It seemed like a pretty packed stat line: three tackles, two of which were quarterback sacks and the other for no gain capped off by an interception.
It becomes even more impressive when Mark Stoops revealed that all of that was done in just 17 plays on Saturday by Denzil Ware, Kentucky’s junior defensive end.
“For the amount of snaps, he had an awful lot of production,” Stoops said of the 6-foot-2, 245-pound player who earned Co-Defensive Lineman of the Week in the Southeastern Conference for that production at Vanderbilt.
Ware didn’t play as many snaps as usual while battling through what Stoops called “a little leg injury” that shouldn’t keep him out this week at Georgia, but Ware made the most of the plays he had.
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Much of that was Ware internalizing talk about the defense and its struggles and trying to do his part to make things right.
While much of the Kentucky fan base focused on the struggles in the secondary this season, the talk inside the building was on how every player on the defense — especially the players on the line — had to do their part, too.
“It’s easy to see mistakes in the secondary,” Stoops said Monday. “People don’t always see all the mistakes that are going on. (Ware’s) one of those guys, and I’m not calling him out, I’m just saying in general when you talk about pass defense, two-minute drills, all those things, defensive line plays, run the games effectively, keeping contain, doing the things it all fits.
“He’s one of those guys that takes things to heart. He understands it. That’s a sign of maturity and a leader. He wants to do right by the team. He’s a guy that cares. It’s nice to see the production.”
For all of that production, which included his first career interception Saturday, Ware said after the 44-21 victory that he was way more excited to see freshman defensive end Josh Paschal get a big-time sack.
Ware was the first player to greet Paschal on the sideline to celebrate.
“I’m always on him about playing hard, playing physical,” said Ware, who challenged the freshman to work harder to take his starting spot this season. “He’s been working his way up. I’m harder on him than anybody else because I just want to see him succeed.”
Ware, who has 38 tackles this season, including nine for a loss and 6.5 sacks, has been a vocal leader in the defensive room, too.
That group felt like it had something to prove a week ago.
“We all woke up on the defense and said, ‘We’re going to play our ball,’” Ware said Saturday. “We just woke up with the mentality we wanted the ball and that’s what we did. We just have to keep that mentality.”
It gets much more difficult this week against a Georgia offense that is top 10 nationally in rushing, averaging 256 yards a game with 27 touchdowns.
Georgia (9-1, 6-1) is averaging nearly 35 points a game behind running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
“It always starts with run defense for us,” said Stoops, whose defense is a top-20 rushing defense nationally, holding opponents to 121.9 yards per game, but 11 of the 13 rushing scores allowed this season have been against SEC opponents. “You have to be stout in the run defense. We’re going to have our hands full this week that’s for sure.”
Randolph should be fine
It looked like a scary injury Saturday for UK defensive back Kendall Randolph, who stayed motionless, face down on the field for several minutes.
After the game, the senior was seen with a sling on his arm, but Stoops said he was able to practice Monday and should be fine for the Georgia game.
“It was one of those injuries that scares you more than anything because sometimes if you get a stinger it numbs you,” Stoops said. “It’s painful and it’s scary, but you get that calmed down and you can come back from it pretty good.”
Kentucky at Georgia
3:30 p.m. Saturday (CBS)