Saturday offered a pretty ugly start for the Kentucky Wildcat's home opener against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Though they would come back to win the game, 27-16, there were plenty of faults in Kentucky's performance.
Kentucky won the toss and elected to receive the kick to start the game. They took some what of an advantage with that decision, netting a 39-yard field goal from Austin MacGinnis. However, the Wildcat defense allowed EKU to steadily move the ball down the field on the following drive and take the lead, 7-3.
Against a poor Colonels defense, UK's next three drives fared poorly featuring a turnover on downs and two punts. Not to mention the decision by Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops to bring in backup quarterback Drew Barker. Barker took back-to-back sacks on back-to-back third downs that eventually brought QB1 Stephen Johnson back into the fold.
During that span, Lynn Bowden was ejected for targeting and the Wildcats gave up a touchdown to fall into a hole of 13-3.
Johnson proved his worth, however, finding CJ Conrad for a TD late in the second quarter to cut the deficit to 3 at halftime.
After being shredded to pieces in the first half, the Kentucky defense finally showed up in the second half. EKU's drives consisted of: fumble, FG, punt, punt and interception.
Johnson and Benny Snell Jr. also found their old identity, running the 1-2 punch rush attack that scored each a TD to decide a final score of 27-16.
Snell started off slow but managed 98 of his 103 rushing yards in the second half, including a 25-yard burst for a touchdown that gave Kentucky it's first lead since the opening minutes.
Johnson completed 15/22 (68%) of his passes for 224 yards and a touchdown. He also ran the ball six times for 48 yards, with 21 of those coming on a touchdown run to extend the lead to eight.
Kentucky's "Big Play" man was Blake Bone, the player who seems to be Jeff Badet's replacement. Bone had three catches on four targets for 93 yards.
You're not wrong when you say Kentucky looked far from their best in the first half today. However, with no preseason in college football, some teams take a few games to click. We saw a high-flying defense in the second half today and a run-game that was highly efficient.
By next weekend, I predict the Wildcats will be in full form. Next Saturday's game is at South Carolina at 7:30 EDT on SECN.
Here are the postgame notes, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Notes
- This was Kentucky’s home opener. UK is now 34-10-1 all-time in home openers at Kroger Field. UK is 11-1 in its last 12 home openers and 4-1 under Mark Stoops.
- The Wildcats are 154-129-4 at Kroger Field all-time, including an 17-13 mark under Mark Stoops.
- Kentucky leads the series against EKU 5-0.
- The Wildcats hold an all-time record of 11-0 against teams in the current alignment of the OVC.
- This is the third time in the last four seasons that Kentucky has started the year 2-0. UK also started 2-0 in 2014 and 2015.
- The win moved Kentucky to a 9-4 record over the last 13 games.
- The last time UK had a 9-3 record over a span of 12 regular-season games was Nov. 4, 2006 – Oct. 20, 2007.
- UK is now 13-6 in non-conference games under Coach Mark Stoops.
- UK is 17-1 under Stoops when leading after three quarters.
- Kentucky has won 34 of its past 35 games when staked to a lead at the end of the third quarter, dating back to 2008.
- EKU’s touchdown at 6:22 in the first quarter marked the first time all season the Wildcats had trailed.
- The Wildcats would regain the lead with 2:57 to go in the third quarter and never look back.
- Kentucky outgained EKU offensively 436-318, including 207-62 on the ground.
- The Colonels outgained Kentucky through the air, 256-229.
- The Wildcats won the turnover battle against EKU, 2-0. UK forced and recovered a fumble and had one interception.
- It was the first time in 23 games that UK did not have a turnover, dating back to the 2015 win over Missouri.
- UK has won the turnover battle in both games this season with a +4 turnover margin.
- Trailing 16-10 midway through the third quarter, the Wildcats scored 17 unanswered points to take control of the game.
- Two Wildcats earned their first career starts in the game in sophomore linebacker Eli Brown and redshirt freshman defensive back Davonte Robinson.
- Kentucky has had a 100-yard rusher in six of its last eight home openers.
- This is the seventh time under Mark Stoops that UK has won a game after trailing by at least 10 points. That is the second most wins under any coach in program history. UK had eight such wins under Rich Brooks.
- Four of UK’s last six wins it has come from behind by at least 10 points.
- Kentucky has at least 200 rushing yards in six of its last seven home games.
- Kentucky has a rushing touchdown in each of its last 14 home games.
- UK has allowed less than 100 rushing yards in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 6 and Sept. 13 2008.
- The Wildcats have allowed 17 points or less in consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 19, and Sept. 26, 2015.
- Kentucky has allowed 17 points or less in the first two games of a season for the first time since 2014.
