The curtain was finally lifted on the Kentucky Wildcats’ new-look offense Saturday at Kroger Field, as the Wildcats used a balance attack to drill the University of Louisiana-Monroe 45-10 in the season opener for both teams.
The big secret proved to be Kentucky’s comfort with the play-action pass as new quarterback Will Levis was 18-of-26 for 367 yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first to throw for over 300 yards since Stephen Johnson in 2016.
Kentucky finished with 560 yards of total offense and was also dominate on the defensive end, holding a team under 100 yards in offense for the first time in 25 years.
As expected, Wan’Dale Robinson and Josh Ali were the top two targets in the passing game with each surpassing the 100-yard mark. Robinson caught two touchdowns, including a 33-yard strike and finished with 125 yards. Ali caught a 58-yard bomb to get Kentucky on the board early in the first quarter and finished with a team-high 136 yards. Levis also hit tight end Brenden Bates for his first career touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Once again, the running game was outstanding as Chris Rodriguez rushed for 125 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
Of course, Levis is the obvious choice for Game MVP, as his debut matched his brand as a gunslinger ready to lead the Wildcats to new heights in the Liam Coen Era.
However, it was Brad White’s defense that dominated the action holding ULM to just 10 yards rushing on 40 attempts and finished with six sacks. The Wildcats had just 16 sacks all of last season.
Making the pass rush a priority in 2021, Josh Paschal, Yusuf Corker, DeAndre Square and Jordan Wright all recorded sacks, while J.J. Weaver, returning to action after tearing his ACL vs. Florida last season, finished with two sacks and appears to be back at full strength. The Wildcats ranked 113th in sacks per game last season at 1.36 per game.
Paschal led the team with seven tackles, including two for a loss. Square added six. In total, the Wildcats had 13 tackles for a loss and will need to keep that intensity next week to begin conference play.
Kentucky, 1-0, opens SEC play next week against Missouri at 7:30 p.m. ET at Kroger Field.
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