Chris Rodriguez has rushed for 809 yards and five touchdowns on 135 carries — an average of 6.0 yards per carry.
The junior ran for 105 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, 207 against Missouri, 144 against South Carolina and 99 against Florida. Kentucky won all those games. He was limited to 46 yards on 13 carries against Chattanooga, but UK also won the game.
However, the last two games — both UK losses — he has been a non-factor. At Georgia, he was held to seven yards on seven carries. Last week at Mississippi State, he had 34 yards on eight carries. That means in the first six games he had 120 carries for 768 yards and the last two games he’s had 15 carries for 41 yards. He also lost a fumble, dropped a pitchout and had the ball come loose on another player where review ruled he was down to nullify what would have been another penalty.
He’s now had five fumbles this year after having 119 carries without a fumble in 2020 when he averaged 6.6 yards per run and scored 11 touchdowns. In 2019, he had 71 carries in nine games for 533 yards — 7.5 per run — and five touchdowns. He fumbled twice, but both came in the season-opening game.
So what has happened? Why the lack of production the last two games? Why more fumbles this season?
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops did not shed a lot of light on the situation during his press conference Monday. Rodriguez had a wrist injury earlier in the season and Stoops said after the loss at Mississippi State that he was dealing with some issues but would not specify then and would not again Monday.
“Chris was dealing with an issue (at Mississippi State). It was not the wrist last week,” Stoops said. “I’m not going to sit up here and talk about everything. These young men go through a lot and they go through a lot of practices and do a lot of hitting and things happen throughout the week.
“So, he was dealing with an issue last week, yes. I don’t need to make excuses for Chris, but he was not at full strength.”
What about the running game in general the last two weeks?
“Needs to be better. Needs to be better. I believe both teams (Georgia and Mississippi State) do a very good job, they’re very disruptive, very physical. Some of it we can control,” Stoops said.
The Cats better Saturday night when they face Tennessee because the Vols lead the nation in tackles for loss.
“Again, a lot of it is up to us, how we play and how we execute. They have some very good players, there is no denying that. They always have, always will,” Stoops said.
Tennessee’s best defender is linebacker Jeremy Banks.
“Absolutely, very good football player, very disruptive, very good,” Stoops said.