With Smith, Cats find rhythm on offense



It has taken many, many weeks, but Joker Phillips’ squad has finally found an offensive identity during its 30-13 rout of Ole Miss.

Did it come from starters? No. Did it come from rising superstars? No, or maybe, as some unexpected superstars have now been found.

The Cats have had the help of replacements to find Phillips’ first victory in SEC play this season.

Saturday’s balanced attack, led by freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith and junior running back CoShik Williams, was just what the doctor ordered on what could have previously been called a disaster of a season.

Smith, in his first career start, completed 19 of his 36 passes for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Those two touchdowns were the results of two monumental plays for the Cats.

After struggling to judge his distance on the deep ball early in the game, the freshman hooked up with junior wide receiver La’Rod King on a 38-yard touchdown pass and a 55-yard completion that set up an eight-yard touchdown moments later.

After joking with the media about who would start next week, Joker made it clear that the quarterback competition was basically over.

“He definitely deserves to be the starter next week.”

“To me a big-time quarterback takes it right in the lips and stands in there and delivers,” Phillips added. “He is performing like a freshman at times with some of the things he is doing but at times he is showing big-time flashes of being a great quarterback for us.”

One question that was answered for many on Saturday was that senior wide receiver Matt Roark could become a threat to the opposition with Smith under center.

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Roark, looking like a whole new athlete, hauled in seven receptions for 116 yards. He even showed his versatility on a seven-yard rush to help run clock early in the fourth quarter.

So what’s the difference between junior quarterback Morgan Newton and Smith that has led to Roark’s rebirth on the gridiron? Trust.

“That just comes from practice and we have landmarks we have to be at. He knows where they are and he does a good job of hitting us when we get there, If we’re not there then he’s still going to hit the landmark so we have to get there for it,” Roark said.

He also contributed it to Smith’s passing technique.

“His ball is very catchable,” Roark said. “I like the way he puts it.”

Coming off the heels of a career game against Mississippi State,Williams, who has emerged as an offensive force for the Cats even during their struggles earlier this season, rushed for 111 yards on 25 carries and two touchdowns.

The effect Williams has had on the offense may be greater than that of Smith. Once the fact that the balance was needed seemed to set in during the second half, the Cats rocketed on offense.

“Once you start throwing the ball it helps you run the football. Then it becomes a cat and mouse game. When we are able to do one of the things well, I think it helps the other areas of our offense,” said Phillips during the postgame.

The timing of this offensive renaissance couldn’t be better with the Cats facing a gauntlet to capture it’s six consecutive bowl berth.

More importantly it seems as if they have finally broke bad. Even with defensive minded Vanderbilt and Georgia looming, I’m confident in saying that the Cats have found the answer to their offensive problems.