Kentucky hit rock bottom last weekend.
By Matt Zemek
The Wildcats lost at home to Vanderbilt. One is tempted to say that no further explanation is needed, given that Vanderbilt snapped a 26-game SEC losing streak against the Wildcats.
True, but the explanation is notable: Kentucky did move the ball, getting deep into Vanderbilt territory with regularity but then settling for field goals. Kentucky did take the lead twice in the fourth quarter and gave it up twice. The offense was primarily responsible for this loss, but the defense didn’t really hold up its end of the bargain. It was a complete team loss, a total implosion which has turned this season into a much bigger mess. Coach Mark Stoops will definitely make changes to his offensive staff. The good vibes which surrounded this program in the offseason and in September are gone.
There’s only one thing which can save the season: Upsetting No. 1 defending national champion Georgia. Let’s see what Big Blue can do:
What happened against Vanderbilt? The Kentucky offense has plenty of problems, and we’ll certainly discuss them, but the defense is supposed to be Ol’ Reliable for Mark Stoops, and it wasn’t against VU. Basic assignment football proved to be elusive against Mike Wright. Losing containment and allowing big gainers enabled Vanderbilt to score often enough to win.
Kentucky’s path to victory begins with an elite defensive performance. Georgia’s offense is competent but not spectacular. It scored just 27 against Tennessee, only 26 versus Missouri. It can be taken if the opponent’s defense comes to play. Kentucky needs to be able to hold Georgia under 20 points to have a realistic chance at winning. No one can blow assignments or reads. There were a lot of those mistakes against Vanderbilt. Clean-up on aisle 9.
Move Chris Rodriguez all over the field
Kentucky would love to be able to run the ball 50 times for 250 yards, but we know that’s not happening. What is more realistic is using Chris Rodriguez in lots of different ways, moving him around in formations and giving Georgia’s defense different looks while getting the ball to Rodriguez consistently. Kentucky didn’t give Rodriguez the rock on 2-point conversion attempts versus Vanderbilt. Kentucky bogged down on drives when not giving Rodriguez more touches. Kentucky needs to lean on him – not always with the run – and force Georgia to pay so much attention to him that other skill players can get open.
Ball’s in your court, Will Levis
We know Levis likes to run but isn’t fully healthy and can’t go at full-speed. Levis can lament his fate, or he can try to throw the best ball he has ever thrown this season. Levis will have to make some special throws to win this game. There’s only so much UK can do to reinvent the wheel. At some point, Levis has to rise above his – and his team’s – limitations.