Despite defeating Mississippi State 24-2 last Saturday, Kentucky struggled to find any rhythm offensively. Altogether, they had just 157 total yards for the game, the lowest in an SEC victory since 2010.
UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday that the mistakes were correctable, and that the offense can take away from the defense in fighting through adversity.
“The self-inflicted plays that are hurting us, we can control those things. There are many plays that are up to us and up to coaches and up to each individual. There are things we can get corrected. There are things we have done this year exceptionally well. We have to put it all together and the defense is a great example,” he said.
After just scoring 14 points in a win against Vandy two years ago, Kentucky played three quarterbacks in a collective effort in the next game at Missouri. Senior quarterback Terry Wilson was clicking against Ole Miss in Week 2 of this season, going 14-18 for 151 passing yards and rushing for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. This past weekend was different, however, as Wilson struggled and looked unable to get in a rhythm. For the game, he just went 8-20 passing for 73 yards and one touchdown, while rushing for 50 yards on 13 carries.
With the NCAA declaring Joey Gatewood eligible for the season and freshman Beau Allen having a great fall camp, options for a different pace are available. In fact, in the event that the offense would continue to be stagnant, UK Offensive Coordinator Eddie Gran said, just like two years ago, they always have a package for multiple quarterbacks, but the panic meter is not high.
“I think there’s an urgency, I don’t think there’s a panic. We’ve got packages, that’s happening right now. The next person up — we gotta produce, but we’ll always have a package for all three quarterbacks. Right now, we gotta get better at the details of what we’re doing. We certainly condensed a little bit this week and I was really pleased with today. Terry (Wilson) had one of his best practices, and Joey (Gatewood) threw the ball well. Beau (Allen) is getting some reps. So, it was really good, I was pleased,” he said.
The running back core is a little thin as sophomore Kavosiey Smoke is out for a few weeks after suffering a rib injury in the first half against Ole Miss. The Cats stuck to AJ Rose and Chris Rodriguez as their primary backs against Mississippi State, but freshman JuTahn McClain also saw some action in the final series, getting one carry for 17 yards.
Eddie Gran said he expects McClain to continue to get more touches this coming week at Tennessee, and that he reminds him of a familiar face to UK fans.
“Kid runs really, really hard. Great vision. You saw the little burst. He has been coming on a bit like (Benny) Snell did. You pop on the film, make me play you…the kid’s ready to go,” he said.
Against the Volunteers this Saturday, whether Rose, Rodriguez or McClain, running the ball effectively could be a key factor, as the Vols are big and nasty up front. If the Cats are going to win, Eddie Gran said playing with an edge will be a huge part of it.
“This game is gonna come down to a mentality, a physicality and a mental toughness about you when you have to go to Tennessee and play in that stadium. Especially against a really good defense. Coach Ansley does a great job, they’re sound. They know where people are gonna be and you gotta flat-out win,” he said.