Kentucky football: Wildcats misfiring offense just isn’t measuring up

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis ( Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis ( Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /

It’s mid-November in Kentucky and the weather has turned cold, snowy, and a bit dreary much like the Kentucky football team’s offense has been for much of the season, especially following an embarrassing 24-21 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.

The forecast doesn’t look much better with just two weeks to go in the regular season and the No. 1 team in the nation Georgia coming to town on Saturday. Oh, the early forecast calls for highs in the mid-30s for the 3:30 PM EST kickoff.

Coaches, teams, analysts, and all of Big Blue Nation are wanting to know what has happened to what was predicted to be a very highly explosive offense in the preseason that is averaging just 23.3 points per game ranking 11th in the Southeastern Conference and 94th nationally.

Coach Mark Stoops was not amused after the loss and isn’t one to make excuses which he admitted on Monday.

"“No excuses.I don’t feel comfortable talking about excuses. I give credit to (Vanderbilt) Coach (Clark) Lea and Vandy for outplaying us and outcoaching us. They did a very good job."

In fact against non-conference teams that were all wins Miami of Ohio (37) Youngstown State (31) and Northern Illinois (31) the Cats averaged 33 points these came in the first four weeks of the season. Against SEC teams Florida (26), Ole Miss (19), South Carolina (14),  Mississippi St. (27), Tennessee (6), Missouri (21), and Vanderbilt (21) the average points put up is 19.4.

Kentucky football numbers rank near the bottom of the SEC and FBS

It’s very clear just how poorly the Kentucky offense has performed this season. Whether it’s coaching, schemes, or chemistry the bottom line is that the offense has poorly under-performed.

For reference, there are 14 SEC teams and 131 teams in the FBS currently.

Kentucky                                                              SEC rank                                NCAA rank

Passing yards               2,199                                 10                                            83

Rushing yards               1,196                                 13                                          104

Total yards                      3,395                                 14

Ave yards per game      339                                    14

Receiving per game      219                                    10                                            83

Points per game            23.3                                   11                                            94

Red Zone offense:                                                                                                     98

(39 opportunities –  8 rush TD, 14 passing TD, 9 FG     .795)

Sacks allowed                39                                                                                       126 (Tied 3 teams)

3rd down conversions   50-130  .385                                                                   70

Granted quarterback Will Levis has been hit time after time all season resulting in 39 sacks and has been playing hurt as a result of this much of the year. He has been seen with a walking boot a lot.

Fans are very unhappy with offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s play calling. Under Liam Cohen last year whose offensive was loose, wide open, dynamic, and competitive to Scangarello’s reserved, unimaginative, boring, and predictable.

Levis clearly can’t run and any plays that had him doing this have obviously been removed from the playbook.

Scangarello faced the media on Tuesday to answer for Saturday and what is ailing this offense.

"“We’ve got to do a better job and be more efficient,” Scangarello said. “We’re controlling the ball, we’re getting better up front, we ran for 200 yards, there’s a lot of good stuff on that tape. Literally, if we catch one more ball or (make) one more play, you score 30, everyone’s looking at it different. We don’t, and we lose, and we have to own that as coaches and we have to get better.”"

Next up for Kentucky is Georgia and don’t expect this offense to put up 30 points. In fact the Bulldogs are second in the country in scoring defense, giving up just 11.6 points per game and sixth in total defense, allowing just 269.8 yards per outing.

They can’t rely on workhorse Chris Rodriguez to carry the load Saturday as Georgia will key on that. However, this is what we have become all too reliant on. Except for Saturday when instead of giving it to him on a 2-point conversion they had him on the sidelines and failed to convert. Why?

Stoops said he and his coaches must do a better job.

"“We need to continue to work extremely hard and evaluate all aspects of the program and try to improve. We always accept the responsibility. We constantly learn, shift and adjust and do the best we can to put ourselves in a position to win games. There’s no excuses, we need to get better, coach better and play better. And we’ll continue to do that and continue to work at it.”"

This caused a lot of angst and frustration for those watching and scratching their heads watching the Kentucky program which had grown into a top-10 team, quickly regress back into what it once was years ago. Scangarello said he has his players tuning out the noise.

Scangarello is definitely feeling the heat and while losing to Georgia is expected a loss to instate rival Louisville would not be. So what are his thoughts and suggestions for his players? Don’t panic.

"“Each individual, it’s a different world. You’ve got people at home or on Instagram, everywhere else, that are getting to you. And, yeah, there is noise. They’ll tell you things are better than they are when they’re good and they’ll tell you things are worse than they are when they’re bad. And the truth is somewhere in the middle. And you can’t panic, you’ve got to keep going after it.”"

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