Missouri racked up 92 offensive plays against Kentucky on Saturday. The Wildcats produced just 36 plays that gained 145-total yards in a 20-10 loss in Columbia. Now 2-3, the schedule takes a hard turn with the Georgia Bulldogs on deck. Let’s take a deep dive into how the Cats were handled in Columbia:
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- Effectively throw the football. No. Kentucky quarterbacks completed 4 of 13 passes for 47-yards and 1 touchdown. The Cat’s ineffectiveness through the air resulted in a 31% completion percentage against a defense that was allowing 307-pass yards per game. WR’s registered 3 catches for 44-yards and a score; all by Josh Ali. RB AJ Rose had the other reception for 3-yards. The Cats finished with a 3.6-yards per attempt. The entire process of the passing game was insufficient and inaccurate.
- Rush for 200-yards.UK did not accomplish this objective after rushing for 98-yards off just 23 carries. Chris Rodrigues ran for 48-yards and averaged 5.3 yards-per-carry. He had just 9 attempts. AJ Rose recorded a chunk play of 29-yards and finished with 5 rushes for 43-yards. Kavosiey Smoke was said to be back from an injury but did not appear in the game. Kentucky averaged nearly a yard more per attempt than Missouri but had 39 fewer rushing opportunities.
- No turnovers. No. WR Josh Ali fumbled after catching a pass late in the fourth quarter.
- Win the Red Zone. For an AAR first, the answer is DNA or “Does Not Apply.” Kentucky was 0/0 in the Red Zone.
- Don’t bite on flashy lures. Yes. Overall, Kentucky was not fooled by Missouri’s pre-snap, deceptive tactics. Safety Yusuf Corker played his best game of the 2020 season by leading the Cats with 18 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1 QB sack.
- Limit Mizzou to 120-rush yards. The Cats failed to succeed in this category by allowing 220-yards on the ground. The Tigers were precise, timely, aggravating, and impactful with its rushing attack. RB Larry Roundtree accounted for 126-yards off 37 carries and two scores. Matter of fact, Roundtree had one more carry (37) than UK had offensive plays (36). Tyler Badie accumulated 52-yards and QB Connor Bazelak had 40. Missouri flipped the script on the Cats by possessing the football for an eye-popping 43:10. It also ran 92 offensive plays, 62 came on the ground. Furthermore, 50% or 13 of its 26 first downs came in the run game. That’s the number Mark Stoops refers to when he says, “aggravating yards.”
- Don’t get beat deep. UK accomplished this objective. Mizzou WR’s did not score a touchdown. Missouri won the game by living in the S.L.O.P. (Sustained, Long, Offensive, Possessions). By doing so, the Tigers owned Time of Possession and were 4/5 in the Red Zone.
- Influence the quarterback. Yes, and No. Kentucky had QB sack opportunities on cornerback blitzes but failed to get Connor Bazelak on the ground. The Cats did manage to produce one QB sack, but Bazelak remained upright and extended drives on 3rd and 4th down. I was bullish on the redshirt freshman all week leading up to the game. He finished 21/30 for 201-yards. Bazelak also aggravated the Cats with10 rushes for 40-yards.
- Kick the football out of the end zone. Yes. Chance Poore’s kickoffs were deep and effective.
- No critical errors. Yes. Matt Ruffolo nailed a 50-yard field goal.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
Kentucky’s offense ran 36 plays that resulted in 145 total yards, 10-points, and eight 1st downs. The Cats rushed for 98 and passed for 47. It controlled the clock for just 16:50 was 2/9 on 3rd down. Missouri’s offense ran 92 plays that produced 421 total yards, 20-points, and twenty-six 1st downs. The Tigers rushed for 220 and passed for 201. It controlled the clock for 43:10. Ballgame.
While I agree that the Cat’s loss was an all system’s failure, the defense gave up 20-points which was its average going into Saturday. Brad White’s unit allowed too many drive extending conversions on 3rd and 4th down (10/20 on 3rd down, 4/5 on 4th). It wasn’t helped by its offensive counterparts who had far too many three and outs, controlled too little clock, and too few 3rd down conversions (22%). Simply stated, a defense can’t be on the field for 92 plays when its offense consistently goes three and out and expect to win. Saturday’s performance was disappointing and frustrating.
What does all this really mean? The Missouri defense stifled the Cats for the better part of sixty minutes. The hard truth is that the Tiger defense is an average at best SEC unit. Up next is the Georgia Bulldogs who fields a D that is nasty, fast, physical, and is considered one of the best in the nation. Things don’t or won’t get easier.
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I think the Wildcat defense played good enough to win the game. 20-points off 92 plays is somewhat impressive. It limited Missouri to 3.5-yards per carry and 6.7-yards per pass attempt. They were put in an impossible situation by the UK offense, but battled for 60 minutes. It wasn’t perfect and struggled to get off the field on 3rd and 4th down. However, it was good enough but got no help from the offense. In the new SEC that’s turned offensive, the Cats cannot afford to have another 36-play, 145-total yard performance. Missouri was perceived to be a win when the 10-game schedule was released. That didn’t happen. Wins get a whole heck of a lot more difficult in the back end of the schedule.
Now, on to the important part from Saturday. I realize that you may be frustrated after reading this post. Trust me, it wasn’t fun to write. But, offensive line coach John Schlarman did not make the trip to Columbia. Say a prayer, send positive thoughts/vibes, or however you do it for John.