(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Enough already. We know the defense stunk. Huge holes in the box, lack of pressure from the 3-4 blitz and wide-open receivers in the secondary made the Louisville offense look NFL caliber on Sunday, without even trying. It’s one game and there is plenty of time for Rick Minter to shake things up and get the squad better prepared for the SEC gauntlet.
How about that Kentucky offense? The unit which ranked nearly dead-last nationally in many major offensive categories last season showed a lot of promise. Max Smith stood composed in the pocket, the offensive line was strong up front and gave CoShik Williams running room, and the receiving corps was a highlight of an offensive attack that looks poised to hang some points. Take away the mental mistakes — like two fumbles in the red zone and a missed field goal that left a potential 17 points on the field — and that’s really something to be proud of.
The 5.3 yards per play average against Louisville is a 1.2 yard improvement over last season’s average. Even more importantly, the offense kept the chains moving, picking up 24 first downs; something that was a struggle last season, when the team averaged just 14 per game. A lot of credit for the success of the offense has to go to the no-huddle hurry up. Plenty of times the Cats caught Louisville on their heels and reeled off a solid gain before the defense could react to the formation.
As for the play calling, Joker Phillips stayed true to his word: passing more and running less. Despite having a solid platoon of tailbacks, Joker wants to throw the ball more this season. His offense did just that, with plenty of success against Louisville. Smith was able to find 11 different receivers on Sunday, connecting with nine of them multiple times. This game plan of spreading it out in the air opened up the ground for Williams, even in his limited use, to rush for over six-yards per carry individually.
If it still isn’t clear: Kentucky’s game against Louisville on Sunday would have been the best offensive game against a Division I opponent on last season’s entire schedule. And the team did it this year in the first game of the season against a ranked rival.
Of course the averages will wax and wane through the SEC schedule. But make no mistake; the offense is much improved from the product that was on the field in 2011. Now if we can just get a complete product on both sides of the ball we might have something.