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EKU at Kentucky -- Impressions of the first game of the season

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Last night's victory was an impressive display by the Kentucky Wildcats.  It surely wasn't flawless, but it was very strong and marks the first season-opening win by a Kentucky team in quite some time, and the first since Rich Brooks has headed up the Wildcats.

Kentucky has long been a doormat for the SEC, but last night's victory over the Eastern Kentucky Colonels was every bit, and arguably more, satisfactory than Louisville's victory over Murray State.  Rick Bozich today has this article in which he advises us that UK was really playing Louisville in a game of "Can you top this?" last night.  No matter what you think about that, one thing is for certain -- Eastern is a much tougher team than Murray State, and Eastern was unable to score a touchdown on Kentucky until the game was no longer in doubt.  Louisville's defense surrendered 70 more yards of total offense and a touchdown on Murray's first possession.

In fact, Kentucky's defense was downright stout, allowing only 202 total yards, 72 through the air and 130 on the ground.  Raphael Little had more running yardage than the entire Colonel offense, tallying a sharp 132 yards and going over 2000 yards rushing for his career.

The Wildcats dominated every statistical category, as expected, but there are several things that stood out to me:

  1. UK's special teams play was not particularly sharp.  Seiber was loathsome at kicking.  I'll chalk this up to a bad game, but it was really putrid.  But before I pile on too much blame, I must note that our long-snapping was a big part of the problem.  We lost our long-snapper Jason Dickerson to graduation last year, and his replacement, Brad Hart, has a lot of room for improvement.  We must improve this part of our kicking game immediately.  It will be the reason we lose a close game this year if not, and could be the difference between a bowl and a holiday season at home.

  2. Mastay had a good game kicking the football, getting two into the end zone twice.  He did dodge a bullet though -- after an offsides on the kickoff, he had to rekick from the 25, and the ball was headed out of bounds when it kicked freakishly off an EKU player and out of bounds at Eastern's 5.  Lucky, lucky.  Mastay only punted once for 44 yards, pretty good.

  3. UK's punt return game, among the nation's leaders last year, did not impress this game.

  4. UK's red zone offense was good this game, but we must consider our opponent before taking too much away from that.

  5. UK's defense only allowed 4 EKU penetrations into UK territory the entire day.  That is an impressive statistic.

  6. Woodson was solid, but this performance pales in comparison to that of U of L's Brohm.

  7. Burton's numbers were not impressive.  Lyon's numbers were.

  8. Alfonso Smith was a beast on special teams, and an animal running the ball.  He gets the nod as the all-purpose player of the game.

  9. Our secondary did a good job despite the loss of E.J. Adams

  10. Our D-line and LB corps did a good job against the run, but there is a copious lack of sacks on the stat sheet.  If we can't pressure an FCS quarterback, how are we going to pressure and SEC quarterback, or Brohm?  We need to find some answers there, because if we give Louisville as much time as Greco and Holland got, our secondary will be severely tested.
Overall, it was a very good first effort, and validates the perception that the Wildcats are a threat to anyone this year.  This was a much easier test than we will face next week, but that is how it should be.  Brooks has several opportunities for improvement to address, and I have no doubt he identified more weaknesses than I did.

Injury-wise, we did OK, but loosing E.J. Adams for several weeks is going to hurt us.  Marcus McClinton's ankle should be OK soon, but we must find a solid replacement for Adams.