The Kentucky offense needed a change. That much was clear after finishing at the bottom of the Power Five in passing in consecutive years. To find the right man for the job, Mark Stoops wanted an offensive coordinator that knew how to develop the passing game, without abandoning the run. After one game at Kroger Field, it’s clear that Kentucky has found balance with Liam Coen at the helm.
In Coen’s first game as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator, Kentucky scored 45 points and gained 564 yards on 34 runs and 33 passes. It’s exactly what Stoops was looking for.
“We haven’t had balance. Any time you’re one dimensional any which way, it’s not good. Whether you can only throw it or run it, you’ve got to have balance,” Stoops said after the 45-10 win over Louisiana Monroe.
“From a defensive perspective, the more pressure you put on with personnel groupings and everything that he’s doing, it’s putting pressure on you. I like where we’re at. We’re getting better. We’re improving. I know we improved in the pass game today, right? That’s fair to say.”
It’s fair to say. After his first pass was tipped and intercepted, Will Levis did just about everything right. The Penn State transfer completed 18-of-26 passes for 367 yards and four touchdown passes. It was the most passing yards by a Wildcat since 2014.
Benefits to Balance
Levis dialed up 50+ yard completions to Wan’Dale Robinson, Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps. Kentucky had only four completions of 50+ yards over the last three seasons. The Wildcats have been searching for explosiveness, not just to create more points through the air, but to put more stress on the defense in the run game.
“It’s going to open up everything,” said running back Chris Rodriguez, who rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries. “You can’t load the box because if you do, you have to man-up on Wan’Dale or Josh. Half the time you’re going to get beat, and probably more than that. It opens up a lot of things.”
Rodriguez surpassed the century mark, but it was admittedly not Kentucky’s best day on the ground. The beautiful part of a balanced attack is that it did not have to be for the Wildcats to win.
“I think we can run the ball better,” Coen told KSR. “The way we ran it, we were able to lean on them a little bit. We were trying to throw the ball because we need to get better at throwing the ball. That was kind of the goal.”
Rodriguez has no problem sharing the load with Levis, Robinson, Ali and the rest of UK’s pass-catchers.
“It makes my job easier, but then again, I have to pass protect,” said Rodriguez. “It’s not fun, but at the end of the day, people in the league, they do it. There’s quarterbacks making millions of dollars to throw the ball. Running backs are protecting them and that’s how they’re making their money. It doesn’t make my job easy. It just makes me have to clue in on a lot more things.”
This week it was Levis’ time to shine. Next week it might be C-Rod’s turn. It all depends on how the game unfolds.
“Going into the game I knew we were going to have a great mix,” Levis said. “Obviously when we start throwing the ball like we did today, we’re going to keep throwing it. That’s what happened. There’s going to be some games where we’re going to have to lean on the run game more than the pass game and vice-versa. It’s just a way of feeling it out and seeing how the game goes.”
Kentucky has finally found the right recipe for success under Mark Stoops: a balanced attack.
The post Kentucky Offense Finds Balance in Liam Coen’s Debut appeared first on On3.