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Kentucky runs past Toledo: 6 things to know and postgame banter

It was a slow start, and too close for comfort, but the Cats are 1-0.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Toledo Rockets on Saturday afternoon 38-24.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Cats got their first win of the season. We all knew this season wouldn’t be the same as last, but today may have tempered expectations. Regardless, this is still a good football team and it was the first game of the season.

Maybe, it was the noon kickoff. Maybe, it was just first-game jitters. But this team has a lot of work to do. Getting in the win column early, though, is always important, so on to the next one.

Last year’s season opener wasn’t exactly the prettiest win, either, and that was against a team that finished 1-11. Stay positive!

A slow start

The Cats got off to a bit off a bad start. Toledo elected to receive the opening kickoff and drove the ball right down Kentucky’s throat. The drive was seven plays for 63 yards to get Toledo on the board first.

The Rockets made the UK secondary issues seem very apparent. The biggest shock, however, was that the defensive line got no pressure on the quarterback in obvious passing situations.

But Kentucky had the opportunity to answer on the next possession. Instead of coming right back at Toledo, the Cats were forced into a three-and-out and promptly punted.

It wasn’t a great start to say the least.

The running backs are really, really good

The trio of AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and Chris Rodriguez is going to be really, really fun to watch this year. Rose is the lead back, but all three players are capable of making big plays.

Rose has the speed, Rodriguez has the power, and Smoke has the perfect combination of both. No back is going to willfully carry the Cats to victory with 30 carries like Benny Snell was able to last year, but as a group, these three are going to be the offense’s biggest strength.

But the secondary is not

It was clear that the secondary was going to struggle this season after losing their top six defensive backs, but, man, they’re not very good.

I will say cornerback Brandin Echols is the one bright spot, but Jamari Brown won the starting corner job out of camp and he was quickly replaced after making several mistakes.

But it wasn’t just the pass coverage, the run help wasn’t great either. That’s where Kentucky is really missing Davonte Robinson.

The secondary needs to figure it out, and fast. And the front seven needs to wreak as much havoc as possible to give the defensive backfield some time.

This is still a run-first offense

Terry Wilson might have taken a step forward in the offseason, but this is still Mark Stoops’ ball-control offense, and as such, they will continue to run the ball at will.

We knew the offensive line was a strength coming into the season, while the receiving group was not, so it looks the Cats are trying to take advantage of their strengths.

The trio of running backs mentioned above are capable of wearing defenses down with the luxury of running behind multiple NFL offensive linemen.

The kicking game is going to be a strength

It’s not just about hitting long field goals. The kicking game entails a lot more than that. And it was on full display today for the Cats.

Not only did Chance Poore nail all his extra point attempts, but he also knocked down a 46-yard field goal to go with it.

As for the punting game, Max Duffy has an iron leg back there. He likes to hang back and take his time before absolutely booting the football.

And finally, Kentucky’s kickoffs were excellent as they had multiple touchbacks and every ball went all the way to the goal line.

Despite having an accurate kicker last season, he couldn’t kick it far and it was definitely a weakness. This year, it’s going to be a big strength that will come in handy all season long.

Dual-threat QBs are still an Achilles’ heel

I’m not sure we’re ever going to get over this one. Toledo quarterback Mitchell Guadagni torched the Kentucky defense on the ground. He took a few sacks, so his rushing stats aren’t as good as they could have been, but Guadagni was able to scramble out of the pocket at will.

This really hurt the UK secondary, and the front seven has got to do a better job of containing the quarterback. Josh Allen isn’t around anymore to make up for the mistakes.

This isn’t the last team the Cats will face with a dual-threat guy behind center. The sooner they can figure it out, the better.

All in all, Kentucky is 1-0 and that’s all that matter. Improvement will come. Let’s celebrate the victory and the return of college football to our lives!

Oh, and I just want to say how good DeAndre Square and Josh Paschal are. Those guys are a couple of bad dudes on defense. It was great to see Paschal back in action and Square was all over the place.

What are your thoughts about the game?