Kentucky will be hosting No. 5 Georgia at Kroger Field on Saturday, and with a new quarterback under center, as Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood will replace the injured Terry Wilson for the game. UK Head Coach Mark Stoops made the announcement on Thursday, and expressed confidence towards Gatewood, pointing to his size and arm talent as signs of a bright future.
“He’s definitely a big, strong guy. He’s got a big arm. He can make all the throws. He stands strong in the pocket. You never know with that position until you get put into the situation is how their vision and how they’re gonna go through their progressions, how they step up in the pocket and distribute the football down the field. From what I’ve seen from him so far, I believe that he’ll do that. He brings a lot of ability and a big arm,” Stoops continued.
“Obviously, he can run the ball. He’s a different style than Terry. Terry is maybe a little faster top end, quicker, but Joey is one of those big, strong runners. He gets some good yards for you that way. Looking forward to seeing what he can do.”
Even with the QB change, Kentucky is still looking to run the ball. After finishing with just 98 rushing yards on 23 carries against Missouri, Mark Stoops was adamant on Monday that the Cats would indeed be getting back to their “bread and butter,” as they still rank second in the SEC with 183.80 rushing yards per game.
“Saturday was one of those games where obviously we didn’t execute our bread and butter, and when we did, we were effective in moving the ball extremely clean. But when we were able to be physical and run the ball and get ahead of the chains, we were efficient,” he said.
The issue for the UK offense is that UGA possesses the highest ranked defense in the league. They currently rank first in the league in yards per carry given up, second in sack rate, second in yards per play given up and third in total QB rating. The Dawgs have depth, speed, strength and everything else needed to defend cleanly in the SEC, making offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s job even tougher this week.
Georgia’s offense itself has not been as efficient as years past this season, however, as they rank in the middle of the SEC in nearly every category. Redshirt sophomore RB Samir White is at the headline of the offense, and freshman Kendall Milton proves as a solid backup that can break a long run, but they altogether rank just eighth in the league in yards per carry (3.96).
UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett IV has proven as a solid leader on the offense, completing 57% of his passes to various talented Bulldog receivers and avoiding sacks. With that said, along with the offense as a whole, Bennett had a tough time keeping up with Alabama in their 41-24 loss to the Crimson Tide, throwing three interceptions in the process.
Creating turnovers was a specialty for UK in their two wins for the season, forcing ten altogether and returning three interceptions for touchdown. If they can steal a possession or two, while containing UGA’s running game which has become more moderate since former o-line coach Sam Pittman went to Arkansas, they can give themselves a shot on Saturday.
In order for the upset bid to take place, however, Kentucky is going to have to find some rhythm offensively. The offensive line will have to win up front against an extremely tough UGA defense, and Gatewood will have to protect the ball when defenders get to him.