The Kentucky football Wildcats (5-4, 1-4 SEC) proved to be resilient in today's 37-12 victory over their Richmond neighbors, the Eastern Kentucky Colonels (5-4, 5-3 OVC). With Kentucky head coach Rich Brooks deciding just before the game that UK's man-on-a-mission, Randall Cobb, would sit this one out due to a thumb injury, rookie quarterback Morgan Newton put together his best effort to date. Greatly aiding Newton in his quest for consistency were a group of formally inconsistent receivers -- Led by Chris Matthews' seven catches, eight different 'Cats caught passes today. And with star running back Derrick Locke sidelined with a bum knee, Kentucky's back-up runners plowed through the Colonel defense to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry.
I do want to add a hardy congratulations to the EKU Colonels. They represented their school well today with tough, clean play. I wish them well for the remainder of their season.
For a more detailed look at the points of interest for UK partisans, join me after the jump:
- As noted, UK quarterback Morgan Newton played a solid, some might say, excellent game today. Newton was 20-29 through the air for 187 yards, and threw his first two passing touchdowns as a Wildcat. Coach Brooks had this to say about UK's star-in-early-development:
"Newton has improved a tremendous amount each week in practice. Eastern is not an SEC defense, but he showed he has the ability to read through his progressions, and protect the football."
- Newton, instead of locking onto his hot read, scanned the field for his open receiver, which paid huge dividends with his 16-yard touchdown pass to under-used (and second option) tight end Maurice Grinter. All day Newton read his routes much more effectively than he has all year -- That's called progress.
- Chris Matthews, who is still adjusting to the speed and intensity of major college football, replaced Cobb with aplomb this afternoon, nabbing seven passes for 56 yards (8.0 yards per reception) and one touchdown -- A touchdown where Matthews made a serious play for the ball. There is simply no excuse, other than inexperience, for Matthews to not excel at the SEC-level. He has the size, and physical attributes to be a go-to receiver, and hopefully today he took a positive step toward that end.
- North Hardin alum LaRod King showed he just may be ready to make a difference in UK's offense. The freshman receiver caught four passes for 41 yards (10.3 ypr). He has played well when asked, I say he should be asked more often.
- The magical disappearing/reappearing act of receiver Gene McCaskill made a timely breakthrough today with four catches for 33 yards (8.3 ypr).
- Filling in admirably for Derrick Locke, capable running backs Moncell Allen and Alfonso Smith ran a combined 26 times for 122 yards (4.7 yards per carry). Each back recorded a touchdown.
- Causing Commonwealth to buzz with excitement in the fourth quarter was the electric play of freshman running back Donald Russell -- Russell caught the Colonels napping with his 79-yard touchdown scamper (the longest UK rushing touchdown since 1998). Most impressive to coach Brooks, though, was Russell's 13-yard gain later in the fourth quarter, in which the talented tail back displayed a real ability to change directions while running at full speed. Russell is a down-hill runner with power. A dangerous combination for future UK opponents.
- Linebacker Sam Maxwell continued his great play with yet another interception (which set-up the Newton to Matthews touchdown toss). That makes a team-leading four picks for Maxwell on the season. I sense an All-SEC nod for the senior LB.
- Sophomore defensive back Cartier Rice also posted an INT today, picking off a Colonel hail Mary.
- Junior defensive end DeQuin Evans led the 'Cats with 3.0 tackles for loss. The JUCO transfer continues to improve.
- Redshirt sophomore defensive back Taiedo Smith led the team with 6.0 tackles.
- UK's heralded offensive line held strong today, giving Newton time to throw, and opening holes for the running backs.
- After being bullied last week by Mississippi State, Kentucky's defensive line recovered nicely this afternoon. They pressured EKU quarterback T.J. Pryor into only 9-28 passing for 137 yards. The Colonels gained 127 yards on the ground, but rushed 32 times (4.0 yards per carry) to attain that number.
- Overall, EKU gained only 264 total yards on 14 first downs, compared to UK's 27 first downs and 444 total yards. Even considering the talent difference, those are numbers most UK fans should be happy with.
- Kentucky was 9-17 on their third down conversions, while EKU was only 6-15. Those stats are as they should be -- A big, Big Blue advantage.
- UK's special teams continue to hand out head-aches like Halloween candy -- A missed field goal (which was tipped), and a Colonel score on a fake field goal.
- Kentucky set a school record today for most consecutive non-conference wins with 18.
After an understandably slow start , the 'Cats, behind the play of Morgan Newton, put away the Colonels with 30 points in the final three quarters (as they should have). Now, the goal is to get healthy. Vanderbilt on the road is UK's next test, and UK's next must-win.
Injuries coming out of today's contest look like this -- Tight end T. C. Drake has a serious groin injury; Linebacker Sam Maxwell has a thumb injury (x-rays negative); Cornerback Trevard Lindley "tweaked" an ankle late in the first half. Brooks theorized Lindley may have tore some scar tissue; we'll know more tomorrow.
The word from Rich Brooks on Cobb and Locke -- Locke should be ready to practice on Tuesday, making him likely to play next week versus Vandy. Cobb's thumb injury (he's in a cast), along with the fact that he's considerably bruised-up, portends a Cobb-watch for 'Cat fans in the upcoming week.
Mike Hartline update -- Hartline participated in practice last week (in limited duty), and coach Brooks will be looking this week at Hartline's maneuverability within the pocket. The junior signal-caller may see action next week at Vandy.
Newest Wildcat Fan
My wife Jennifer gave birth Monday to Carly Nicole, our third girl. All are doing well!
Thanks for reading and Go 'Cats!