When the Wildcats got out of bed this morning, they must have seen red. And they kept it in their sights all day. In between way too many turnovers, some serious mental errors by Javess Blue in handling punt returns, and Zadarius Smith's bursts of enthusiasm, the Wildcats hit every red thing on the field, and they hit them hard, both offensively and defensively. Kentucky showed the promise that enthusiasts were looking for last week against Western Kentucky. They showed it on both sides of the ball and they showed it from just about every position.
Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow each showed flashes of brilliance as they were platooned for much of the game, and not just situationally. The offense was pretty smooth for much of the day, although a slowdown from the middle of the second quarter until the middle of the fourth quarter was a bit disturbing, young offenses are going to do that, however. What was most impressive over all, was the maintaining of control on both sides of the ball for the entire game. The Cats never trailed, never allowed an offensive score, and never lost their momentum, in spite of the above mentioned slip ups.
What surprised me in part, was the special teams and their fall off from their really good performance last week. Joe Mansour was awesome, though. His kickoffs boomed on through the end zone on almost every opportunity. Here is a stat that will blow your mind folks. Until the knee that UK took on the last drive of the game on the Miami 5, the Wildcats were perfect in the red zone.
The game was basically over before it began, which is quite an accomplishment for this team after last week's disappointing loss in Nashville. By the end of the first quarter, Kentucky had a 17 point lead, Miami had it's only score of the game, and the Wildcats were hunting for RedHawks like they were in a blind in the middle of a feeding pen at a turkey farm. Zadarius Smith, even with his overabundant enthusiasm on one play (which was questionable in the eyes of those of us watching), was a beast. He may be a Wildcat, but he has the roar of a lion and he tackles like a grizzly bear.
Here are just a few of the highlights in statistical format. Maxwell Smith 15/23, 310 YD's ,3 TD's, 0 INT's; Oh yeah, and Jalen Whitlow was 10/12, 103 YD's. That's 25/37, 413 YD's, 3 TD's, 0 INT's. There's your "Air Raid" fans. Kentucky put the ball in the air long, short, and all points in-between. What about rushing you say? Kentucky was a combined 38 ATT for 262YD's. How's that for balance? JoJo Kemp led all rushers with 78YD's on 12 attempts. Javess Blue led all receivers with 6 catches for 114 YD's and one TD.
Defensive stats were also very impressive as Kentucky held Miami to only 23 YD's passing for the game on 14 attempts. Miami QB Austin Boucher looked like he was running for his life most of the day in the option, and in fact, he was. He was also the Redhawks' leading rusher with 28 YD's, however 22 of those came on one run. Miami only managed 99 YD's in total on the ground. Zadarius Smith ended the game with 6 tackles, including 3 sacks for losses totaling 25 yards for Kentucky. TraVaughn Paschal and Alvin Dupree each had 7 tackles.
There were rough spots, as I mentioned before. Mental lapses dominated the game at times, although as Kentucky showed on their longest drive of the day, with the Air Raid, you are never truly out of a game as Kentucky was penalized on 4 out of 5 plays on that drive, only to have Max Smith connect to Javess Blue across the middle for an 88 YD touchdown score. The Air Raid just opens the field so that long plays are the norm, not the exception. Had the special teams (Javess Blue in particular) not had so many problems handling the returns, Miami would have been held scoreless, and the Cats would have had quite a few more points than they did.
Here is a mind bending picture for you. Look over the game on your trusty DVD and pay close attention to the signals coming in from the sidelines to Max Smith and Jalen Whitlow. There are 4 different players, Asst. Coaches, etc. all standing side by side giving signals in some sort of a wicked choreographed version of the Blue Man Group. Who is giving the real thing, or maybe a part of the real thing, or maybe different versions of the real thing, you will never be able to tell. It was bizarre to watch.
All in all, Mark Stoops first victory as a head coach has to be satisfying to him. It was played exactly the way he wants the game played from the standpoint of his approach, his coaches made adjustment after adjustment on both sides of the ball and Miami looked like they were a red and white bed sheet with silver tassles flying in a hurricane. Kentucky did exactly what Western did to us last weekend, they just did it better and with more punishing effects.
The Cats had a total offensive output of 675 YD's. Allowed only 122. They put Miami in a hole and kept shoveling the dirt in on top of them then whole game. For your statistical enjoyment have a look here at the overall picture. Paid attendance was 54846, and although Commonwealth looked noticeably sparse up high, the crowd was into the game with a spirited fever as they cheered on the Cats the entire game. Every camera shot showed the crowd on their feet and the stands rocking.
I said last week, and this week's game makes it all the more apparent, Kentucky should have NEVER opened the season with a new head coach, an entire new staff, and this many young players anywhere but home. Putting themselves in that situation in Nashville was leaving too many things to chance. Western is a decent team, probably better than we were giving them credit for being. Kentucky, however, was much better than what they showed in the Volunteer State, and that was so apparent today. Either the Wildcats know how to bounce back like no other team in recent history, or they just got out of their heads last week and forgot who they were. My vote is for the latter. They have a week now to prepare for defending Orange Bowl Champion Louisville Cardinals and their team of much better players than either team Kentucky has faced so far. Will the Cats be able to maintain this momentum and stun the Louisville faithful by sending the Cardinals home as the second stuffed birds on the schedule in the month of September?
I am going to love watching to see.