It’s finally that time of the year, the start of football season and Kentucky was in action against a MAC opponent in Central Michigan. Coming into the game, Kentucky was 6-0 all-time against the Chippewas and were hoping to keep an unblemished record against them.
Right after kickoff, the Cats didn’t get off to a hot start as they had a quick three and out to start the year. Each team traded punts for two possessions each, and then an unfortunate fumble by the Cats gave CMU excellent field position, and they capped it off with a field goal to take an early 3-0 lead.
Kentucky’s offense finally had a big play when AJ Rose took the outside handoff and broke it 55 yards for a TD giving the Cats the 7-3 lead. Unfortunately, that lead was taken away after CMU capitalized on an INT and scored a TD to take a 10-7 lead.
Then a fumble that CMU picked up and returned for another TD put the Cats behind 17-7.
With roughly 4 minutes left in the half Benny Snell took the handoff and had a big run of his own of 52 yards for the TD to cut the lead to 17-14. However, another INT resulting in a field goal made it a 20-14 game.
After Wilson was injured, Gunnar Hoak came in the game and led a 6 play, 71-yard TD drive to end the half with a 24-yard passing TD to David Bouvier. Kentucky was somehow able to take a 21-20 lead into the break.
After the halftime break, Kentucky looked much better. Stoops kept Hoak in the game for two more drives after he had the hot hand to end the half but after back to back punts, Terry Wilson came in and led a 3 play, 40-yard TD drive that ended with Benny Snell running it in for his second score of the game and gave the Cats a 28-20 lead.
After a 3 and out Kentucky got the football back and went down the field to score again as AJ Rose ran it in from 4 yards out for his second TD and puts the Cats up 35-20.
Kentucky’s defense did it’s job all game long and despite having 4 turnovers, Kentucky was able to come away with a 35-20 win over Central Michigan to start the year 1-0.
Thoughts on the game
Benny Snell was outstanding
We all know just how good Benny is and were anxious to see him take the field. Earlier in the day, it was reported that Snell was sick and may not have a heavy workload, but when game time rolled around he seemed fine.
Benny rushed 20 times for 125 yards and had two touchdowns. Early in the game, he also had a nice catch for 7 yards. If he can become a reliable option as a receiving back, it will just increase the threat that he already is to opposing defenses.
AJ Rose showed he can be a reliable backup
When Kentucky had Boom Williams, they had a great one two punch that would have opponents struggling to stop him and Benny. Last season, Benny was forced to do most of the work out of the backfield.
However, Rose is a player that was highly talked about out of high school and now in his redshirt sophomore year looks like he is ready to provide Benny some help. He had 8 carries for 104 yards and two touchdowns with a long one of 55 yards.
Defense performed at a high level
Coming into the year, the Kentucky defense was expected to be very talented as they had a lot of players that could’ve went pro come back for another season. Although Central Michigan scored 20 points, the defense was put in tough situations with the turnovers by the offense, and one touchdown was a scoop and score.
In the second half, the Cats defense didn’t allow the CMU offense to score another point and looked as good as advertised.
Quarterback a work in progress
We knew that we had some big weapons of the offensive side of the ball we just didn’t know who would be getting them the ball. Terry Wilson was given the starting role and struggled from the start. After two INTs and a fumble Gunnar Hoak came in and led a big TD drive to end the half.
However, after a slow start to the second half, Wilson came back in and looked much better compared to the start. He finished the game 11/18 for 78 yards and had 9 rushes for 38 yards. Hopefully it was first game jitters and adjusting to the speed of D1 football for Wilson and he will be ready to go when the Cats travel to Florida next week.
Kentucky was able to pull out the win in a game that the offense struggled but those issues can’t be present next week if the Cats want to end the streak. Kentucky has some positives to build on and some negatives to work on but overall, they looked much better in the second half and can build off that.
So is wide receiver
With the losses of Charles Walker, Kayaune Ross and Garrett Johnson, the wide receiver group was going to look very different in 2018. The hope was experienced guys like Lynn Bowden, Tavin Richardson and Dorian Baker would ensure the unit remained at least respectable, but it’s hard to call them even that after one game.
Those three combined to catch just six passes for 38 yards. Bowden also had a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.
The good news is walk-on David Bouvier emerged to catch three balls for 48 yards and a score, but outside of him, this unit contributed very little to the game.
Now, here are the postgame notes and milestones, courtesy of UK Athletics:
Team Records and Series Information
- This was the season opener for both teams and marked the fifth time in school history that the teams have met to begin the campaign.
- Kentucky leads the series 7-0, with all games played in Lexington.Along with a 7-0 record against Kent State, these are the most wins vs. an FBS opponent without a loss.
- UK is 20-3 against teams from the current alignment of the Mid-American Conference.
