As bad as the loss to So. Miss was, the Cats still looked viable for a half and did some good things on offense. Saturday, however, UK did its best impression of Bourbon Co. High School from start to finish.
Though they hung around for about a quarter, failing to move the ball and force Florida off the field crushed the Cats’ chances of capturing is first win against the Gators in three decades.
It was not pretty. Starting QB Drew Barker had more completions to UF defenders than his own WRs. UK once again failed to establish the run and sustain drives. Converting third downs, predictively, was also problematic.
It’s clear OC Eddie Gran had a plan. As we discussed on the show prior to kickoff, I expected that he would try to get Barker in rhythm and confident with some easy completions to start. While the calls matched my expectations, the results didn’t.
UK’s first three plays (all passes) didn’t call for a WR to go beyond 10 yards downfield. After a sack on the first play, Barker remained noticeably rattled for the rest of the afternoon. For the second straight Saturday, UK opened with a three-and-out. As our eyes told us, Barker never found rhythm passing. He was wayward and didn’t step through a good number of his throws and overlooked guys who appeared to have space on their man.
UK ran the ball pretty decently to start it’s second drive. Boom Williams’ first three touches netted 15 yards and a fresh set of downs close to midfield, but the drive was killed by another under thrown vertical route by Barker. The playcall was very similar to Barkers first INT against USM.
From that point on, UK really tried to lean on its ground attack. Anytime the Cats were forced into an obvious passing situation, however, things immediately came to a grinding halt.
When the Cats where in the redzone, they ran an 2X2 stack set the majority of the time. Granted, UK only had two redzone trips. Though they played to that formation’s strengths to a good degree, they were unable to produce points until garbage time against reserves. I go into more detail about this set here.
UK’s first play over 10 yards was a Jeff Badet reverse. The play almost gave UK a spark, but any manufactured momentum quickly dissipated after Florida intercepted a Barker screen pass two play later. Like on our “Dynavoy” concept that I discussed last week, UK will try and get Badet in space as much as possible. UK actually attempted to run a jet sweep with him against USM, but this play actually worked.
Kentucky’s second longest gain of the afternoon came on a Boom Williams run right before halftime when the Gators played a semi-soft zone. Inside dives have consistently netted Kentucky good gains through two games, but this run helps inflate the play’s average. On inside dives to the 2/3 holes, UK averages over nine yards/carry. These are much different from the Cat’s zone approach.
Once Drew Barker was taken out midway through the 3Q, UK’s offense simplified for backup Stephen Johnson. Johnson’s passing skills are a bit suspect at this point in time, and Florida treated him as such. They loaded the box, played press coverage, and dared the young QB to make a play with his arm.
Johnson was far from perfect in his Big Blue debut, but he had Kentucky’s best passing play in the Swamp that led to an eventual JoJo Kemp TD. The play mostly succeeded due to a blown coverage in the Florida secondary, but I go more in depth here.
With the sample size growing, UK is building noticeable tendencies. The Cats call a RPO (Run-Pass Option) 1/6 plays, the biggest percentage of its playcalling. The next biggest chunk of plays are outside zone runs at a 9% clip followed by inside dives and QB zone reads each consisting of 6% of calls. So, the Cats want to find lanes for its athletes to exploit on the edge. Remember, the “run” aspect of the RPO is based on an outside zone concept and QB zone reads attack the same holes outside the tackles.
From the discernible eye (again camera angles can make it difficult to perfectly identity concepts), no pass concept eclipses more than a 4% share of calls. “Dynavoy”, “Double Posts”, and “X Shallow” are run the most. “Dynavoy” and “Double Posts” have resulted for nearly a third of UK’s total yardage between them, but this will certainly shrink as the season progresses and the sample size normalizes.
UK is a three score favorite entering this week. They face a scrambling QB and one of Kirk Herbstreit’s Top 5 Team Performers of Week 2, but Kentucky should be able to establish its will on both sides of the ball. I fully expect UK to focus on the run this week and have its first 100 yard rusher of the season. Stoops and Co. are in desperate need of a good showing and will likely show no mercy to Former Cat Doug Martin’s Sun Belt squad.