Kentucky Football returned to the Bluegrass on Saturday, as the Wildcats kicked off their 2019 campaign against the Toledo Rockets at Kroger Field.
While head coach Mark Stoops and co. lost several standout players to the NFL this spring, there’s been much optimism around the team’s returning players and new talent.
A balanced attack from the offense and key adjustments from the defense elevated the Wildcats over the Rockets for a season-opening victory, 38-24.
Fantastic diving touchdown run by AJ Rose. pic.twitter.com/dWD5dwYPOo— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
After losing Benny Snell to the Pittsburgh Steelers this spring, there were super-sized shoes to fill in Kentucky’s backfield. While AJ Rose had shown multiple flashes of explosiveness last fall, there were still questions of which direction the running back situation would go.
Josh Paschal with his first sack of the season. pic.twitter.com/yL4cGEYsgg— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
Needless to say, Rose was joined by Kavosiey Smoke and Christopher Rodriguez to combine for 176 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the day. The Wildcats’ rushing attack isn’t the same without Snell, but appears to be more than ready to shoulder the weight of the offense.
Josh Paschal forces the fumble. pic.twitter.com/EvKtyutpFa— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
After what Paschal went through last season during his battle with Melanoma, seeing him make plays all over the football field and bring additional passion to Kentucky’s front seven was a comforting sight.
Another look at this great touchdown catch by Bryce Oliver. pic.twitter.com/k2FkGaeQRn— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
Second year quarterback Terry Wilson had mostly an efficient afternoon during his team’s win over Toledo. While Wilson made several few errors, he also threw a few balls that went for big plays (something that wasn't a factor last season).
Nice throw and catch from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden in traffic. pic.twitter.com/wa8ZBmcyof— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
Wilson finished the game by completing 19 of 26 pass attempts for 243 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. Though Kentucky’s running game speaks for itself, the benefits of opening up the passing game could go a long way for this Wildcats’ squad.
MVP: DeAndre Square
When Kentucky lost defensive starters this spring to the NFL draft, one name that wasn’t mentioned nearly enough was that of Jordan Jones. Jones, while sometimes difficult to coach or control temper-wise, was an exceptional talent and played a vital role on Kentucky’s front seven.
With Jones’ departure, DeAndre Square was asked to step in and take the reins as the tackling machine.
Boogie Watson and DeAndre Square meet at the quarterback. pic.twitter.com/D3hk3ZUWe4— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) August 31, 2019
Needless to say, Square turned in an exceptional performance of 11 total tackles (including 1.5 for a loss), a half sack, and an interception. With many of last season’s starters now gone from Kentucky’s defensive unit, Square’s emergence as a star is warmly welcomed.