It’s hard to believe, but this team is 2-0. They haven’t been pretty by any means, but the wins over Western Kentucky and Central Michigan have been just that: WINS. I don’t know where you can place the blame on our slow, slow starts. I don’t want to put it on the coaches, but there’s no reason that this team should always come out of the gates looking like a deer in the headlights. We have a huge talent advantage over both the Hilltoppers and the Chippewas and there’s no reason we shouldn’t do what we’ve done in the second half, throughout the entire game. That’s an argument for another day, though. For now, let’s talk about this win…
– The wide receivers have been terrible, especially Matt Roark who, I truly believe, seems to lack the ability to catch at all, but today Morgan Newton proved that part of the blame has to fall on him. For every Roark touchdown drop, Newton had a gross overthrow of a wide open La’Rod King in the end zone. Newton took some sacks that he shouldn’t have taken and forced passes when he should have thrown the ball away. However, like the WKU game, Newton seemed to get into a rhythm in the second half when he started finding success with the run and once he hit a wide open La’Rod to tie the game up at 13 with four minutes left in the third quarter. It’s key that Morgan maintain that high confidence through the first and second half, otherwise Max Smith may get a shot at quarterbacking.
– Another disheartening development in the passing game was Newton’s single minded dependence on King. He stared King down on most passing patterns and tried to force the ball when he shouldn’t have. Hopefully, Newton can develop a higher level of trust with his 0ther receivers, because King can’t be the only option all year.
– On the positive side of things offensively, both Raymond Sanders, Josh Clemons and Morgan Newton ran the ball effectively in the second half. It was triggered by Clemons’ 87 yard touchdown run, but all three runners became more effective as the game progressed. Sanders and Newton finished with 62 yards on eight carries and 43 yards on 13 carries, respectively. Clemons racked up 126 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown. His 100+ yard game was the first for a freshman since Chad Scott in 2000 and his 87 yard run was the fourth longest in UK history and the longest by a freshman.
– Two offensive line starters, Billy Joe Murphy and Matt Smith, we sidelined with injuries, but the offensive line held up pretty well. The freshman Darrian Miller from Bryan Station got the start at right tackle. He’s got great size and this experience will be valuable as he works to become an SEC-caliber lineman.
– Defensively, we couldn’t stop a third and long to save our lives. Central Michigan racked up 15 first downs in the first half alone. Luckily, we were able to buckle down and restrict their ridiculously potent assault and limit them to only six first downs in the second half.
– Danny Trevathan and Randall Burden interceptions toward the end of the first and second half, respectively were great for restricting the tide of Chippewa momentum. We couldn’t convert offensively after the Trevathan play, but it provided the team enough spark to keep competing. Big players make big plays.
– In addition to that pick, Trevathan finished with 13 tackles, four for loss and a pass break up. Winston Guy also had 13 tackles despite being slightly hindered by his hamstring toward the end of the game.
– The Central Michigan passing attack saw quarterback, Ryan Radcliff, rack up 160 yards in the first half, mainly against Anthony Mosley. Mosley has a lot of work to do before the start of the SEC slate, because if he plays like that, he’s going to be burnt all season long.
– Collins Ukwu played very well today and seemed to live in the Central Michigan backfield. UK needs that consistent pressure up front to compete against SEC teams. Ukwu will be counted on to provide it.
– Once again, the kicking portion of our special teams was fantastic. McIntosh hit a 41 and 45 yard field goal. He did miss a 29 yarder, but I think that was more fluke than anything. He won’t miss many of those. Tydlacka continued to make his push for team MVP with three great punts averaging about 50 yards per kick. Joe Mansour tallied three touch backs on six kick offs and even sent one of them out of the end zone.
– The return portion of our special teams wasn’t as impressive. A DeMarco Robinson dropped kick off that ended up going for no return and a Raymond Sanders return fumble to start the second half could have been killer. This is a huge area that we miss Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. We just don’t have anyone who can make that big impact in the return game. I’m all for lining Danny up back there. The guy makes plays.
– It was a painfully slow and emotionally draining start, but a win is a win. This team better get their heads on straight for Louisville next week. I can guarantee that there will be a few more people on hand for that one.