The Kentucky Wildcats made it a 2-0 start to the season with a 63-28 victory over the WKU Hilltoppers in a hard fought game at humid Commonwealth Stadium. With over 66,000 fans cheering on the Cats, Joker Phillips' squad played very well on the offensive end (I guess that's obvious), very uneven on the defensive side of the ball, and downright stroke-inducing on special teams (I hope the special teams guys get their act together soon, for fear of Greg Nord stroking-out on the sideline).
Clearly over-matched at several positions, the Hilltoppers acquitted themselves quite well with an impressive rushing attack, and an aggressive mindset both offensively and defensively. They played the Cats hard until the final horn, and new Topper head coach Willie Taggart should be proud of his team's effort.
For the particulars of the Cats' intra-state win, follow me after the jump:
- I have to start the rundown with Randall Cobb, who does it all, and does it all at a high level. Cobb totaled 192 all-purpose yards for the game (plus a 15-yard pass), scoring touchdowns practically every way possible -- Early in the second quarter, Cobb returned a punt 50-yards for Kentucky's third touchdown of the game; midway through the second quarter and out of the "Wildcat," Cobb threw a nifty 15-yard touchdown strike to fullback Moncell Allen; and in the third quarter, Cobb, with a step on his man, caught a beautiful 35-yard touchdown pass from Mike Hartline on a post pattern. Cobb ended the game with four carries for 26 yards (6.5 yards per carry); five catches for 98 yards; and 15 yards through the air on 1 of 1 passing. Cobb also returned four punts for 52 yards (13.0 yards per return) and one kick-off for 16 yards -- If Cobb played for Florida, or Texas, or Alabama, or Oklahoma, or any number of teams, he would be the Heisman front-runner. Cobb's ability to make plays with the ball, whether it be passing, running, or catching, is a marvel to behold.
- Derrick Locke had another terrific game with 102 rushing yards on 21 carries (4.9 yards per carry), with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. He also caught two passes for 10 yards, and had a very nice 37-yard kick-off return. Locke ended the game with 149 all-purpose yards -- Locke brought back his spin move versus WKU, using it twice to gain yards after seemingly being stopped. It's a move we haven't seen with regularity since his freshman year, it was a pleasure to witness its unveiling. He's just so gifted, UK should be able to ride him and the other backs if and when the passing game flounders.
- Kudos to UK's top three receivers in the game (Matt Roark, La'Rod King, Chris Matthews) for a strong performance. The trio combined for eight catches, 113 yards (14.1 yards per reception) and two touchdowns (King and Matthews). Tight ends Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson combined for three catches for 40 yards (13.3 ypr) -- We're beginning to see the tight end spot utilized a little more than in the previous few years, and for good reason. Aumiller, while a strong blocker in the running game, has proved to have good hands, and enough speed to gain yards after the catch.
- Kentucky quarterback Mike Hartline put together another very solid outing, completing 16 of 20 passes (80%) for 213 yards and three touchdown passes, to go along with a 10-yard touchdown run. Hartline once again did not turn the ball over, and his 35-yard strike to Cobb for a touchdown was about as perfect as a pass can be thrown -- With each passing offensive possession Hartline continues to solidify his hold on the No. 1 signal-caller spot. On the season, Hartline has completed 33 of 46 passes (71.7%) for 430 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He's shown a nice touch on the ball with his short passes, and good accuracy on his longer throws. He's averaging just over 13 yards per completion, a full four-yards more than last season.
- Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski both saw time on the field against the Toppers. Newton replaced Hartline late in the third quarter, and went 2-2 through the air for 48 yards. On his second drive Newton led the Cats to the end zone, culminating in a Raymond Sanders 10-yard touchdown run. Mossakowski took over for Newton late in the game, after a WKU fumble left UK with great field position on the Topper 18 yard line. That drive ended with Sanders going in from one-yard out -- Well, I suppose the question in the back of my mind was answered, as it appears there are no plans to redshirt Newton, as some thought a very real possibility.
- Backup running backs Donald Russell and rookie Raymond Sanders looked impressive. Both possess great speed and explode through the hole. The two combined to run for 51 yards on only 11 carries (4.6 ypc), with Sanders getting his first two collegiate touchdowns; a one-yard scamper, and a 10-yard burst up the middle -- Both of these backs will become key contributors to the offense before the end of the season. They are simply the continuation of the string of solid-to-spectacular tailbacks that have come through Lexington over the last ten years.
- Fullback Moncell Allen played like the bull that he is, first, clearing the way through the middle on Locke's one-yard touchdown run, and later catching a 15-yard touchdown pass from Randall Cobb out of the "Wildcat" formation.
- Linebacker Danny Trevathan and defensive end Collins Ukwu both executed a quarterback sack, while safety Mychal Bailey led the Cats in tackles with five solo and one assist. Walk-on Luke McDermott, who now starts at defensive tackle for the Cats, intercepted his first college pass and returned the pick six-yards to the WKU nine-yard line, setting up Hartline's 10-yard touchdown run late in the 1st quarter.
- The Kentucky offense rang up 482 yards on the day, while the Toppers managed only 284 yards. As a team, the Cats rushed for 206 yards on 44 carries (4.7 ypc), and threw for 276 yards and four touchdowns on 19-23 passing (82.6%). UK was very efficient on third down, converting eight of 12 chances (WKU on third down: 3-10). The UK offensive line deserves to take a bow. They opened up holes all night, and generally made life miserable for the Toppers in the trenches -- The Cats put up numbers one would expect Kentucky to put up against a team of WKU's caliber.
- On the negative side of the ledger, UK once again experienced a couple of letdowns on special teams; allowing WKU's Willie McNeil to return a kick-off 90-yards to the house, and missing a 35-yard field goal attempt -- After the offending WKU kick-off return, special team's coordinator Greg Nord was visibly upset with kicker Joe Mansour for kicking the ball straight down the field, and short -- Nord wants Mansour to kick the ball outside of the numbers, not down the middle, because of the type of coverage he coaches -- Regardless, lanes need to be filled, even if the kick is off-target ... it's an area UK needs to improve on before the start of SEC play. As far as Ryan Tydlacka's missed 35-yard field goal attempt ... I'll refrain from being too hard on him, the kick after all was from a terrible angle, and he missed it by only a few feet.
- The Kentucky defensive line showed they still have some work to do. They allowed 187 rushing yards to WKU on only 33 carries (5.7 ypc), with junior Topper running back Bobby Rainey having a career day: 22 rushes for 184 yards (8.4 ypc) and two touchdowns. His first, a 59-yard explosion early in the game which put the Tops up 7-0. So far on the year, Rainey has rushed for 339 yards on 52 carries (6.5 ypc), and he's done it against Nebraska and UK. Rainey is the first WKU running back to rush for over 150 yards in back-to-back games in 11 years. The Georgia native is causing quite a bit of head-scratching and dirt kicking among the recruiting coordinators in the SEC -- UK's D-line was pushed around and bullied in their own house, by a Sun Belt team. Not good, but there is a lot of inexperience up front defensively, but marked improvement needs to be evident soon ... very soon.
Up next for Kentucky, the Akron Zips at Commonwealth Stadium on September 18.
Thanks for reading and Go Cats!