IT IS OFFICIALLY FOOTBALL TIME IN THE BLUEGRASS!
And the Kentucky Wildcats started off the season just the way we all hoped as they beat down the Miami (OH) RedHawks by a final score of 37-13.
The first half started out with a nightmare scenario for the Big Blue Nation, as the RedHawks and Brett Gabbert marched down the field for an easy score.
The Cats answered right back with a score of their own, including a 45-yard first play from scrimmage, for Tayvion Robinson.
From that point on it was a slugfest, as UK pushed through two field goals to Miami’s one to take a 13-10 lead into the locker room.
Then the second half started off with a bang, as Barion Brown took it 100 yards to the house for a kickoff return touchdown.
The Cats did not look back from there as they put the pedal to the metal and crushed the RedHawks on both sides of the ball.
Now if you missed the game, here are five quick things to know from tonight’s victory:
Chris Rodriguez was missed
Coming into the week, it was expected that the Cats would miss their star running back. I don't think anyone thought they would struggle as much as they did though, when their numbers got called. Especially in the red zone.
A running game by committee this evening of Kavosiey Smoke, Ramon Jefferson, and JuTahn McClain, and La’Vell Wright, the group turned it up in the second half as you could see Rich Scangarello try to establish the run game.
With it looking like Rodriguez will be out for the Florida matchup next Saturday, tonight’s performance on the ground only gave some more hesitation to what the outcome of next weekend could be, especially with how much this offensive playbook relies on play-action.
Will Levis stays consistent
After a great first drive, the UK quarterback definitely left some to be desired. But he did continue to do enough to lead this team to a win.
He finished the night with 303 yards on 21/32 passing, while also adding three touchdowns and one interception.
There is no one on this roster that entered this season with more weight on their shoulders than Levis. With the NFL hype ramping up this summer, it is obvious the arm talent he has... now it is just piecing together the other parts as well.
Despite some errors throughout the night, without Levis the Cats very well could have been in a much closer game.
Kentucky finally has a difference maker at quarterback, unfortunately there are still some growing pains as he goes through his second offensive coordinator in his second season in Lexington.
WRs and TEs make a statement
One of the big questions entering this season was around the lack of experience from the outside skill positions. Led by Tayvion Robinson this evening, the wideouts have given some answers to those questions.
Alongside Robinson, Dane Key and Barion Brown flashed their potential that the Big Blue Nation will get to watch for several years to come.
Mark Stoops and Rich Scangarello have continually praised the tight end room this offseason, and they lived up to that hype early. With a great catch in the flat by Brendan Bates for the first score of the season, and Jordan Dingle showing a little wiggle in the open field it is clear they will all be a key part to this offense.
With a few errors and drops across the board, expect most of that to get cleared up as we head into Florida next week.
Defense continues to be a staple
Although there are some concerns on the back end, this defense looks to be the staple of this team once again.
After a rough first series, Brad White’s unit came out and put the clamps on for the remainder of the game, holding the RedHawks to just a pair of field goals after that opening-drive touchdown.
The front seven the Cats have is one of the better units in the SEC. Now, it is just shoring up the back end.
And hopefully, Kentucky will have pass-rusher Jordan Wright back soon after he was held out tonight for an undisclosed reason. He can be a game-changer in this defense.
Offensive line struggles
The Big Blue Wall has become a staple of this Kentucky program. After losing three starters last season to the NFL, there were some serious concerns about this young unit coming into tonight.
Long story short, they struggled.
With some different looks and stunts from the RedHawks defense, Kentucky was flat-out bad at protecting Will Levis tonight and getting any consistent push for the running backs.
The struggles really shouldn’t be surprising, given the fact that there are five new starters (Eli Cox is technically a returning starter but moved from guard to center), as well as Kentucky being on its third offensive line coach in three seasons.
Still, what happened tonight cannot happen again if this team is going to just have a winning record in SEC play. This league is far too physical up front for this kind of performance to result in many wins.
Zach Yenser will be looking to shore up some of the mistakes before they head on the road to The Swamp.
Time to celebrate 1-0!