The Kentucky Wildcats held on to defeat the Eastern Michigan Eagles at Kroger Field on Saturday with a final score of 38-17. At times, the offense looks electric and the defense looked as stingy as last season. However, the third quarter injury to Terry Wilson cast a shadow over the entire evening.
There were a lot of bright spots for the Wildcats, including a balanced rushing attack and strong games from receivers Ahmad Wagner and Lynn Bowden. Sawyer Smith came in for Wilson and made a few really good plays, although it is always difficult to assess a backup quarterback coming in during the middle of a game.
While we wait for more news on Wilson’s injury, here are seven things to know from the game:
Losing Terry Wilson is Huge
Saturday’s offensive game plan was to have Terry Wilson take over the game. At halftime, he lead the team in both passing and receiving and was a close second in rushing. Through the two and a half quarters Wilson played, he had 8 rushing attempts, several of which were called, and 26 attempted passes.
Wilson was obviously going to be the centerpiece of this offense. It seems to have been built around his ability to move in the pocket and find open receivers. While the coaching staff says Sawyer Smith will operate under the same game plan, that is extremely hard to believe. Maybe Wilson will not be out of long. If he is, everything changes.
Kash is Back
Kash Daniel looked a lot more like himself on Saturday. In addition to his interception, he make tackles all over the field. However, if you go back and watch the tape you will see that he is near the ball on almost every snap. This is who he needs to be if this team is going to be competitive in the SEC.
Give Smoke the Rock
AJ Rose ran pretty well for the game, but Kavosiey Smoke was easily the most electric ball-carrier for Kentucky on Saturday. He averaged 8.4 yards per carry for the game, and that is not even including the long touchdown run he had called back in the second quarter.
We may end up seeing a Jojo Kemp/Boom Williams type of rotation where Smoke gets more action on third down. But even if we do not, I think Smoke will see increased time on the field moving forward if he continues to break loose for large gains in the running game.
Production of Receivers “Drops”
Against Toledo in week one, several receivers made huge catches for the Wildcats. And while there were a few against EMU (Ahmad Wagner is something special), there were also several catchable balls that ended up on the ground.
I think many were surprised by the performance in week one, so all we saw this week was the group coming back to reality a bit. They are not as good as we saw against Toledo, and probably will not drop as many passes regularly as we saw in week two.
Strong Rush Defense
I am not saying that Eastern Michigan is an offensive juggernaut, but holding any college football team to just 49 rushing yards is impressive. The front seven of Kentucky came to play in week two, and hopefully built some confidence before the Gators come into town on Saturday.
Whether it was AJ Rose’s fumble at the one yard line, the penalty by TJ Carter that extended EMU’s first scoring drive, or the holding penalty on Lynn Bowden’s long kick-off return the Wildcats shot themselves in the foot on more than one occasion during the game.
To contend in conference play, Kentucky has to avoid costly penalties and untimely turnovers moving forward. There were several during the game against EMU, and even one or two against Florida next week could cost them the game.
A Leader for the Secondary
The most inexperienced unit on the field for Kentucky this season is the secondary. Everyone on the field has something to prove, and fans have wondered which defensive back would step up to lead the group.
Against EMU, Jordan Griffin made a strong case to be that guy. He had an interception, a sack, and several pass break-ups to lead the secondary to a strong performance. If the others can step up and follow Griffin’s example, this unit may be okay after all.
Now, let’s vent.