Kentucky Football: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview - UK Running Game
Kentucky Football: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview – The Cats offense is powered by the running game, featuring two 1,000-yard rushers in Boom Williams and Benny Snell
Nov 26, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr. (26) tries to break the tackle of Louisville Cardinals defensive tackle Kyle Shortridge (95) during the second quarter at Papa John
Arguably no part of Kentucky‘s football program is more responsible for the remarkable in-season turnaround, and the school’s first bowl appearance since 2010, than the rushing game. Following a rough, uninspiring 0-2 start, along with a season-ending injury to starting quarterback Drew Barker, the outlook was bleak in Lexington.
But head coach Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Eddie Gran made philosophical changes, with a commitment to the running game rare in this era of spread offenses. From a myriad of looks, with three capable running backs, Boom Williams, Benny Snell and Jojo Kemp have carried the load.
Kentucky rushed for 2,895 yards this season, the most since 1976. Against Tennessee, the Cats were incredible on the ground, racking up 443 rushing yards, the most Kentucky rushing yards ever against an SEC opponent. Along the way, the Cats rushed for 400 yards or more in six different games, and both Boom Williams and Benny Snell rushed for more than 1,000 yards, the duo combining for 2,192 yards.
Kentucky’s rushing game ranks 16th in the country, as the Cats are rolling up 241.2 rushing yards per game. What’s lost in that stat, however, is Kentucky really committed the running game in week three, after Barker’s injury. Since then, Kentucky is averaging 270.5 rushing yards per game, and a dominating 291.4 per game over the past seven games. The only real blemish in that stretch was 72 rushing yards against Alabama – the most dominant defense in college football.
And Kentucky is getting it done, no matter the opponent. In fact, the Cats are outperforming what opposing defenses give up, by average, every game. For example, Louisville averaged giving up 99.2 rushing yards per game, then Kentucky romped for 229. Tennessee gave up 291.7 prior to Kentucky’s 443-yard explosion. Georgia averaged 109.8 prior to Kentucky gaining 186. Even Alabama couldn’t hold its average – the Tide gave up 67.5 before the Cats eked out 72 yards on the ground.
For Kentucky to have a chance to win, the running game will again have to be effective, both in moving the chains and getting points, but also keeping Georgia Tech’s vaunted triple-option offense on the sidelines.
More from Wildcat Blue Nation