- UK’s game captains were OG Nick Haynes, QB Stephen Johnson, LB Courtney Love and S Mike Edwards.
- QB Stephen Johnson finished the game 15-for-22 with 224 yards and one touchdown through the air. He also rushed six times for 48 yards and one touchdown, including a 21-yard touchdown rush.
- Johnson’s touchdown through the air was a 23-yard strike to C.J. Conrad.
- Today was Johnson’s eighth win as the starting quarterback since taking over the role in the fourth game of the 2016 season. UK is 10-4 with Johnson as primary QB, including 8-4 as the starter and 2-0 as the team’s primary QB in a relief role.
- Johnson has thrown or rushed for a touchdown in six straight games.
- This was Johnson’s fifth career game with a rushing touchdown.
- Johnson is the third UK quarterback since 1993 to win seven of his first career 10 regular-season starts. The other two players were Mike Hartline and Morgan Newton.
- He is the first UK quarterback with a rushing touchdown and passing touchdown in three consecutive games since Jared Lorenzen on Sept. 23, Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 in 2000.
- Since 1985, Johnson is the first UK quarterback with a rushing touchdown and passing touchdown in each of the team’s first two games.
- This was Johnson’s third career game with at least 224 passing yards and at least 48 rushing yards.
- RB Benny Snell rushed a game-high 19 times for a game-high 103 yards.
- Snell scored his first touchdown of the season with a 25-yard rush in the third quarter to give UK the lead.
- Snell in the second half was incredible, rushing 16 times for 100 yards and a touchdown after just three carries for three yards in the first half.
- Snell now has 1,261 career rushing yards which ranks him 28th all-time in program history.
- Today was his sixth career 100-yard rushing game.
- Snell is the second Kentucky player with 100 yards rushing against EKU. The other was Rafael Little, who had 135 rushing yards against EKU in 2007.
- Snell has a rushing TD in six of UK’s last seven home games.
- Snell has at least 100 rushing yards in the last four home games and in five of the last seven home games.
- TE C.J. Conrad caught two passes for 28 yards and a touchdown.
- Conrad has caught a touchdown pass in each of UK’s first two games this season and has caught a touchdown pass in three of his last five games.
- The junior now has seven career touchdown catches.
- Conrad is leading the Wildcats in receiving with five receptions for 125 yards this season. He is also averaging 62.5 yards per reception.
- Conrad is the first UK player with a receiving TD in each of the first two games of the season since La’Rod King in 2012.
- Conrad is the first UK tight end with a receiving touchdown in consecutive games since Jacob Tamme on Nov. 24 and Dec. 31, 2007.
- WR Blake Bone had a career-high 93 yards receiving on three catches.
- Bone’s previous high in receiving yards was 85 vs. EKU on Oct. 3, 2015.
- Bone had a 43-yard reception in the game today, which is a new career long, passing his previous long of 40 yards against EKU two years ago.
- Bone’s 93 yards today exceeded his season total of 82 yards last season.
- WR Charles Walker had two catches for 38 yards in the game and now has three receptions for 59 yards on the season.
- Walker’s 27-yard catch late in the second quarter was a new career long, surpassing his 21-yard catch last week at Southern Miss.
- RB Sihiem King carried the ball nine times for 61 yards in the game.
- Last year, King carried the ball 11 times for 81 yards.
- King had one kickoff return in the game for 22 yards.
- S Darius West led the Wildcats in tackles with a career-high 11 stops, passing his previous high of seven multiple times.
- S Mike Edwards sealed the UK win with a late interception in the fourth quarter.
- The pick was his fifth career interception and first of the season.
- Edwards ended the game with two tackles.
- LB Josh Allen continued his strong start to the season with eight tackles, adding one sack and a pass breakup.
- On the season, Allen has 12 tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hurries.
- CB Derrick Baity had eight tackles and one fumble recovery.
- The fumble recovery was Baity’s first of his career.
- LB Jordan Jones had eight tackles with 0.5 tackles for loss, one fumble forced, one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.
- Jones is third on the team in tackles with 13.
- The fumble forced was his second of the season.
- CB Lonnie Johnson, Jr. had four tackles, one tackle for loss and one pass breakup in the game.
- Johnson, Jr. also blocked an extra point, which was his first blocked kick of his UK career.
- K Austin MacGinnis finished the game 2-for-3 in field goals, hitting from 39 yards twice and missing a try from 48 yards as time expired in the first half.
- MacGinnis’ miss snapped a streak of nine consecutive field goals made, which tied the second longest stretch in program history.
- MacGinnis also made a pair of potentially touchdown-saving tackles on long kickoff returns.