gran and Mark Stoops literally have the deepest Kentucky running back room in my lifetime, maybe ever, yet there has been an obvious failure to utilize them. I don’t care if the Cats only ran 36 plays, they probably could’ve run more plays had the run game been more prevalent, and if the run game featured C-Rod more than nine times. It’s been proven, when he gets the ball, good things happen.
It's time for my weekly Chris Rodriguez Jr. production tweet.
55 carries, 305 yards, 4 TDs, 5.55 ypc
67.27% success rate, 14.5% big play rate, 3.64% stuff rate
This is becoming a much larger sample size. He needs more carries.
— Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettKSR) October 25, 2020
The second thing that has left me confused, why is Gran and Co. trying to get cute with Terry Wilson? Two weeks ago I laid out why Terry Wilson can work in this offense, but that didn’t necessarily mean he should BE the offense. Terry can give you scrambling ability, he can hit the short passes, and looking back to Florida in ’18, Missouri in ’18, and on the only touchdown yesterday, he can even get you deep-play-ability when absolutely necessary.
Terry Wilson dropped it right on the money to @_JoshAli6 ??
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) October 24, 2020
Just look at that ball, it’s beautiful.
However, instead of playing to Terry Wilson’s strengths, it feels like the coaching staff can’t decide to go all-in on Terry or not. To make things even murkier, why would you put Joey Gatewood in that situation? It’s evident that it wasn’t a gameplan, and if it was, boy it was a bad one.
I think Gatewood can have a bright future for Kentucky, but this is not an offense he can thrive in. In my opinion. You’ve got to ride with Terry as your QB, give the ball to your backs, let Terry make the simple plays as he did against Tennessee, and DON’T COMPLICATE THINGS.
Of course, I don’t get paid to make these decisions, these guys do, so what I say is ultimately irrelevant, but every casual football fan knows if you have two quarterbacks you have no quarterback. Terry Wilson has been championed as the dude for two years now, and it’s about time he gets utilized like it instead of half-assed bubble screens and being benched for Gatewood when his receivers are dropping passes.
On those 12 attempts:
3/12, 87 yards, 1 TD, 3 drops
— Braxton Drake Howard (@braxtondrakehow) October 25, 2020
This gets me to another point, what is going on with the receivers?
Mark Stoops has actually had some solid receivers during his time at UK. Blue, Juice, Baker, Badet, Bowden, and now Ali. He’s had some capable dudes, and we can even pinpoint CJ Conrad if we want to go further. However, for some reason, these receivers are just struggling.
It seems like the only thing that happens on a pass play is a bubble screen or wherever Josh Ali is on the field, and that just can’t get it done. It feels like Allen Dailey has made a play here or there, Upshaw is a capable pass-catcher, despite his drop in Knoxville, and what has happened to Akeem Hayes? Hayes looked like a viable option for Wilson and an offense looking for a second pass-catcher, however, since Hayes tweeted his frustration about playing-time he hasn’t seen the field.
Akeem Hayes season snap counts…
Auburn – 26
Ole Miss – 12
*announced as starter*
Miss State – 9
Tennessee – 0
Missouri – 0
— Braxton Drake Howard (@braxtondrakehow) October 25, 2020
I don’t know if it’s disciplinary or what, but if it’s out of sheer pettiness I can’t wrap my mind around it. If other players in the past have been able to put their frustrations on social media (ie Blake Bone, Lynn Bowden, and others) Hayes should be able to do the same on a wide receiver room that is down to the bare minimum. He may turn-out all that great, but when he was the only guy giving you production the first two games, it would be nice to see him get more than nine snaps in the last three games. Or, if Hayes isn’t going to get a shot let’s start trying out these other guys like Khalil Branham and Izayah Cummings. With a 2-3 record halfway through the season, what do you have to lose at this point?
Finally, situational decision making has been BRUTAL for this Kentucky team this season. Throwing the ball away on two-point conversions and third down, going three and out on drives to get back in the game, and a failure to get touchdowns on putaway drives. It has happened every single game this season, some have just affected the game much less than others. However, there are three glaring examples from yesterday’s game.
The first one was on the opening drive. Kentucky elected to receive to start the day (first of all, WHAT?) and decided to open the game with three straight passes. Now, again, I’m not an offensive guru, but I would like to think going to your least successful plays to start the game is not a recipe for success. Kentucky would go three and out, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Then, after Eli Drinkawitz gives you a GIFT by turning the ball over on downs after a 21 play drive, Chris Rodriguez doesn’t touch the ball once. In fact, Kentucky went Wilson-Gatewood-Wilson in that sequence. That is absolutely not a recipe for success and Kentucky would go three and out. But wait, there’s more!
Right before the start out of the fourth, Kentucky was undeservingly still in the game–somehow. Instead of giving the ball to Chris Rodriguez who kickstarted the last touchdown drive, he gets zero carries and Kentucky goes three and out again. Missouri kicks a field goal on the next possession to tuck it away, and now we’re all sitting here confused.
I know that’s a lot, so let’s review what Kentucky fans are rightfully confused about.
Why won’t Chris Rodriguez get the ball? Is Terry the guy or not? Where is Akeem Hayes? Where are the young wide receivers? Why is there a large number of bubble screens? Why does Kentucky choke in situational football? Are we good or not? What happens next?
Kentucky hits the toughest part of their schedule and is EASILY staring down 3-6 heading into the final week. We knew this was going to be a throwaway year, but this team has clearly underachieved through five games. There are a lot of questions being had, and right now is not the time to be having those questions. This offense looks lost, and it has all Kentucky fans dumbfounded. Something needs to change.
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk, Go Cats.