By LARRY VAUGHT
Think Kentucky is having trouble running the football in recent games? Well, Tennessee has had trouble running the football season going into Saturday’s game with Kentucky and its nationally ranked defense.
“It’s hard to win in this league if you can’t run the football, or any league,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “You have to be committed to it and we have to find a way to get it done.
“I know as a defensive coach, if you’re coaching D-linemen, if they’re going to pass it every snap those guys can turn lose and go put the offensive line at a disadvantage. You’ve got to be able to run the football to some degree.”
Tennessee couldn’t even do that last week in a 14-3 win over Charlotte, a team without the defense that Kentucky has.
“We didn’t block very well. We basically got whipped at the point of attack. We had some mental errors that we haven’t been having for quite some time,” Pruitt said. “We had free guys in the hole. That will get you before you get going. I’d say the health of our running backs is probably like everybody else, it’s November and everybody has bumps and bruises. All of our guys will be ready to play.”
He knows they better be. Kentucky gave up 34 points to Georgia last week — the first time any team has scored over 20 points against the Cats this year.
The Tennessee coach remembers when linebacker Josh Allen got to Kentucky and how credits UK coach Mark Stoops for developing him into one of the league’s best players.
“It’s a very good job by Mark and his staff evaluating and finding the right guys that can develop and play in their system,” Pruitt said. “They give you a bunch of different looks (on defense). Again, they’re sound and they have a lot of experience. They play hard and they are good tacklers. They can play man-to-man in the backend and they can force you to throw the football.”
Stoops said Kentucky played its “worst” defensive game against Georgia and allowed the Bulldogs to run at will, including an 83-yard scoring run.
Starting linebackers Kash Daniel and Jordan Jones will again play with broken hands covered by protective gears
“It definitely affects them. It affects us. To what extent — it’s not comfortable for them. I will say this, they did both do some very good things with those on and it kind of surprised me at times some of the plays they made,” Stoops said. “And there were times you could tell that not having the grip really hurts them.”
Backups Chris Oats and DeAndre Square figure to play extensively again this week. Stoops said he might play one injured starter with one backup at times at Tennessee.
“We did that late in the game (against Georgia) when it was heavy run, put Chris in there and he did some good things as well. We may have to mix it up a little bit. That wasn’t a good game for DeAndre being a true freshman and that size. It’s tough,” Stoops said.