By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
Mark Stoops sure poked the hornets nest on Monday when he mentioned that he will consider playing multiple quarterbacks in the UK game against Missouri Saturday.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think Terry Wilson has been at the top of his game in the last couple of outings against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt but on the other hand there are a lot of variables that go into how a quarterback performs on the field. In this case there appear to be a combination of things that are limiting Terry Wilson’s ability to perform well.
Let’s take a look at a quarterback comparison to see what those things might be.
If you compare Terry Wilson statistically to the 7-1 LSU’s Joe Burrow, the quarterback of the team the national media analysts seem to love right now, he comes out looking pretty good. Wilson’s completion percentage is at 64 percent while Burrow checks in at a pretty anemic 54 percent. Wilson’s overall quarterback rating is 118 whereas Burrow is at 116. The big difference is passing attempts. Burrow has thrown the ball 223 times to Wilson’s 122. The other big difference is in rushing yards. Terry Wilson has rushed for 395 yards — the second most by a quarterback in the SEC — whereas Joe Burrow has rushed for 250 total yards.
So, based on those statistics it appears that all the problem may not lie with Terry Wilson. He doesn’t control what plays are called. He may check out of a few passing plays in favor of running the ball but generally the offensive coordinator will set the game plan and then make adjustments to that once they see what the opposing defense is doing. It appears in some of the instances where the UK quarterback has underperformed as a passer it’s because the offensive coordinator has decided to sit on the ball once Kentucky gets a lead and then only throws out of desperation if they get behind or are in an obvious passing situation. None of those scenarios help a quarterback improve his confidence throwing the ball or get them the experience they need to perform in a balanced offense.
With all that being said can Terry Wilson be a better quarterback. Absolutely. But to be successful he needs some help from the coaches. Throwing the short and intermediate ball is not Wilson’s strong suit. The coaches know that. So put him in a situation where he can throw balls he is comfortable with. If it’s the deep ball, then throw the deep ball. Even if he only completes one out of ten it will keep the opposing safeties from creeping up in the box to stop the run and will get one more explosive play per game for the Wildcats. And who knows, they may find out Terry Wilson is pretty good at throwing the deep ball.
But here’s the rub. Throwing the deep ball on first or second down can lead to no yards gained and can put the Kentucky offense behind the chains. For a run-based offense looking at second down and 10 yards to go or third down and nine yards to go that is not the way to be successful. So, in a rushing based offense where risk is not one of the key elements, throwing the ball does not become a popular choice. This coaching staff seems to subscribe to Ohio State’s former Hall of Fame Coach Woody Hayes theory that “when you throw the football only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.”
At the end of all this discussion it appears that Mark Stoops and Company have a dilemma. Their team is 6-1 and tied for the SEC East lead. They have four very winnable games left on the schedule and a game that they are a definite underdog against Georgia. If they tinker with the system, throw the ball more against Missouri and lose, everyone will say, “What were you thinking? Stick with what got you here.”
But if they continue to sit on the ball on offense and hope the defense can pitch a shutout each week they run the risk of losing one or two of those very winnable games and likely have no shot against Georgia.
If I were in Mark Stoops shoes — and I’m glad I’m not — I think I would bring in Gunnar Hoak in the second quarter or sooner if the offense struggles in the first quarter or Missouri gets ahead by two touchdowns. If Hoak can’t move the ball through the air consistently while maintaining a significant number of running plays to control the clock then I would fall back on Plan B.
And I’ll explain Plan B Thursday.