NCAA Football ’14 is out, and it’s time for simulations… This time of the 2013 season. Kentucky begins the season ranked 82nd in the country, flanked by Boston College and Colorado State on either side. The strength of schedule is rated a solid A+ by EA Sports, facing six pre-season ranked teams, which surprisingly includes Vanderbilt at 25th.
Johnny Manziel, A.J. McCarron, Braxton Miller, Teddy Bridgewater, and Marcus Mariota are on the Heisman watchlist, and Alabama starts the season ranked No. 1 in the country.
Remember, this is just a game. Just one simulation of an entire season. This is for fun. Don’t take it too seriously.
It’s football tiiiiiiime in the Bluuuuuuugrasssss…
GAME 1: Kentucky vs. Western Kentucky
It likely doesn’t need to be said; this is a devastating loss. The Wildcats came out of the chute and were facing a double-digit deficit just about halfway into the first 15 minutes. Not exactly how you want to begin the season against a Sun Belt opponent. The Cats chipped away over the 2nd and 3rd quarters, where Max Smith connected with AJ Legree for a 68-yard touchdown. With six seconds remaining in the 3rd quarter the Cats tried for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 21 but it was no good. No more scoring in the game until the final 32 seconds when WKU played add-on to ice the game.
L 28-19 (0-1)
GAME 2: Kentucky vs. Miami University
A very winnable game turned ugly again for the Cats, allowing back-to-back scores to the Redhawks to start the game, again facing a double-digit hole before Austin MacGinnis split the uprights to get the Cats on the board late in the 1st quarter. A solid drive by the Wildcats in the 2nd quarter resulted in a 1-yard touchdown flick from Smith to tight end Anthony Kendrick to tie the game at 10 apiece. But Miami stormed back, scoring a pair of touchdowns in the 3rd on deep 20+ yard passes, then put the game out of reach in the 4th. A second loss that is just tough to swallow.
L 31-17 (0-2)
GAME 3: Kentucky vs. Louisville
A rivalry showdown begins with Kentucky scoring the first points for the first time. Surely giving the team confidence going up 7-0 on a Max Smith quarterback sneak from 5-yards out… But it was short lived either way. Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater fired back for three unanswered touchdowns across the remainder of the 1st quarter and into the 2nd with 33-yard, 15-yard, and 32-yard touchdown passes to give the Cardinals the lead 20-7 after a failed extra point attempt. Kentucky would score again in the 4th quarter on a 28-yard strike from Smith to Demarco Robinson but it was too little too late.
L 33-14 (0-3)
GAME 4: Kentucky vs. Florida
You cannot ask for a much worse start to the season for the new-look Wildcats — three games, three losses, and two games where the team was hardly competitive… Now the Cats have to face the toughest gauntlet of the entire schedule: Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama in three-straight weeks. Kentucky’s two touchdowns in this one came on an 8-yard pass from Maxwell Smith to Anthony Kendrick, and a 10-yard pass from Smith to Demarco Robinson. But Florida dominated the entire way.
L 33-17 (0-4)
GAME 5: South Carolina vs. Kentucky
Kentucky comes into week five looking for some kind of momentum. Four straight crushing losses to open Mark Stoops’ career as head man is surely not what the Big Blue Nation had in mind while ringing in the Air Raid era. But positive will soon begin to show: The Cats go on the road against an elite South Carolina team and there is a lot of promise. Max Smith connects with Jonathan George for the first score of the game, and Josh Clemons punches in another touchdown following a Gamecocks field goal to take a 14-3 lead after the 1st. Then in the 2nd after a USC touchdown, 53-yard fumble recovery and return by Ashley Lowery puts UK up 21-10 heading into the locker room. And then the wheels feel off… USC stormed back with 18 unanswered points in the 3rd and that was that.
L 35-24 (0-5)
GAME 6: Kentucky vs. Alabama
Alabama opened the scoring on the first drive of the game, when Kenyan Drake punched in a touchdown just 5:30 into the 1st quarter. To make matters worse, Max Smith went down with a knee injury on the opening drive and forced Patrick Towles under center. Kentucky matched the Bama score on a 59-yard touchdown bomb from Towles to Rashad Cunningham; the Air Raid showing some life. But Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron proved to be too much, as he helped the Crimson Tide pile up 42 points on the Cats. The other two scores for Kentucky came on a Towles-to-Daryl Collins connection for a 14-yard score, and the final UK touchdown in the 4th was a short 10-yarder from Towles to Anthony Kendrick.
L 42-21 (0-6)
GAME 7: Mississippi State vs. Kentucky
The knee injury to Max Smith isn’t season-ending, but he will miss the next three week recovering. Kentucky heads to Starkville still seeking its first win facing a team looking to make noise in the SEC. Kentucky gets on the board late in the 1st quarter on a 10-yard strike from Patrick Towles to Josh Clemons. MSU would answer at the start of the 2nd quarter on a 54-yard pass by Tyler Russell. The Cats put up three more thanks to the leg of Austin MacGinnis, but the Bulldogs broke down the door with three unanswered scores to end the first half, taking a 24-10 lead into the locker room. A scoreless 3rd and a trade-off of TD’s in the 4th left the Wildcats on the losing end once more.
