Breaking down "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly" from the Kentucky Wildcats' loss to Tennessee

In this edition of All Wildcats' "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly," we take a closer look at Kentucky's 49-36 loss to Tennessee from Rocky Top to Big Blue Bottom.


Kentucky Rushing Attack ... One of the most pleasant surprises of the 2016 season has been the Wildcats' re-invention as one of college football's best smashmouth offenses. Think about it. How many teams could lose their starting quarterback within the first three games of the season and hold things together offensively, let alone post the kind of rushing numbers that UK has recorded? At this point, every opposing defense knows exactly what the Cats want to do, but it hasn't stopped them from gaining huge chunks of yardage on the ground. Kentucky finished with 443 rushing yards, nearly breaking a 65-year-old school record. It's one thing to set that record against Tennessee Tech in an era when not many teams were utilizing the forward pass; it's quite another to do it at Tennessee in 2016. The Vols have only surrendered more rushing yards twice in their grand history: 457 to Alabama in 1986 and 444 to Auburn in 2013.

Even More Impressive ... was how Kentucky amassed its huge rushing figure. Most times when you see a near record-breaking performance, it's almost exclusively due to one player having a huge day. The Cats accomplished his by committee. Boom Williams, who became only the seventh back in school history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in a season, rushed for 127 yards, followed by 90 for Jojo Kemp, 79 for Benny Snell, 75 for Sihiem King and 70 for Stephen Johnson. It marked the first time in school history that five players rushed for 70 or more yards in a game. Together, they averaged 8.1 yards per carry. What does that tell us? The UK offensive line may be the biggest "star" of this team. 


Red-Zone Offense ... This game could have had a drastically different finish had UK taken care of business on multiple drives deep into Vols territory. The Cats had only two touchdowns on six trips into the red zone. On the four drives without finding the end zone, UK advanced to the 14, 12, 4 and 1 yard lines before settling for three field goals and losing a fumble. Eddie Gran's play-calling has been good when you look at the season as a whole, but there have been some puzzling decisions in the red zone against Georgia and Tennessee. The lack of a passing threat in those situations has hurt the Cats badly in each of the last two weeks. 

Defense ...  Kentucky reverted to a lot of bad habits in this one -- most notably, poor tackling -- and the Vols repeatedly made them pay the price. How bad was UK's defensive showing? Tennessee encountered a third-down situation only five times the entire game. Big plays were the main culprit. Four of the Vols' seven touchdowns came on plays of 24, 51, 45 and 29 yards. They averaged 9.2 yards per rushing attempt and 20.3 yards per pass completion, meaning the UK defense was almost non-existent. It was a big setback for a unit that had been gradually getting better through the middle part of the schedule. 


By The Numbers ...

  • 1st - Team nationally to lose with 400-plus rushing yards in 2016. The previous 30 had all won.
  • 16 - Career touchdowns passing and rushing for UT quarterback Joshua Dobbs in his four games against UK.
  • 39 - Straight years without a winning SEC record for UK, which finished at 4-4 this year.
  • 41% - Pass completion percentage for UK quarterback Stephen Johnson against the Vols.
  • 376 - Rushing yards for UT, which had two backs (Dobbs and Alvin Kamara) with more than 100 and another (John Kelly) with 94.
  • 1984 - UK's last victory in Knoxville. In November of that year, Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale by winning 49 of 50 states in the electoral college to claim his second term as U.S. president. 

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