Kentucky has long been looking forward to this moment. In a sold out home game in a newly renovated stadium, the Kentucky Wildcats put their patented Air Raid offense on display, creating a palpable buzz and excitement that has fans thinking "bowl game".
The game, however, was closer than many Kentucky fans would have liked. Kentucky faltered in the second half, blowing a 23-point lead only to see a tie game with 5 minutes remaining. Fans are both optimistic and pessimistic after Saturday's win over Louisiana-Lafayette. Fans that are glass half-empty and that are glass half-full will find plenty to cling onto after Saturday night.
The Half-Empty Glass
- Kentucky was a 17-point favorite and looked like they would easily cover the spread during the first 35 minutes. The remaining 25 minutes were almost a nightmare situation for Kentucky. Albeit Louisiana-Lafayette has won 9 games four straight seasons, Kentucky should have easily won this game. There should be no scenario where Louisiana-Lafayette is a play or two from defeating Kentucky on their home field.
- Patrick Towles had a good first half, but the second half was a disaster. Towles was 6 out of 16 (37.5%) for 37 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. That isn't going to work in SEC games. There were three passes he missed deep that would have certainly altered his statistics, but they weren't completed.
- Kentucky's offensive line is much better than it showed Saturday night. The offensive line gave up three pivotal sacks that really changed the script for Kentucky in the second half. Yes, they were breaking in a true freshman George Asafo-Adjei, but the sacks are inexcusable.
- The Kentucky offense sputtered in the second half. At halftime, they had 303 yards on offense. In the second half, they only had 122 yards of offense. Field position played a little bit into that, but the lack of offensive production led to a Louisiana-Lafayette comeback.
- The Kentucky offense indirectly caused the Louisiana-Lafayette offense to gain 300 yards and score 26 points in the second half. Kentucky's offense had three consecutive drives of 1:05, 0:08, and 0:37, which led to 16 Louisiana-Lafayette points. In other words, the short clock the offense used led to a tired defense.
- The game certainly changed with Louisiana-Lafayette changed quarterbacks from pro-type Brooks Haack to dual-threat Jalen Nixon. Nixon immediately added more pressure to the Kentucky front seven. Kentucky struggled mightily to stop the run once Nixon was inserted into the game.
- Austin MacGinnis was very solid in his freshman season in 2014. However, Saturday night the All-SEC kicker missed a 46-yard field goal and an extra point. It's hard to fault him for missing a deep kick, but an extra point is inexcusable.
The Half-Full Glass
- Kentucky has the playmakers to put up a lot of points in a hurry. Boom Williams proved he is Kentucky's best "home run" player in a long time. The first play of the game he busted out a 75-yard touchdown with his jaw-dropping speed. Boom finished the game with 10 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown. That is his third career 100-yard game.
- Kentucky's "Thunder, Lightning and Boom" at running back looks good. Boom provides the home-run capability that makes this offense very dangerous. Mikel Horton provides the power that is needed in the SEC. Jojo Kemp is one quick Cat, he made several runs that show why he has to play in order for Kentucky to be successful.
- Despite Towles' misfortunes in the second half, he was marvelous in the first half with 219 yards on 10 of 18 passing for 2 touchdowns. Towles showed his arm strength, landing several passes on the money of more than 30 yards. If Towles' can duplicate that half into a full game he will live up to the hype he's had all summer long.
- Say what you want about Towles, but Kentucky's young receivers are extremely fast and athletic. It's a nice change of pace from the lack of athletes Kentucky has had on the outside over the last four to five seasons. Garrett Johnson is as quick as a receiver that Kentucky has had since Craig Yeast. He beat his defender on play after play. If Towles would have just settled down in the second half Johnson could have had a huge game. Dorian Baker and Blake Bone have more size than Kentucky has had in a long, long time. Think about this: Kentucky's best receivers are sophomores. The future is very bright at the receiver position.
- Kentucky's major weakness in the Stoops era has been the secondary. Well, the secondary came to play Saturday night. The influx of young talent has certainly led to Kentucky having much better pass coverage. Kentucky's secondary only allowed 230 yards and even picked off a pass. They also did not allow a passing touchdown. Louisiana-Lafayette's lone long pass of 43 yards ended in a fumble forced by J.D. Harmon. There will definitely be ups and downs with how young these guys are, but Kentucky fans should be excited about how Kentucky played the pass on Saturday night.
- Another weakness for Kentucky over the last five seasons has been special teams. Kentucky's special teams played well Saturday night. Harmon almost returned a kick-off for a touchdown, and Kentucky recovered a fumble on a punt. Kentucky's special teams have to play well if they want to get to a bowl game.
- Kentucky was +3.0 in the turnover game. The defense picked off two passes, including a late hail mary to seal the game. In a close game, +3 turnovers is very pivotal to ending up on the right side of the win-loss column