All eyes were on Drew Barker at Commonwealth Stadium last night, as the starting quarterback went out for the first time knowing that the Wildcats are his team.
With all the pressure on him to deliver, Barker put together a first half for the ages.
Barker went 11/19 passing for 287 yards, giving him a yards per-attempt mark of over 15 yards. His longest pass was 72 yards, which accounted for 1 of his 4 touchdown passes in the half.
Barker’s passer rating at halftime was 254.3, which would have been the second-highest passer rating in all of college football had he held that pace.
I know I’m exaggerating here, but that’s the kind of half that absolutely screams Heisman winner. It doesn’t matter what defense you’re playing, if you’re on track to throw for 574 yards, you’re doing something right.
That would’ve put Barker at the top of the college football rankings in passing yards after one week.
Unfortunately, everything that the Cats were doing right, they started doing wrong.
Barker’s first half had him looking like the best player on the field. But his second half took a turn for the worse.
It’s not entirely Barker’s fault; he simply didn’t have the ball in his hands much. After getting 19 passing attempts in the first half, he had just five in the second half. He had zero touchdown passes, one interception, he got sacked four times and he only averaged 7.2 yards per-completion.
In the fourth quarter, he had just one pass attempt.
All-in-all Barker’s performance was rather impressive; he finished the day with a completion percentage of 62.5% to go along with four touchdown passes and 323 passing yards. If he balances all of that out across four quarters, Kentucky maybe wins by a slim margin. However, the extreme inequality between the first and second half by the entire team ended up contributing to one of the most horrific collapses in Kentucky football history, and Barker’s extreme drop in production is a microcosm of exactly how the game went for the entire team.
There are certainly a few positive takeaways from Barker’s play: he’s second in the nation in yards per-attempt, with 13.5 yds/a, he had the eighth-longest pass of the week thus far with that 72-yard touchdown pass, and his passer rating is 5th-best in the country at 222.2.
It’s all going to be about consistency going forward. I’d rather see Barker post 250 passing yards and 3 touchdowns every game if it meant he’d throw 125 yards in the first half and 125 in the second half, and one touchdown pass in the first half followed by two in the second. That consistency and stability would at least keep Kentucky from losing all the momentum, as they did last night, and they’d be able to keep themselves in the game.
Barker and his team looked like world-beaters in the first half last night. In the second half, you could’ve sworn they were an FCS team. If they can figure out how to develop consistency and show up for the second half, they’ll be in great shape. For Barker, 287 yards and 4 touchdowns will win a lot of games; it doesn’t all have to come in the first half.
That’s something that the entire team should keep in mind after last night: it doesn’t all have to come in the first half.