By LARRY VAUGHT
What happened to Kentucky’s offense against Mississippi State?
Kentucky won 24-2 but had only two drives of over 30 yards and was horrible in the second half when five of seven drives gained less than 10 yards. Three of those drives actually lost yards.
Former Kentucky all-SEC running back Anthony White is on Sunday Morning Sports on WLAP (630 AM) with myself each week. He is our football expert and a week ago correctly discussed what it would take to slow down Mike Leach’s offense. White had played at UK when Leach was offensive coordinator and the plan he laid out was basically what UK did to hold Leach’s offense scoreless for the first time in his head coaching career and even picked off six passes.
“The defense took flak that was well deserved for how it had been playing but the way it bounced back was cool,” White said. “I don’t know if I have ever seen the Air Raid totally shut down like that. You knew you could slow it down but the Air Raid never got off the ground.”
But the UK offense? Why did it get grounded as well?
“We don’t call any vertical (passing) routes. I know Eddie Gran is an offensive genius and can get guys open but the past couple of games we are not throwing anything down the field where we can pick up eight, 10 yards on third down,” White said. “Everything is typically behind the line of scrimmage.
“I think offensively we can run the ball and we are going to have to go back to ground and pound like last year. I have more faith in Big Blue Wall picking up yardage than I do us throwing. If I can identify what we are trying to do (offensively), I am fine with that. I can’t understand on passing downs what we are trying to do
“I would like to see some routes pick up eight to10 yards on third down. The schedule is only going to get tougher. The first three games probably were three of the easier games we have.”
White didn’t think Mississippi State’s defensive front overpowered UK’s offensive line even though the Cats had just 84 net yards rushing counting 25 yards of sacks that quarterback Terry Wilson took and a 23-yard loss on a high snap to punter Max Duffy. Wilson was also just 8-for-20 passing for 73 yards.
“I felt like what State did was they clogged the middle up. That does not not mean they were more physical. They would just submarine and make a big pile of bodies so you can’t run in there and you have got to run outside and let linebackers make plays. They kept the middle of the field clogged up,” White said. “If you do that it should make the perimeter more vulnerable and the times we tried to get outside it did not work.”
White believes more vertical passing routes would force defensive backs to move more off the line of scrimmage than they have been. However, he also says the one part of the offense he’s not worried about is UK’s veteran offensive line.
“I do think we have to run it to get these guys to bow their backs and get a chip back on their shoulders,” White said. “That’s why I said I think it was more of Mississippi State’s defensive scheme than them being more physical than us.”
White also is not one ready to make the switch from Wilson to Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood at quarterback despite Wilson’s struggles with the passing game.
“Quarterbacks need to have the longest leash of anybody in the game,” White said. “The one thing you do not want to do is take confidence from your quarterback and make him second guess himself. Even if you take him out to give Joey a look and it does not work, then you put Terry back in and he is competing against himself and the other team.
“Eddie Gran is going to put together packages for Terry Wilson to be more successful. If you put another quarterback in and receivers are still not getting open what difference does it make who is playing quarterback. It’s good to have Joey as the backup but you can’t force him into the game and then have Terry second guessing himself. That won’t help anything.”