Kentucky’s offense struggled under first-year coordinator Rich Scangarello (Dr. Michael Huang Photo).
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”— Sherlock Holmes
(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Kentucky’s 26 – 13 victory over Louisville did little to add to the truth.
Matt Ruffolo kicked four field goals (47, 29, 35, and 40 yards), Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushed 24 times for 120 yards, and the UK defense held the Cardinals to 309 total yards while forcing three critical turnovers. As such, the Wildcats secured their fourth straight Governor’s Cup trophy over their hated in-state rivals.
For Marks Stoops and company, the win was a soothing ending to a rather disappointing regular season. How could a projected ten-win campaign end up in a 7 – 5 ash heap on the Kroger Field turf? So many questions remain, the biggest of which revolves around the truths on the offensive side of the ball.
For starters, what is the truth regarding Rich Scangarello? Is Kentucky’s embattled offensive coordinator a misunderstood football genius or an incompetent gridiron hack?
Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that the atmosphere surrounding Kentucky’s chief play caller turned quite toxic after Kentucky’s shocking loss to Vanderbilt two weeks earlier. Unfortunately for Scangarello supporters, a somewhat respectable 16 – 6 follow-up defeat at the hands of the No. 1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs a mere week later did little to sway the court of public opinion.
The latest 26-point, 346-yard showing against Louisville, although respectable, still left significant seeds of doubt in the minds of even the most ardent of UK supporters.
Most fans I’ve talked to want Scangarello fired. The lack of efficiency—especially in the redzone—from an offense consisting of a future first-round NFL quarterback, one of the best running backs in school history, an uber-talented wide receiver corps, and a multi-layered stable of pro-caliber tight ends was dumbfounding to say the least.
It’s ironic that the first-year coordinator, hailed initially as a football savant, just couldn’t somehow channel the thoughts from his great football mind into the hearts and souls of the players he coached. Earlier in the season, the former NFL assistant waxed poetic about how coaching at Kentucky was the most fun he had ever had. Those dream moments quickly turned to nightmares as drive after drive stalled, puttered, and fizzled time and again short of paydirt.
Before summoning the executioner, however, let’s take a moment to channel the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, and see if we can discern the truth before rendering a final verdict on Scangarello’s fate.
Eliminating the impossibilities resulting in Kentucky’s tepid season is a daunting challenge. We’ll start, however, with the Big Blue Wall. When push comes to shove, it’s impossible to absolve the O-line from blame. In regard to pass protection, Levis was sacked a whopping 42 times during the year. Described as a work in progress, the O-line’s run blocking schemes weren’t much better. Honestly, they just weren’t nearly as good as everybody thought they would be. Of course, it was an O-line Scangarello inherited from his predecessor, and one that lost two players to the NFL. That’s certainly not Scangarello’s fault.
It’s also impossible to dismiss Will Levis’ injury as the root cause of Kentucky’s offensive misery. A turf toe diagnosis sounds innocuous, but it essentially takes the quarterback run out of the playbook. Sure, even though Levis still had his big arm, he had no mobility in the pocket whatsoever. The guy couldn’t run. That’s the truth. You can’t blame Scangarello for that.
Finally, it’s impossible to pin all of Kentucky’s kicking game woes on Scangarello. Ruffolo and his long snapper got the yips midway through the season. Losing confidence in your kicker affected the outcome of several close games. That’s not Scangarello’s fault. In fact, it probably limited his overall play-calling options.
Here’s where reality sets in. If you’re looking for a convenient scapegoat to blame the season on, then Scangarello’s your man. I get it. If the atmosphere within the locker room is too toxic or the fan base has been scarred to the point that goodwill can’t be recovered, then Stoops has no choice but to let Scangarello go. I won’t be shocked.
Just remember, though. Rich Scangarello is still the same man that Coach Stoops hired and that everybody initially lauded. He didn’t all of a sudden forget how to coach football. His pro-style system is difficult to install. It takes time to get comfortable with the nomenclature. Besides, four offensive coordinators in four years does not make for the stability that the Kentucky program needs right now.
Remember also that Scangarello has established contacts throughout the various camps and networks of the football world. He just might bring the next Will Levis to Lexington. He’ll also most likely keep the likes of a Barion Brown playing for the Blue and White.
Scangarello signed a three-year contract. He deserves to serve it out.
That’s the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669
4 thoughts on “The Truth Shall Set You Free”
Enjoyed your article. Don’t know if he should be let go or not, like a bunch of these so-called expert coaches. There are some calls that I am concerned with, but I am not a coach. Coach Stoops knows. He deserves more time, & I think he will get it. Earl Dunn
Thank you. I appreciated Will Levis’s support, encouragement and complimentary words toward Scangarello. I hope he remains.
So, have a question. UK made his 7th stop as a OC. Why was each of these stops only for a year at a time, if he is such a offensive genius or savant? He would a OC for a year. Downgraded to some kind of positions coach for a few years then back to a OC. Then it was rinse and repeat from there. And he was never at a school for longer then 2 years if I remember correctly. So again why hasn’t held the Oc position longer then a year at any of these stops?.
Agree completely! I bet Lian Coen regrets his move back to the Rams. I watched their offense last night – abysmal. His path to a head coaching job has been been delayed. One more year in Lexington would have served him well. Could he come back? I doubt it.