L 31-17 (0-7)
GAME 8: Kentucky vs. Alabama State
Because NCAA Football ’14 does not include FCS teams in the game, technically UK was playing a generic D-II team called “FCS Southeast” that simulates playing Alabama State. So while the results aren’t accurate to real life, the end result likely is… That is a Kentucky victory. The Hornets put numbers up first with a 35-yard field goal, but Austin MacGinnis matched it with 5:00 remaining in the 1st. Jonathan George added a rushing touchdown in the final minute of the 1st to put the Cats on top 10-3. Anthony Kendrick caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Towles in the 2nd quarter, and Towles scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown run in the 4th to cap off the Wildcats first win of the season.
W 33-17 (1-7)
GAME 9: Kentucky vs. Missouri
The recent trend in the last handful of games has been Kentucky gets on the board then waits for the explosion of offense from the opposition… Or maybe it’s a defensive collapse. Either way the Wildcats’ fortune turns around and the team ends up on the other end. Going down 10-0 after the 1st quarter, then 13-0 at the start of the 2nd quarter thanks to a second field goal from Andrew Baggett, The Wildcats reeled off back-to-back touchdowns across halftime; a 4-yard pass and a 65-yard pass, both to Daryl Collins. Missouri answered mid-3rd quarter, but Patrick Towles came right back with two more touchdown strikes, first a 45-yarder to Demarco Robinson, then a 7-yarder to Rashad Cunningham. Cats win again.
W 34-29 (2-7)
GAME 10: Vanderbilt vs. Kentucky
Can the Cats make it three in a row? Vanderbilt can surely make that happen. All-in-all, it was a pretty boring game. Max Smith returned to the starting lineup and he helped the Cats score three-straight touchdowns following the first score of the game by Vanderbilt. Smith connected with Demarco Robinson in the 1st on an 8-yard pass, then Anthony Kendrick in the 2nd on a 13-yard pass, and Robinson once more in the 4th on a 9-yard pass. That is three straight wins for Kentucky heading into a top-25 game on the road Between the Hedges.
W 21-7 (3-7)
GAME 11: Georgia vs. Kentucky
The Bulldogs traditionally are a team Kentucky plays well against, at home or on the road that that was no different here as a field goal was the difference maker. The Wildcats scored first on a Max Smith sneak from 4-yards out near the end of the 1st quarter. Defense locked it down and the only points Georgia put on the board in the first half was a 38-yard field goal off the off the foot of Marshall Morgan. Aaron Murray and the Bulldogs opened up the second half with a touchdown drive, capped off by a 25-yard scamper by running back Todd Gurley. The go-ahead touchdown pass at the start of the 4th quarter was a 5-yard pass from Patrick Towles to Demarco Robinson, but Georgia closed it out, scoring the game winner with 6:15 to go.
L 17-14 (3-8)
GAME 12: Kentucky vs. Tennessee
The season is all but over for both teams as the Volunteers visit Lexington for their final game with just four wins. Regardless, this is a bitter rivalry, and the last time the Vols played in Commonwealth Stadium they left with a loss… A pair of field goals is all the damage Kentucky would do in the first half, and Tennessee added a touchdown to make it a 7-6 hole for the Cats. No scoring in the 3rd prompted an outburst of points in the final quarter, started by UT with a touchdown 2:30 into the quarter. Kentucky would answer back with a 54-yard returned interception by Ashley Lowery and then a 17-yard touchdown catch by Josh Clemons from Jalen Whitlow. After both scores the offense tried for the two-point conversion, first in an effort to tie the game at 14, then to make it a 6-point game. But it was all for naught as Tennessee scored the game winning touchdown with 1:12 remaining to seal the deal.
L 21-18 (3-9)
That all she wrote. A 3-9 season is disappointing when you expect to win games against Western Kentucky and even Miami, but the Cats showed a lot of promise against South Carolina and especially on the road at Georgia.
Max Smith finished the year 117-for-239 and 1,589 yard passing with 11 touchdowns while missing more than three games with a knee injury. Patrick Towles contributed 1,247 yards and an additional 11 touchdowns. Jonathan George was the leading rusher with 431 yards on 102 attempts while Josh Clemons finished with 274 yards on the ground on 63 attempts. Demarco Robinson was a stud as the lead receiver, amassing 1,165 yards and six touchdowns. He finished the season ranked No. 9 in the nation among receiving leaders.
On defense, Miles Simpson lead the team with 79 tackles. Close behind was Za’Darius Smith with 69, and Avery Williamson with 67. Bud Dupree collected just 57 tackles, but led the team with 5.5 sacks. Mister Cobble, Glenn Faulkner, Cody Quinn, and Donte Rumph round out the top team tacklers.
In total, the Kentucky offense piled up 4,060 yards — 2,918 of it through the air, or about 72 percent. That is the Air Raid offense for you. In the end, Kentucky averaged 20.7 points per game, an improvement over last season’s 17.9 points per game. Furthermore, the Cats never blanked the scoreboard, scoring at least two touchdowns in every game, something UK failed to do in four games in 2012.
I remind you again to not take this too seriously. This is just for fun. It is a game. I will be back next week with a 10-game simulation, less detail and more averages.