Kentucky’s offense stalls again in loss to No. 5 Georgia


Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) is tackled by a host of UGA defensive players during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Georgia football game on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 14-3. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Eric Decker

Since being gifted 14 points on two straight possessions via pick-sixes in Kentucky’s historic win over Tennessee, Eddie Gran’s offense has mustered a total of 30 points – including just 13 in the two games that followed.

While the defense didn’t do itself any favors against Mizzou, its performance against Georgia was more than deserving of victory, as it held the nation’s fifth-ranked team to just two scores in the Cats’ 14-3 loss.

Joey Gatewood, who got his first career start in place of the injured Terry Wilson, didn’t sparkle in his first opportunity to show UK a glimpse into the future at the quarterback position. But it was a difficult task, as he was facing one of the nation’s top defenses in his debut.

“You know going into it that it’s going to be a tough day,” Mark Stoops said postgame about throwing his fledgling quarterback out for the start. “There’s going to be some good and some bad because [Georgia’s] going to create some havoc in there with the way they can rush… that’s arguable the number one defense in the country.”

He was utilized in a nearly identical fashion as Wilson has been, which raises more questions about the scheme and play calling style rather than the talent of the two gunslingers. Like Wilson, Gatewood was hindered by receivers who were unable to get consistent separation, which in part leads to offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s ultra-conservative approach.

Stoops knows if the Cats want an effective offense, they need the ability to attack down the field through the air.

“We have to create explosive plays in the pass game,” he said. “We’ve got to be creative; we do have to take more shots. Eddie knows that. Eddie has been hard on himself.”

Gatewood was also subjected to a flurry of screen passes behind the line of scrimmage, which hardly test or allow a quarterback to demonstrate his throwing ability. He recorded just 91 passing yards, and averaged only 1.4 yards per carry while running the read options countless times. Chris Rodriguez, who was responsible for nearly half of the Wildcats’ yards today, was going for over 5 yards a pop, but saw just four more rushes than the Auburn transfer.

This could have been a result of a concerted effort by Georgia’s defense to make Gatewood run more than his running backs. But even if that’s the case, Gran should be able to adjust and stick with what is working as he’s done in the past.

For what it’s worth, Saturday’s signal caller said he’s comfortable in Kentucky’s offense after studying it throughout the offseason 

“I was learning it all throughout fall camp, I was learning it all throughout quarantine,” Gatewood said. “We’ve just got to execute.”

The bye week could not have been placed any better for Kentucky. It allows ample time to dissect the tape and figure out what is going wrong on the offensive side before Vanderbilt comes to Lexington. And Stoops said that’s exactly how the staff intends to use it.

“It’ll give us coaches time on the front end to do self-scout, to see what we’re doing in the areas we’re falling short,” he said. “The coaches will be working hard all weekend.”