In what would have been the most surprising headline of the week — had the Florida Gators lost to the Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday — the Kentucky Wildcats would have been on top of the SEC East.
That truth came from Kentucky’s 35-21 road victory against Missouri last week. The win was Kentucky’s third in a row. It moved the team two games above .500 and placed it above Tennessee in the SEC East standings. Since starting 0-2, Kentucky has lost only to Alabama. Besides Missouri, the Wildcats have conference wins against South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
Kentucky is playing with more confidence, and much of that can be credited to its revitalized run game. Last Saturday, the running-back duo of Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell Jr. combined for 374 yards. Snell is more of a bruiser and Williams has breakaway speed, but this one-two punch is more than just a smash-and-dash stereotype.
Snell has been used well in the wildcat formation. Missouri’s defense is bad against the run. As the game progressed, Kentucky took the middle man (quarterback) out of the equation and started snapping the ball to the player who would end up with it.
In the play above, not having to worry about a handoff meant Snell focused his attention on reading the defense and seeing the gap. Though he is the bigger back, Snell still has a good short-term burst. That makes him valuable in the wildcat at any spot on the field.
Snell can create extra inches by breaking tackles. Williams, if given an inch of space, can take it 80 yards. The play above not only showed great top-end speed but also his balance as he went through the trenches. It was hard to tell because he kept running so fast, but Williams actually got bumped by three guys. He not only stayed up but also accelerated. Having that kind of balance is important for speed players.
Williams couldn’t let Snell have all the fun in the wildcat formation. Kentucky’s blocking was brilliant last Saturday. Missouri couldn’t do a thing to get the Wildcats off their spots. When Kentucky moved its guards and tight ends, the Tigers had no answer. Missouri learned the hard way that all it took was a crease for Williams to get loose. That’s how he finished with 182 yards rushing.
Snell recorded 192 yards on the ground. The play above showed how useful Snell was from the wildcat in the red zone. The offensive linemen — and the receivers, I’ll give them some love, too — made this an easy one for Snell with tough blocking.
The wildcat seems easy when calling a play in a video game. To have two running backs in sync with the formation is special. Kentucky’s offense is living up to its mascot’s name in how the unit moves the ball. That likely won’t change with Snell and Williams on the roster.