Kentucky has 99 problems and a running back ain’t one. No need to burst the Air Raid bubble just yet, but it’d be silly to keep the ball out of the running backs’ hands this fall. Every single running back proved that they belong on the field. Jojo Kemp was the human highlight reel, busting two homerun plays (one for a 48-yard touchdown) as he tiptoed down the sideline. Braylon Heard proved the coaches correct: he’s really, REALLY fast, using his shiftiness to elude tacklers inside the box. Josh Clemons hadn’t seen the field in over two years, but his 38-yard run looked like the Josh Clemons we knew before the ACL and Achilles’ tear. It was a mystery whether or not early enrollee Mikel Horton would be able to hold his own against the big boys of the SEC, but Horton has no fear, punishing tacklers that try to take him down. Even though he’s a power back, he still managed to reel in multiple catches, and do a little something something with it after the catch. For now, I have to give the slight edge to Mojo Jojo, but who do you take?
Pat Towles looked the part at starting QB. We will all judge the QBs off today’s performance, but it’s tough to judge the guys when they aren’t running with the Blue squad. Drew Barker and Reese Phillips had their fair share of great throws, but as Stoops has said all year, “they’ve had some good plays and they’ve had some bad ones.” Reese was nearly picked off a few times, and Drew had Ryan Timmons with nothing but green grass in front of him before a bad underthrow. Towles had a couple of off plays, mostly because he was under pressure (Towles had back-to-back series end on sacks).
Towles set himself apart in the final 53 seconds of the first half. Starting with the ball on his own 18, Towles’ 2-minute drill was a thing of beauty. He was a sniper finding open receivers down the sideline and didn’t take one negative play before finishing the half with a 40-yard field goal. Finishing the game ____________, it’s Towles’ spot for the taking.
Uptempo is the name of the game. Neal Brown has gotten back to his uptempo roots. I’m a big fan despite my fingers’ inability to keep up with the pace of the game. It seemed to work pretty well, especially after big plays. The quick snap often caught the defense off guard, despite having spent the entire Spring preparing for it. Even the freshman, Drew Barker, looked comfortable in the fast-paced offense. If they can consistently catch passes, this year’s uptempo pace will be the fastest thing we’ve seen on this field in a long time.
Za’Darius Smith and the rest of the defensive line are scary good. It’s a good thing the QBs couldn’t get sacked today. The defensive line was on a mission to raise hell, ESPECIALLY Za’Darius Smith. On Z’s first play, he knocked down a screen pass. On the second, he got a sack. A couple drives later he decided batting down the pass wasn’t good enough, stealing Pat Towles’ pass out of mid-air.
Z wasn’t the only one in on the action. The 3-4 alignment is scary good for the versatile defensive line. Regie Meant would be a noseguard for most teams, but he’s athletic enough to make tackles on the outside, allowing him to play defensive end. That gives Jason Hatcher room to roam around and rush the passer: terrible news for opposing OLines and QBs. By season’s end, we are going to see some plays by the defensive line that you’ve never seen before.
It’s hard to describe how awesome the Cat Walk was. There’s no way I can write in words how awesome the Cat Walk was today. All of the depressing thoughts of the past are completely overwhelmed by the joy and excitement from fans that cheered on the team as they entered Commonwealth Stadium. It got so crazy that showing up 15 minutes early still wasn’t enough to get to the front of the line. Coach Cal says it all of the time, and it applies to the Big Blue football fans too, “You guys are crazy.”