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Kentucky Football: Three Keys To Get Off The Mat During The Bye Week

After two consecutive losses and heading into their bye week, here are three major keys Kentucky can do in the bye week to better prepare for Tennessee and the rest of their season.

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Speed up the offense

Kentucky in the offseason brought in a top transfer QB Devin Leary and RB Ray Davis, have explosive WRs (on paper) Barion Brown, Dane Key, and Tayvion Robinson, have productive TE’s in Brenden Bates, Jordan Dingle, and Josh Kattus, a new creative Offensive Coordinator in Liam Coen and are playing slower offensively than any team in the country including the service academies. Kentucky's offense ranks No. 81 in third down efficiency. Kentucky's defense ranks No. 107 in third down efficiency.

They are not extending drives or getting offenses off the field on defense. That is a key reason why the snap count is low. Kentucky is not just playing slow; they are playing snail slow compared to the rest of the country. Averaging 55 plays per game, Kentucky averages nearly three less plays per game than the next team.

The Wildcats are also giving up an average 70.2 plays to their opponent. Georgia and Michigan are teams that play slow, UK is clearly not on that level. That said, Georgia is ranked 41st in plays per game (72.7), Michigan can afford to play slow with a top 2 defense in the country but are still averaging more plays than their opponent (61.3 - 56.8).

The Cats are also in the bottom five in the country for dropped passes and penalties. This has led to many third down and longs for the offense, as was on display in the second half against Missouri this past Saturday. With the bye week coming up before Tennessee comes to town Oct 28th, Stoops and Coen must work on speeding up this offense efficiently. Running nearly 16 less offensive plays than your opponent a game is a terrible handicap to overcome.

Run, Ray, Run

Ray Davis is leading the SEC in rushing yards with 781 yards and is sixth in the entire country on over 40 less carries than the top 2. He is currently ninth in the country in rushing touchdowns with eight and has added five more touchdowns receiving. His 13 touchdowns through week seven is second in all of college football. Davis has 193 receiving yards in this offense as well.

Last Saturday against Missouri, Kentucky ran Davis eight times for 72 yards and a receiving touchdown to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then he only had 12 carries for 56 yds the rest of the game while the Tigers took over the game for a 38-21 victory. In the second half it was almost as if the Cats forgot about him as he only had seven carries for 32 yards.

Ray is Kentucky's most effective and efficient offensive weapon and must be utilized more. He is the Cats fourth leading receiver in catches and yards and most receiving touchdowns also. As Coen tries to speed up the Cats offense getting Davis at least 25 carries and continued high efficiency targets is a must.

Davis and the offensive line dominated the Florida defense to the tune of 280 yards and four touchdowns a couple of weeks ago. The team racked up over 329 yards on the ground in a dominant win 33-14. While most will talk about getting Leary and the passing game fixed in the bye week, I say after week seven it’s too late to re-invent the offense at this point. Be who you are and strive to be the best version of that. Let the offensive line do more of what they are best at and let Ray run.

Be More Disciplined Or Else

Major boneheaded penalties changed the first three drives in the Georgia game, and they never recovered. A fake punt 39-yard touchdown pass by the punter broke the Wildcats spirit last Saturday. Not to mention 14 penalties for 122 yds that kept the offense behind the chains for three straight quarters. Several other games and moments throughout this season so far have cost the Cats with undisciplined penalties.

With the Wildcats sitting at 5-2 and the Tennessee Volunteers coming to Kroger Field next, it’s time to grab the players attention if they are costing the team and playing undisciplined football. Against Georgia, offensive guard Jager Burton had an inexplicable late penalty that wiped out a possible scoring drive when he literally dove into a players back while he was face down in the grass after the play was over. This past week Burton sit out on the injured list versus Missouri.

I do not know if Burton sitting out was for an injury or for a disciplinary reason, but what I do know is that it is high time to grab these players attention to let them know that costing the team is not going to be accepted. Stoops and company have more quality depth than they have in a long time, playing undisciplined cannot be overlooked. If their players cannot play smart, sound, and efficient football it’s time to let them know you will find somebody else who will.

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