The Kentucky football is about to jump into the deep end of the pool, with a four-game stretch against some elite-level opponents. And that’s why it was so important that the Wildcats got the kind of feel-good win they needed against Miami. The wide gap in team speed that UK enjoyed in this matchup will evaporate during this upcoming stretch but we did see the Cats are who we thought they were on offense–a team with some big-play guys not seen around these parts since Cobb and Locke left town. That should give these players confidence that they at least have some ammunition for the kinds of battles they’re about to face.
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It was the 88-yard touchdown pass to Javess Blue from Maxwell Smith (note: it’s the longest TD pass ever at Commonwealth Stadium but Jared Lorenzen did have an 89-yard non-TD completion to Derek Smith in 2000). Miami had just scored a special teams TD to pull to within 10 points in a game the Cats were dominating. On the next series, facing second-and-25 and its own 12-yard line, UK was looking at the prospect of punting the ball back to Miami in good field position–until Smith found a wide open Blue racing all by himself in the middle. Kudos to the coaching staff for going bold in that situation–it was worth a shot and it paid off.
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KEY CAT STATS
–Kentucky averaged 10.3 yards per play on first down in the first half against Miami. In Neal Brown’s system, the goal is at least four yards on first down 48 percent of the time. Against WKU, the Cats were an inefficient 34 percent of goal on first down for the game.. Against Miami, UK made four-or-more on first down on its first 16 plays.
–675 total yards represents the third-highest total in UK history. The school record is 801 against Louisville in 1998 and when I mentioned this to Neal Brown, he recalled catching “a couple of passes in that game.”
–Miami was one for 16 on third-down plays against Kentucky. Yes, the Redhawks were outmanned but you figure they’d convert more than one against anybody. The assignment discipline that Kentucky lacked against WKU was there in this game, which is crucial when facing an option attack.
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“WILDCAT PAW” HELMET STICKERS
–whoever Stoops assigns to watch the opponent in pregame warmups. That person picked up something that led Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot to suspect Miami would run a different type of option scheme. In the 10 or so minutes they had to meet with the defense, Stoops and Eliot relied on schemes they had used against a similar attack by Georgia Tech last season and gave the adjustments to their players, who executed them almost flawlessly. Sidebar note: a few years back, Charleston Southern did the same thing, using a player at quarterback who had been playing wide receiver and it threw the UK defense a curve for about a quarter.
–Javess Blue. I don’t have access to this stat but I’m guessing no UK wideout has ever topped 100 yards in receiving by his second game (six catches for 114 yards v. Miami).
–Jalen Whitlow, for the way he responded to losing his starting job. Whitlow was nearly perfect through the air (10 of 12 for 103 yards) and averaged 8.5 yards-per-attempt, which represents a single-game personal best. This was the poised, accurate passer that we saw in the Blue-White game and during fall scrimmages–now, he must show he can be that guy against big-time defenses, and he’s about to get multiple chances to show that he can.
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–photo courtesy Victoria Graff