Kentucky hopes to get its offense on track against Vanderbilt


Kentucky Wildcats tight end Keaton Upshaw (88) runs out onto the field before the University of Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt University football game on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. UK won 38-14.Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Barkley Truax

Following its bye week, Kentucky (2-4) is set to play Vanderbilt (0-5) in Lexington this Saturday.

The Cats have had a rough last two games to say the least. Despite the defense leading the nation in interceptions (11) and putting up more good performances, the offense was once again unable string anything together.

The biggest question for the Cats remains at the quarterback position. Luckily for Kentucky and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, this week presents the best opportunity for a “get right” game since the Ole Miss contest in early October.

Joey Gatewood got the start for the Cats against Georgia, which led into the bye. He went 15/25 for 91 yards and rushed 16 times for 23 yards.  The production wasn’t there, but when you play an elite defense like Georgia in the first start of your collegiate career without a huge receiving presence, those lacking numbers are somewhat understandable.

Terry Wilson hasn’t had the best year either. He’s ranked 14/15 in passing yards (602) for SEC quarterbacks, and has thrown only for four touchdowns. If the quarterback production is not there once again this week, the potential for a dog fight with the Commodores – who have lost three games by more than 30 points – could rise significantly.

Mark Stoops has not announced who the starter will be at quarterback as of yet, saying the top three quarterbacks – Wilson, Gatewood and local product Beau Allen – have received first team reps through the off week.

Vanderbilt has yet to win a game this season. Last week, they were defeated 24-17 by the Mississippi State Bulldogs and their Air Raid offense.

Down 17-0 at halftime, Vanderbilt needed a spark to come back. They got it from sophomore running back Keyon Henry-Brooks. He rushed for 115 yards on 20 attempts and broke off a 27-yard touchdown run that put the score at 17-14 near the end of the third quarter.

Quarterback Ken Steals went 31/46 through the air with 336 passing yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a fumble.

The four turnovers provided the difference in the game. That should put a smile on defensive coordinator Brad White’s face. Much like it has in nearly every aspect since the Ole Miss game, the Kentucky defense excels at getting takeaways.

If the Cats can dictate this game defensively, they have a chance to get set up short fields for the offense, which it will need to consistently get into scoring range.

Vanderbilt should not be overlooked – especially with the record Kentucky has – but the Commodores present the most winnable game on the 2020 schedule; the Cats just cannot let it slip away. If they want any chance at competing with top-ten foes Alabama and Florida on the road each of the next two weeks, they have to take advantage of the opportunity this Saturday brings.

The offense aerial attack has to get going. No matter who is under center, Kentucky needs to demonstrate an ability to get the ball to string together balanced drives and attack opposing units downfield. These are things it has been unable to do all year, but the Cats will have their openings on Saturday. They need this week to be a confidence boost before heading to Tuscaloosa.

Kentucky plays Vanderbilt at noon this Saturday at Kroger Field. The game will be aired on SEC Network.