By Cody Porter
Could we have given the Cats more credit than they deserved for their victory over Ole Miss?
It seems so after the Cats were run over by Vanderbilt 38-8.
Coincidentally, it was during this past weekend’s game that Ole Miss showed us who they really were when Louisiana Tech beat them 27-7.
The Commodores departed from their recent success in passing the ball to run all over the Cats. Vanderbilt junior running back Zac Stacy had 135 of the team’s 203 rushing yards. He also tacked on three rushing touchdowns.
Combined with the Cats inability to prevent the pass, this weeks breaking bad starts with the defense.
Originally, I was going to devote the number one spot to the rush defense, but then I remembered the mistakes by the defensive backs during the latter stages of the Cats’ game against Vanderbilt. On one occasion, UK had three defenders behind a Commodore receiver. None of them made a play on the ball, which allowed the receiver to make a catch. Not only was he open, but all three of those Cats were within feet of him. As the game approached, I, much like the coaching staff apparently, focused on the Vanderbilt passing game. When all was said and done on Saturday, Vanderbilt used a balanced offense to roll past UK. Vanderbilt only ranks 59th in the NCAA FBS in rushing. Georgia will likely use the same approach with highly touted freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, aiding the effort of quarterback Aaron Murray. If not on their game, as it seemed in Nashville, the Cats could be facing yet another blowout.
2. Running Game
Where oh where is the CoShik Williams that I had been giving so much praise to leading up to the Vanderbilt game? His 10 carries for 22 yards is not going to cut it for the Cats to pull out a victory over anyone. The team combined for 32 yards rushing, which does freshman quarterback Max Smith no favors when it comes to attempting to move the ball. For what once was the Cats’ strength this season, I find it to be mind-boggling that it just disappeared, especially against the Commodores despite with their top 40 rush defense.
3. Offensive Line
This then leads me to the offensive line. Their hiatus from these areas of improvement has ended and the line finds itself at the other end of some finger pointing. Some of the problems that the UK rushing game encountered can be attributed to the poor blocking by the offensive line. Unfortunately for the Cats, Georgia is better. A lot better actually. The Bulldogs rank fifth in rush defense, which could further support my previous comment about how things could get out of hand. In addition to giving the running game little help, Smith was sacked four times.
“They just got on the edge of our blockers,” UK head coach Joker Phillips said on Monday.
He then had the reasoning that Smith didn’t get the ball out of his hand fast enough, which is what led to the four sacks. Whether or not that is the case, this wasn’t the only game that UK’s quarterbacks have found themselves on the ground. For an experienced group of linemen, this type of effort isn’t expected. If this is currently the case, should Smith or junior quarterback Morgan Newton just throw in the towel next season when a young group is blocking for them? For any statistical improvement to occur, before the conclusion of this season or the beginning of 2012, something must be changed for an improvement of the front five.