Jen Smith on UK Football

Practice report: How Kentucky’s high-powered run game matches up with strong Georgia defense

There’s no question Kentucky’s run game has hit another gear. During the three-game win streak, UK is averaging 299 rushing yards a game.

The Cats’ 377 rushing yards on Saturday against Missouri was their most against a Southeastern Conference opponent since 1953.

But the run game might gain a little less ground this weekend against Georgia, which is fourth in the league in run defense and No. 13 nationally.

“They’re big, they’re fast, they’re talented, they understand what gaps to fill, they’re hard to move,” UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said of the Bulldogs, who are holding opponents to 109.8 yards a game and just 3.2 yards per carry.

“They understand schemes and where to go. They know how to two gap, and block down and play off blocks. So, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”

Kentucky is fifth in the league in rushing offense, averaging 219.5 yards a game. In victories, the Cats are rushing the ball 51 times a game for 298.8 yards, second-best in the league.

While the Bulldogs seem to be containing opponents, it hasn’t been enough, though. Already this season, Georgia has given up 12 rushing touchdowns, compared to 11 all of last year.

And if UK can get into the UGA red zone, good things can happen. The Bulldogs are last in the league in that stat, allowing opponents to score 92.3 percent of the time there, including 19 touchdowns.

The Cats have scored in the red zone 83.3 percent of the time this season, including 15 touchdowns and five field goals.

•  Give the guy a break: The offensive line has proven to be quite versatile with lots of interchangeable parts, but the one constant in that machine has been center Jon Toth. “He’s the quarterback, he’s the one who gets it done and he’s done a fantastic job for us,” Gran said of the center. Coaches wanted to give the senior a break and used other centers in practice on Tuesday, mainly backup Bunchy Stallings, who has started at right guard the past four games.

▪  Missed connections: Four straight times quarterback Stephen Johnson has thrown a bullet pass tight end C.J. Conrad’s head and UK was back at it working on that play again today, co-offensive coordinator Darin Hinshaw said. There were defenders in his way, which caused Johnson to throw it high. But they’ll connect soon, Hinshaw said. “Stephen’s got to throw around them and complete the ball because we had some missed throws in the other game that could’ve been touchdowns, so we’ve got to continue to try and get (Conrad) the ball because he’s an explosive weapon.”

•  Where’s Sihiem King? After the Missouri game when Kentucky used just two running backs, Benny Snell and Sihiem King, there were questions about how sophomore Sihiem King is doing. The player has played in all eight games on special teams, but has only gotten two carries so far this season for minus-1 yards. “He’s been unbelievable,” Gran said. “He’s making a huge impact on special teams and he’s come out and worked his tail off. Like I tell him, you’ve got to be ready every week. You’ve gotta be, when we call your name, you’ve gotta be ready to go. And I thought he was ready to go this week and thought he was the week before that. So, when he gets his opportunity, we assume he’s going to do the right things.” Gran said King is ready to play if called on as is Jojo Kemp, who would be playing with a cast on his left hand after breaking it against Mississippi State.

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