The Cats are off to a fast 1-0 start to the season after Beating Southern Miss 24-17 last week in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
This week, the Cats will host in-state opponent, Eastern Kentucky University. Now, the Colonels are not just the same old Colonels we would think; they have 20 transfers on their roster this season, and all 20 are pretty good. The Colonels have a long tradition of good football, and they probably don’t want to make that 27-mile drive back to Richmond with another L on their schedule, especially after losing last weekend to another in-state rival, Western Kentucky.
For Kentucky to avoid being upset at home this week and avoid a game like 2015, when the Cats only won 34-27 in overtime, they are going to have to do these five things:
1. Get Pressure on Tim Boyle. The Senior transfer quarterback from Connecticut is finally eligible for the Colonels this season, and he is planning on making his one year in Richmond count. Last season, Boyle had to take his redshirt season and sit out because he had just transferred from the University of Connecticut. In 2015, Boyle threw for 281 yards on 31 of 60 passing for the Huskies. He also helped the Huskies bring home a win over nationally ranked Houston that season, going 12 for 22 passing on 122 Yards. Boyle only started one game that season against Temple.
As a freshman at Connecticut, Boyle started four games for the Huskies, completing only 59 of his 133 pass attempts and had his season best completion of 36 yards against the then number 8 ranked Louisville Cardinals. Last week against WKU Boyle completed 29 of his 46 passes, threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
The defensive line is going to have to step up big time and put pressure on Boyle in this game. If you give a guy like Boyle time, he can truly pick your defense apart.
2. Benny Snell must improve this week. Benny Snell ran the ball 20 times for the Cats last weekend, while only gaining 67 yards on the ground. Yes, that’s not very good. Snell only averaged 3.3 yards per carry.
Snell average 107 yards per game last season, and numbers like last weekend just won’t cut it. On that note, it would be very hard to ask for over 100 yards per game again this season because every team on the schedule is going to stack the box and go after him, but still, some games, like this one, he needs to have a 100-yard game.
3. Lock down Ryan Markush. The 6’2 senior wide receiver had a huge game last weekend against Western Kentucky. Markush caught seven passes for 107 yards against the Hilltoppers and scored two touchdowns. (They only scored 21 points total).
Chris Westry and Derrick Baity will have their hands full this weekend, but they are both phenomenal athletes and NFL bound next season. Last season Markush started all 11 games for the Colonels, finished second on the team with 41 receptions and second with 556 receiving yards. Markush also caught three touchdown passes for the Colonels.
4. Convert on 3rd down. Last week Kentucky only converted 3 of their 13 3rd down attempts for a whopping percentage of 23 percent. The Cats have very good running backs, but they have to have manageable 3rd down distances. In theory, if the Cats could have 3rd and 3 to go or 3rd and 4 to go I would think they can convert at least 70 percent of the time.
Snell averaged 3.3 yards last game on the ground, so if he can do that on 3rd down, the Cats would probably be good to go. Luckily, the Cats had great punting by Panton last weekend averaging 42 yards per punt, but it’s not good when you have to punt nine times against an average at best team.
5. Put Pressure on EKU before the 50-yard line. EKU has always had great special teams, all the way back to 2014 when they had Jordan Berry as their punter who is now an ALL-NFL punter for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Well, the Colonels didn’t drop in the punting game. They managed to grab a punter from Australia in Keith Wrzusczak. He was a 2016 all-commonwealth team member, as well as second team All-Ohio Valley Conference. Last season he averaged 42.1 on 59 punts and placed an incredible 28 punts inside of the 20-yard line. His sophomore season? 43.7-yard average on 63 punts and an insane 20 punts that were over 50 yards. Wrzusczak’s longest punt is 75 yards, which is ninth all time in FCS history.
The Cats will definitely have their hands full this Saturday at Noon, but as long as they do these five things, I truly believe it won’t be close.
The Cats have a 98 percent chance to win this weekend according to ESPN, and they are currently a 19-point favorite.
My Prediction: Kentucky 42 EKU 17