As I made the trek up to the game from Knoxville today, I was rolling into the area of Commonwealth Stadium on Alumni Drive and my Pandora feed played the 2000's classic "So Fresh, So Clean" by Outkast. I could not help but think that was a great mantra for this year's iteration of the Kentucky Football Wildcats. Fresh and clean. While Mark Stoops was the coach last year, it really was not the setup or roster he was able to fully coach. Last year was the foundation to build on the future. Coach Stoops shored up his roster with a top 20 recruiting class and pulled a few "weeds" from the garden, and this would be his first true attempt at doing what he wanted as UK's new headman.
The Cats were 20-point favorite and that seemed about right for a mediocre SEC team to outclass a team like UT-Martin. While optimism was high for the Cats, I cannot help but think many people saw this coming. Stoops promised that we would be playing faster today than at any point all of last year. Being UK fans, we immediately thought of Coach Tubby Smith's annual pledge of running faster and took it with a grain of salt at best. As I was listening to a few podcasts of Kentucky Sports Radio on the way up, the show yesterday was filled with predictions of the game. Most people were optimistic, but cautious, generally predicting a win but nothing more than 20-28 points. The Cats came out today and made a statement by getting the win over UT-Martin 59-14.
The day started with me catching up with some Wildcats Friends Jason Huber and Stephen Wilson, who graciously hosted the tailgate. Their tent was one of many and it was good to feel the optimism and excitement among the fans before the game started.
The game started and once the Cats got the ball they drove down the field only to see a 4th down play come up short, and a minor bit of frustration and possible worry set in the stadium... it would be short lived. Patrick Towles would lead the cats down the field on the next possession and it was capped by JoJo Kemp's two-yard plunge for the first score of the season.
Kentucky would hold on defense and on the next possession Braylon Heard took his first touch in over two years and went virtually untouched for 73 yards and a TD, his first as a Cat. With the Cats leading 14-0, just three minutes later, Heard would take his second touch of the game and would go 43 yards for his second touchdown in as many carries. At that point, the route was on.
After a fantastic one-handed interception by highly touted JUCO A.J. Stamps, the Cats would drive down the field, and facing a third and long, Towles would hit freshman Blake Bone on a bubble screen that actually worked for a 28 yard touchdown to give UK the 28-0 lead and seemingly the game in hand. How many bubble screens have UK fans seen that ended with a loss? It was nice to see offensive execution for once.
After a long drive that came up empty for the Skyhawks, Kentucky would have the ball with a chance to put and emphatic statement on the first half and they did it with a surgical drive that was capped off with freshman (trend?) Mikel Horton plunging into the end zone from 18 yards out with an impressive burst. The Cats would take the lead 32-0 into the half, the most points they scored all of last year in any single game was 48 and it was against Alabama St.
UK would come out in the second half and Towles scrambled for 23 yards untouched into the end zone to push it out to 42-0. Later, the Cats would stall inside the 10 for the first time all day, but Austin McGinnis was able to boot it through from 20 yards for a 45-0 lead.
Predictably, Kentucky brought in some subs and had a bit of a let down and the Skyhawks were driving and seemed poised to punch one in the end zone. This is where things seem different, UT-Martin had a guy wide open out in the flats and UK fans are used to seeing things like that. What they are not used to seeing is 5+ guys gang tackling the guy and pounding him so hard that he fumbles. 90 yards the opposite way later and UK was leading 52-0 after the fumble return for TD was reviewed and confirmed.
Virtually all UK fans can agree with this when I say that most of years past, that is a scenario we have seen all too often on the wrong end. How many times have you seen UK get dominated and be out of the game but finally break through for a positive drive only to see a pick-6, or a fumble, or countless flags. It is nice to see that happen to another team, at our hands.
The rest of the game was academic as UK had pulled the starters, including Towles and the second and third teamers would get some early valuable work.
