Live. Breathe. Blue. Kentucky Wildcats Football - Quality Control by BILL CROCKETT
Kentucky topped Akron 35-3 on Saturday at Kroger Field, but let’s face it, it was a difficult game to watch. Many of the same quality control issues resurfaced, leaving coach Mark Stoops shaking his head in frustration afterward. Bad snaps, fumbles, and poor pass blocking sounded alarms throughout the stadium. Stoops has repeatedly referenced cleaning up sloppy mistakes, but more of the same put a slight blemish on the lopsided final score.
For whatever reason, the Wildcats just haven’t figured out their identity on offense yet. Heading into SEC play, an inability to run the football jumps to the forefront in terms of fan base concern. If you can’t run the ball, you’re not going to win many games against SEC caliber talent. Granted, the ‘Cats don’t have anyone in the backfield as talented as Chris Rodriguez this season, but controlling the game with the run has always been a staple of a Mark Stoops coached team.
Poor pass blocking created a lot of pressure on quarterback Devin Leary early. Forced to scramble for much of the game, Leary suffered an inexcusable blindside hit that just can’t happen at this level. “Offensively, a lot of frustration again,” Stoops said, expressing his concern. “It is a broken record, but you cannot have bad snaps, holds, and you can’t fumble going into the endzone.” Despite the issues, Leary completed 16-of-26 passes for 315-yards and threw three TD passes.
Kentucky’s offensive line has looked a little shaky the first three games, struggling to run the ball against less than stellar competition. During his postgame press conference, Stoops stated that he really believed in his team, but referenced concern about the Wildcats’ ineffective offensive line. “We are going to work, we are going to grind, but we do have some expectations that we are not meeting right now at certain positions,” Stoops said. “There is no excuse for that.”
Given the offensive line woes, running back Ray Davis, a transfer from Vanderbilt, hasn’t had the impact most fans expected. Davis, who rushed for 1,042 yards last year for the Commodores, carried the ball just seven times against Akron, rushing for 72-yards. A majority of those yards came on a 55-yard touchdown scamper in the fourth quarter. Davis, one of the lone bright spots in the backfield, also hauled in a 58-yard TD pass late in the third quarter. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen has to figure out a way to get Davis more involved in the offense.
Coaches don’t apologize for winning football games, but it’s obvious that Mark Stoops has been disappointed early on with his team’s overall performance during the first three games of the season. Surprisingly, a number of the gaffes were committed by experienced players. Taking all of the miscues into consideration, Coach Stoops has to be chomping at the bit to get his players back on the practice field and clean up a few quality control issues prior to beginning SEC play.
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