Will Levis’ Kentucky Wildcats debut couldn’t have been much better, as he led UK to a 45-10 win at Kroger Field over the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks Saturday.
After throwing an interception on a pass dropped by wide receiver Josh Ali, Levis went on to finish his day 18/26 passing going for 367 yards, four touchdowns and the lone interception in just three quarters and one fourth-quarter drive before being pulled for Beau Allen with his team on top 38-7.
With four touchdown passes, the Penn State Nittany Lions transfer is the first Wildcat quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in a game since Drew Barker did so in 2016.
Levis threw several passes over 50 yards, in fact, more than Kentucky has had the past two seasons combined. He hit Ali for a 58-yard score, Wan’Dale Robinson for a 62 yard gain and Isaiah Epps for 57 yards as he threw the ball deep early and often.
Of his four touchdown passes, two went for over 30 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown to Robinson for Kentucky’s first score of the season and the 58-yard touchdown to Ali.
After the game, Levis admitted he had some pregame jitters, though you wouldn’t have known it by how well he played overall.
“I was nervous for sure. I know that I have the experience, and it’s not my first time playing a college football game. But it was the first time starting for a new program, pretty high expectations and I knew a lot of people were waiting to see how the game goes,” Levis said. “After the first play, the nerves kind just went away, but I think the nerves were a good thing. It was an indication of highs expectations, and it means that I care a lot about the team and the outcome and how it goes. Things went pretty well, and I’m glad the game went how it did.”
Despite the big day, Levis was quick to point out several things he needs to work on, namely the pass he threw behind Josh Ali that was dropped and intercepted, leading to the Warhawks’ only touchdown of the day.
“First pass, definitely not (what we wanted). There were a lot of things here and there throughout the game that we were capable of doing that we just didn’t,” Levis said. “That was one thing that I just needed a more accurate ball there so Josh could catch that ball. We will just clean that up and make those plays in bigger games for sure. I just kind of chuckled about it and turned it around for the rest of the game.”
Coming into the game, it was a bit of a mystery how Kentucky’s offense would operate under Liam Coen, who is in his first season as an offensive coordinator at the FBS level. While it was a balanced attack overall, the passing game largely featured deep shots down the field, a specialty of Levis and his rocket arm.
“I knew we could do it and I knew that if we got the look and executed correctly on those looks, we could do it,” Levis said of the deep shots. “Coach Coen put up some great calls for the defense that we were seeing, and we were able to find some openings in the defense that we could take advantage of. Just connecting on those deep balls with accurate balls and catches was huge.
“But at the same time there, were times where we didn’t push the ball down the field too well. I think we had a 3-and-out and two other drives where we left points on the board for sure, and we need to get it cleaned up. I’m looking forward to looking at the film and getting better at it.”
After years of a run-first and short pass-heavy offense, the Big Blue Nation has their quarterback that will throw it deep and do so efficiently.
Will Levis to Josh Ali for 58-yard touchdown!— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 4, 2021
Kentucky is going to be a problem for the SEC with this QBpic.twitter.com/ViKJlMRa1A
"Hope you like the show out here, #BBN. Gotta have you for next week against Missouri. It's gonna be a big one. Need your energy."— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) September 4, 2021
QB1 @will_levis #ForTheTeam | https://t.co/FprLYterV2 pic.twitter.com/iFne0n3kA6