When you open the season with a 30-point victory, covering the spread, you would anticipate the winning team being happy. That was not the case for the Kentucky Wildcats after beating Ball State 44-14.
“I don’t think I’ve ever won a game by that score and been so disappointed with some of our play,” Stoops said. That sentiment was shared by the rest of the staff and the players following the game. While always appreciative of the win, they made sure to note that is far from their best football.
Stoops also added that a team improves the most in-season between week one and week two, citing that the Wildcats“need to improve this week.
“We need to improve this week. We need to coach harder in more detail. We need to execute better in critical moments,” said Stoops.
What team stands in their way? That Eastern Kentucky Colonels. Let’s take a look at the matchup.
Focus on the Details and Execute
After a long talking season, it was clear players were eager to get on the field and play against a real opponent. Combine that with the game being several player’s first at Kentucky, especially on offense. This resulted in some uncharacteristic football at times from the Wildcats. That lack of attention to detail was the biggest complaint of the Kentucky staff.
“I tried like heck to constantly preach that in Game 1, because in Game 1, they have been training for so long and putting in all that hard work. They want everything to happen immediately. Instead of doing their job and doing it fundamentally sound, doing all of the things they’ve been coached to do,” said Stoops.
The theme of practice this week has been “details, details, details” as Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen put it on Wednesday. Through practice this week, Stoops and Coen have been “impressed” and seem optimistic about how this team will respond come Saturday.
That starts with playing sound and clean football.
See More of the Offense
Looking at the Wildcats’ stats from their season opener, the offense racked up 357 total yards and 30 offensive points on just 51 plays, averaging out to 7 yards per play. In comparison, only one team in the FBS averaged more than 7 yards per play last season, the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs.
However, if you used the eye test, it would likely tell a different story. Your eyes would say the Kentucky offense did not do that great, nor that bad, it was solid. That would be true.
“I thought there was some really good things and some not-so-good things. It was just kind of the theme of the day,” Coen said of the game after practice on Tuesday. Getting a chance to look at the tape, Coen says the offense is “hungry” after seeing their missed opportunities.
With a renewed hunger and hopefully more plays, the offense will look to provide a more consistent showing against Eastern Kentucky.
Honoring a Legend and UK Connections
While preparing for this weekend’s contest, the Eastern Kentucky football family received the unfortunate news that legendary EKU Football coach Roy Kidd has been moved into hospice care. Serving as EKU’s head coach for more than three decades, Kidd led the team to more than 300 victories, 16 Ohio Valley Conference titles, and two national championships. He remains the sixth all-time winningest coach in NCAA history.
On a more positive note, Saturday’s contest will return two former Wildcats, CJ Conrad and Maxwell Smith, but this time they will be on the EKU sideline, where they both serve as assistant coaches.
“We’re all going to be trying to beat each other’s brains in on Saturday,” Stoops said. “After that, heck, they know where my house is and where my basement bar is. The door’s always open for those guys.”
Kentucky Wildcats (1-0) vs. Eastern Kentucky Colonels (0-1)
Time/Date: 3:00 pm ET on Saturday, September 9th, 2023
Location: Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky.
TV Channel: This will be an online-only broadcast on SEC Network+ and ESPN+ (go here for more info)
Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
Predictions: Kentucky runs away with this one and scores a 48-13 win, improving to 2-0 heading into next week’s clash with Akron.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.