No huddle? No question


La’rod King scored Kentucky’s only touchdown in the first half of the University of Kentucky football game against Florida at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Ky., on 9/24/11. UK trailed at half 10-31. Photo by Mike Weaver

By Cody Porter

My unbiased opinions are slowly beginning to echo those of the fan base; simply, the offense must change for the betterment of the program.

Before I get too involved with what you are about to read, let me make it clear that I firmly believe UK head coach Joker Phillips and offensive coordinator Randy Sanders have earned their positions on this team. The evidence is there that each can coach.

A few examples include Peyton Manning, Andre Woodson and Randall Cobb.

That being said, I’ll proceed to the point.

The offense has become stagnant, boring, predictable, repetitive. Basically choose your poison when labeling this offense because it probably will accurately describe it.

The days of the draw and bubble screens must go. Read that thoroughly, they MUST go.

The opposition, most commonly the SEC, loaded with speed and strength on defense, is smart enough to know when they are constantly being thrown the same set of plays year in and year out.

A couple of instances during the game that show this were when UK attempted its same predictable draw play that we often see on first, second and sometimes even third down, during back-to-back plays. Keep in mind, it happened more than once.

If the Cats managed a gain their first try then their second attempt was surely to end in a loss.

That repetition on Saturday is what led to a lack of yards for the UK offense for part of the game, but just when you thought that no light could be shined down upon them, Phillips threw the no-huddle into the equation.

Phillips first implemented it toward the end of the Louisville game, and despite the loss, it was rather effective in leading UK on a scoring drive in the waning moments.

Florida, being a whole other animal, was also susceptible to the fast-paced style the Cats surprised them with. They were as vulnerable as, well, the UK defense when Jeff Demps or Chris Rainey got into the open field.

While the Cats may have still lost 48-10, their ability to move the ball in the no-huddle can be seen as a glimmer of hope for the future.

It resulted in each of the Cats’ scores, but was seen little in the second half due to the game being out of reach and new faces like freshman quarterback Maxwell Smith and sophomore running back Jonathan George seeing some much needed playing time.

“Operating in a no-huddle gives us a little bit more time to operate,” said offensive coordinator Randy Sanders.

“Probably 80 percent” of the game was run in no-huddle Sanders said.

“Morgan did a good job of handling it. The line, having those five experienced guys out there helped us.”

Its one fault may be an increased number of turnovers, mainly due to the team not having enough experience with the system, but in time that wound will heal itself.

In Wednesday’s column I spoke of using this game as a trial and error because it is a game most experts expected the Cats to lose. In addition, the offense that has been put on the field against subpar teams lacked the offensive intuition demonstrated among the rest of UK’s SEC brethren.

So I ask you, Phillips, Sanders, whoever wants to respond, what would it hurt to be more random with the play calling of a team that has nowhere to go but up. If the no-huddle must be the Cats calling card or gimmick offense, i.e. the Air Raid of the ‘90s, then so be it.

The Cats have games approaching that have similar scenarios as presented to them with the Gators. The odds are against you, so throw Louisiana State, South Carolina and Mississippi State a curveball that may knock them in the side of the head. This is the kind of repetition needed because after all, practice makes perfect.

Phillips has a lot to gain from this, if he continues to allow this offensive freedom, not only can he help improve what appears to be a mentally lost offense, but he can get some fans back on his side.

With the season possibly a wash at this point, albeit early, this is going to open his headhunters up to showing some respect to the second year head coach no matter what may happen at season’s end.

Well, he still needs to beat the Volunteers of Tennessee, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. By then though, maybe, just maybe, this offense will look like a Manning fluently running the no-huddle.