- UK has won 10 straight games against teams from the MAC.
- Beginning its 128th season of football, Kentucky is now 87-36-5 in season openers and has won two in a row.UK is 4-2 in season lidlifters under Coach Mark Stoops.
- This game marked the first time in school history that Kentucky fell behind by at least 10 points in the season opener and came back to win. UK trailed 17-7 in the second quarter.This is the eighth time under Stoops that UK has trailed by at least 10 points but rallied to win. That ties the school record, Coach Rich Brooks also had eight such games.
- UK allowed 255 yards today, fewest in a season opener since WKU in 2011 (234 yards).
- 255 yards allowed is the fewest vs. an FBS opponent since Florida in 2015 (245 yards).
- UK allowed only 3.9 yards per play, fewest vs. an FBS opponent since 2014 vs. Louisiana-Monroe (3.3 yards per play in that game).
- 299 rushing yards is most in a season opener since 1993 vs. Kent State (309 that game).
- UK had two players rush for 100 yards, first time that has happened since Benny Snell and Boom Williams did so in 2016 at Missouri.
- UK had two players rush for touchdowns of at least 50 yards, first since Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke did so vs. Vanderbilt in 2010.
- Three penalties today, fewest in a season opener since 2012 vs. Louisville (three that game).
- Since 1985, UK is 33-0 in home games when rushing for at least 250 yards.
- UK allowed only 11 first downs today, fewest since allowing eight vs. Vanderbilt in 2014.
- UK’s game captains were OG George Asafo-Adjei, TE C.J. Conrad, LB Josh Allen and S Mike Edwards.NFL Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson was honorary captain.
- Playing in his first major-college game, sophomore quarterback Terry Wilson completed 11 of 18 passes for 78 yards. He also rushed for 38 yards.He is the first player to start his first UK game at quarterback since Jared Lorenzen in 2000.
- UK has started eight QBs in the season opener over the last nine seasons – Mike Hartline (2010), Morgan Newton (2011), Maxwell Smith (2012), Jalen Whitlow (2013), Patrick Towles (2014-15), Drew Barker (2016), Stephen Johnson (2017) and Wilson.
- Entering late in the second quarter after Wilson was injured, sophomore QB Gunnar Hoak saw his first collegiate action.On his first possession, he drove the Wildcats to a touchdown, capped by a 24-yard scoring strike to David Bouvier.
- Hoak finished the day 4-of-9 for 50 yards.
- Junior running back Benny Snell Jr. rushed 20 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns.With 2,549 career yards, he surpassed Stanley “Boom” Williams for seventh place on the UK career rushing list.
- Snell has 13 100-yard games in his career, tying Rafael Little and Moe Williams for second place in school history.
- Snell has 100 rushing yards in five straight home games, second-longest streak in school history. Artose Pinner had seven in a row in 2002.
- Snell became the first player in Kroger Field history to have 10 career 100-yard rushing games at home.
- Snell became the first player to rush for 100 yards in consecutive home openers since Sonny Collins in 1974-75.
- Snell became the seventh player in school history to reach 200 points in a career. He now has 206 points as a Wildcat. He is just the second non-kicker to reach 200, joining Randall Cobb.
- Snell has 12 rushing touchdowns in the last five home games, at least two in each of those games.
- Sophomore running back A.J. Rose rushed eight times for a career-high 104 yards and career-high two touchdowns. In the first quarter, he had a career-long 55-yard run for a touchdown.
- He added a four-yard TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.
- Sophomore wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. caught a career-high five passes, good for 17 yards.
- Senior tight end C.J. Conrad caught three passes for nine yards.Conrad made his fourth-straight start in a season opener. The last Wildcat to start four straight season openers was cornerback Trevard Lindley in 2006-09.
- Senior wide receiver David Bouvier scored his first collegiate touchdown on a 24-yard pass from Hoak just before halftime. He finished the day with three snags for 48 yards and a TD, all career bests.
- Senior wide receiver Dorian Baker caught one pass for 21 yards. Baker has 1,036 career receiving yards and moved up to 27th on the UK career list.
- Australian Max Duffy was outstanding in his first game as a Wildcat, punting four times for a 50-yard average. He landed two inside the 20-yard-line and the team’s net punting average was 49.8 yards per punt.
- Senior linebacker/defensive end Josh Allen had a career-high 10 tackles.He had a career-high three tackles for loss, including one quarterback sack.
- He entered the game leading all active SEC players in career sacks with 14.5.
- Junior linebacker Kash Daniel had a career-high 11 tackles and added two quarterback hurries.
- Sophomore linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson had a career-best six tackles and a pass breakup.
- Freshman OT Naasir Watkins, sophomore WR Lynn Bowden, sophomore QB Terry Wilson and junior LB Kash Daniel made their first collegiate starts.