A Feel-Good Game
This was exactly the kind of game the Wildcats needed after a five-game losing streak had everyone around the program frustrated, disappointed and desperate to get a win in any way possible. Relief, confidence and joy came out of Saturday's game as the 'Cats had fun and had their way with Charlotte.
The 'Cats were wise to build their 2015 schedule with a late-season game against a team like Charlotte. Last year, we saw UK play and lose six-straight games to bowl-eligible SEC teams and a top-25 Louisville team. That's a brutal way to end a season, and the result was, as well.
UK did themselves a favor making sure that there was at least one game in the month of November to ensure they would avoid ending the year on a losing streak like last year. Now, the 'Cats have more confidence and momentum heading into their regular-season finale with the Cardinals.
Surging Ground Game
Mark Stoops wanted to run the ball more coming into this season, and though it's taken awhile, he's finally getting his wish. Kentucky has now ran for 640 yards over the past two games and are now having one of the best rushing seasons in recent memory.
With a game to go, Kentucky already has more rushing yards this season (1,860) than it has in previous four seasons.— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) November 22, 2015
Jojo Kemp broke off touchdown runs of six, 18, and 47 yards. Boom Williams scored from 20 and 53 yards and true freshman Sihiem King even got in on the action with a 62-yard score.
Given all of UK's problems, holes, and weaknesses, this is exactly where they need their offensive focus to be, especially with a new, inexperienced starting quarterback.
Jacob Hyde Ate Someone's Lunch
Remember early in the season when converted defensive tackle Jacob Hyde was being used as a fullback? For whatever reason, UK has gone away from that since then and not played Hyde much. While he's still got work to do, Hyde is still the best power-blocking fullback on this roster, and he finally got back on the field for a key play against Charlotte.
On 4th-and-1 late in the middle of the second quarter with UK deep into 49er territory:
Huguenin Sacks QB for First Time
Coming into this game, Kentucky was among the nation's worst when it came to sacking the QB. Through the first 10 games, the 'Cats had just 13 sacks, with was tied for 111th in FBS. Against Charlotte, starting defensive end Farrington Huguenin did his best to improve that number with a pair of sacks.
Charlotte didn't pass much, but Huguenin still managed to take down the QB twice after never doing so in his career, while also getting several other QB hurries. It's great to see him ending his final college season on a high note, and UK will need him to play great again next week if they want to hold the Cardinals at bay.
No Major Injuries
By all accounts, the 'Cats made it out of this one with no major injuries as they head towards their big matchup with Louisville. UK needs all hands on deck to win this game and get to bowl eligibility, so losing anyone during a 48-point blowout would have been a tough pill to swallow.
As it stands, it looks like not only did the 'Cats not suffer any significant injuries, but banged-up guys like Jason Hatcher, Austin MacGinnis and Cole Mosier also didn't suffer any setbacks in their recoveries from injuries. Having everyone at or close to full health may be the edge that pushes UK to a victory this week.
Not Enough Barker
While Drew Barker played well, we didn't see enough of him to feel good about him being the starting quarterback going forward. The ground game carried the offense and allowed pretty much anyone playing QB to have an efficient night, which Barker did completing 16 of 29 passes (55%) with 159 yards and no scores or turnovers. He also converted several 3rd-and-long situations and kept UK's offense moving throughout the game, but it didn't appear that the playbook was fully open for him.
This could have been planned by the staff in order to keep Louisville from seeing everything Barker is capable of, but it's hard to feel confident about him going against a Cardinals defense far better than what Charlotte is.
No Dorian Baker
For the first time in 11 games this season, Dorian Baker did not catch a pass. His case of the drops finally caught up with him this week as he didn't see the field as much and didn't get any catches when he was in. Going into Week 12, Baker was fifth in the SEC in catches (52), and with as many drops as he's had, certainly could have been higher on the list.
It's never a good thing when a guy as important as Baker doesn't do anything against a team like Charlotte. After all, Baker was the MVP of this team early this season, especially during close wins over Missouri and EKU, which reminds me, wasn't it after the Auburn game that his slump really began?
Maybe that explains it.
Offensive Line Struggles
Whether it's Florida, Missouri, EKU, or Charlotte, Kentucky's offensive line has consistently struggled to hold up this season. That continued Saturday night as the line allowed Barker to be pressured, hit or sacked way too many times.
Being unable to the protect the QB against an FCS-level team does not bode well for the 'Cats with a strong Cardinals front seven on deck. Louisville now ranks 19th nationally in total sacks (30) compared to the 87th ranking the 'Cats have in terms of sacks allowed (27).
UK defensive tackle Cory 'Poop' Johnson is a man of many talents, and that now includes acrobatic interceptions while being blocked and going out of bounds:
Johnson needs to be candidate for SB Nation's Piesman Trophy. In all seriousness, it's awesome to see the senior big man make a play like that as his college career nears the end.