Kent St. Golden Flashes 14, Kentucky Wildcats 47:  Postmortem

Maxwell Smith had a big night tonight against Kent St.

I had to check that title three or four times to make sure it was right. I know Kent St.is a MAC team, but it has been a long time, way back in 2010, since we scored 40 or more points in a game, and that was against a Western Kentucky Hilltoppers squad that had just made the transition from FCS to FBS.

Nice effort by Kent St. tonight. They moved the ball a lot, piling up over 364 total yards against the Wildcats, and demonstrating that while Kentucky fans should celebrate the victory, that celebration is tempered by the reality that the UK defense is a definite and significant weakness.

The offense, on the other hand, was vaguely reminiscent of the halcyon days of Hal Mumme's "Air Raid" offense. Kentucky threw the ball all over the field to seemingly every receiver on the roster, and Maxwell Smith, along with his receivers and backs, piled up an impressive 516 yards of total offense, 354 yards of it through the air. Smith was a model of efficiency, hitting on 30 of 39 passes for 77%. That's very not bad.

As he has been all year, Smith was a cool customer in the pocket, checking down sometimes to a third receiver, which shows just how far he has come since last year in his quarterbacking ability. It will be interesting to see what this Kentucky team can do against a defense that goes man-to-man more, because if teams play a soft zone against UK, they are going to surrender a lot of yards and probably points.

Observations:

  • Maxwell Smith deserves the game ball, but I'm giving it to Aaron Boyd. We all know Boyd's story, and how he came to UK as the best player in the state, and until tonight almost made zero impact on the statistics in three years on the team. Tonight, Boyd caught more passes than he has caught in 3+ years at Kentucky, including last Sunday. 11 receptions for 100 yards and a 9.1 yard average. Smith is likely to get many game balls, but this may be Boyd's only chance. Terrific effort, and did Boyd ever make the best of his first start.
  • The Kentucky offense was vastly better than it was against Louisville in two significant respects -- they ran the ball better and did not turn the ball over one time.
  • Martavius Neloms is a so-so pass defender, but when he hits you, it leaves a mark. His crushing TFL and forced fumble set Kentucky up for the coup de grace in a two-series sequence that saw UK stopped on the goal line only to get a safety shortly thereafter, and then a touchdown after the ensuing free kick. Those nine points put Kent St. in a funk that they never recovered from.
  • The defensive line played better, but the defense overall made too many tackling and position errors to count. I think we were better defensively tonight than last Sunday, but it was by no means a quantum improvement. Kent St. was able to move the ball easily, and had a couple of long, successful drives.
  • Dyshawn Mobley found out that this is not high school, but he learned. At the end of the game, he showed why Joker Phillips is so high on him.
  • 10 different Wildcats caught passes, and four of them scored touchdowns. There is no doubt that Kentucky has some playmakers this year that they simply did not have last year.
  • Kentucky's special teams were okay, but not as good as last game.
  • Raymond Sanders III and Jonathan George both ran the ball very well.
  • I thought the offensive line blocked very well, for the most part. This is the second straight game where pass protection has been good. This line is definitely starting the year off much better than last year's.
  • I love, and I mean love, the pace of the offense. It is exciting. It's about time.

That's all I have, and obviously it's just a small part of the praise that could be handed out. On the negative side, Kentucky's secondary is just hanging on for dear life. I shudder to think what a competent SEC offense might do to us in the passing game. But if Kentucky keeps gaining confidence and continues to have this kind of offensive efficiency, they may well make some stout SEC defenses look pretty bad.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Western Kentucky looked very tough against Alabama Crimson Tide today despite the score. They sacked the Alabama quarterback six times -- and Alabama has arguably the best offensive line in the country. That makes me both excited and nervous, and the Hilltoppers come to town next week.

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