There are many things to be happy about, mainly the fact that UK did exactly what they should do to a team of this caliber; they dominated them from jump and it was never in question. Among the good:
- Patty Ice: Patrick Towles played a fantastic game in his starting debut for UK going 20-29 for 370 yards and one touchdown rushing and passing. Towles was pulled early in the third quarter and validated Coach Stoops and Brown's faith and trust in naming him the man to lead this team.
- The fearsome foursome: UK's SEC caliber talent in the backfield is well known by now, however, they also have some talent on the outside. While we know what we have in Ryan Timmons and Javess Blue, I thought Blake Bone and Dorian Baker made their claim on the next two spots for talent at the position. Baker took the slip screen 28 yards to the house and while Baker may not have made a big dent in the stat column, you could just see the talent. He made a great move to get open on a third and long to sustain a drive, then two plays later he took a ball at his ankles for an eight yard gain when most would have dropped it.
- Offense, Offense, Offense: Kentucky put up 60 points, scored a defensive TD, had two interceptions (only 3 ALL of last year), 650 yards of offense (234 yards rushing), and impressively ZERO turnovers. UK also did not punt until the fourth quarter and only punted once.
- New Playmakers on defense: I thought J.D. Harmon had a coming out party and made his mark as one of our better corner backs with several pass break up and well defended passes. A.J. Stamps was arguably the defensive player of the game with a team leading eight tackles and one interception.
- The Four Horsemen: JoJo, Heard, Horton, and Boom Williams contributed heavily to the rushing game and each one has their own element of emphasis for the cats.
- Kickoffs: UK had a lot of them and Austin MacGinnis put his foot to nearly all of them into the end zone. This is a big weapon and is a much needed one to help the defense.
- Big Plays: UK had eight pass plays of 20+ yards, not to mention the runs by Heard.
- Defense: At the half, UK had held UT-Martin's offense to having its leading receiver with a total of five yards. They also held the Skyhawks to less than 170 offensive yards at the half.
- There really was not anything to complain about, would we like to have seen more pressure on the QB, sure. Would it have been nice for the second and third teamers to hold UT-Martin instead of allowing them two easy touchdowns, sure.
The Bottom Line
There is nothing to complain about on this day; the Cats hammered a team they were supposed to hammer. They highlighted a much improved offense and much-improved roster. A lot of the lack of defensive pressure is probably attributed to a lack of necessity. When you are dominating a team, you are less likely to blitz, stunt, and do anything other than a vanilla package.
On a day when the weather was good for football, and the Big Blue Nation was starving for a big day, the Cats delivered in a big way. The optimism will be carried to a much more difficult game next week in the Ohio Bobcats. As for today though, the Cats rolled and the BBN rejoiced and breathed a sigh of relief as it is clear that what Coach Stoops is doing, is working and it is working faster than most anticipated.
|NET YARDS RUSHING||183||234|
|Average Per Rush||3.9||8.4|
|Yards Gained Rushing||202||243|
|Yards Lost Rushing||19||9|
|NET YARDS PASSING||215||422|
|Average Per Attempt||6.3||12.8|
|Average Per Completion||9.3||19.2|
|TOTAL OFFENSE YARDS||398||656|
|Total offense plays||81||61|
|Average Gain Per Play||4.9||10.8|
|Average Yards Per Punt||41.2||46.0|
|Net Yards Per Punt||34.6||46.0|
|Average Yards Per Kickoff||58.7||63.4|
|Net Yards Per Kickoff||33.7||38.5|
|Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD||0-0-0||2-13-0|
|Average Per Return||0.0||6.5|
|Kickoff returns: Number-Yds-TD||3-74-0||2-50-0|
|Average Per Return||24.7||25.0|
|Fumble Returns: Number-Yds-TD||0-0-0||1-89-1|
|Third-Down Conversions||4 of 14||8 of 14|
|Fourth-Down Conversions||5 of 5||1 of 2|
|Sacks By: Number-Yards||0-0||3-14|
|Points off turnovers||0||42|
2014 Kentucky Football
UT Martin vs Kentucky (Aug 30, 2014 at Lexington, Ky.)