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Cats win in the New CWS, but leave lots of room for improvement

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Well, that’s not what we had in mind for Kentucky’s first football game in the 2015 season and its first in the new Commonwealth Stadium. With so much excitement brewing around the program, so many people projecting this is the year UK finally breaks through; the Cats came out and reminded us all just how painful it can be to go through Saturdays as a UK football fan.

Yes, it was a win. Yes, the record says 1-0. But needing a last-minute touchdown to beat a Sun Belt team on such a special night is a little concerning.

This kid knows what I’m talking about:

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 11.16.21 PM

Things were going so well in the first half, then the wheels fell completely off as Louisiana-Lafayette scored 23 unanswered points in a flash, knotting things up late in the game. Luckily, the Cats buckled down and prevailed in the end, 40-33. I can’t even imagine the devastation had the Ragin’ Cajuns stolen one in Commonwealth.

Let’s talk about it a little bit before bedtime…


Boom, man.

It’s easy to look back at the offense’s second half collapse or Lafayette running wild on the defense during the comeback. But let’s not forget the play that opened things up: Boom Williams’ 75-yard rush on the first snap. What a way to break in the new stadium.

Give it to us one time, Tom Leach:

A touchdown on the first play from scrimmage? You can’t script that.

Boom finished with 135 yards on 10 carries and that electrifying score. He’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.

Shannon Dawson isn’t afraid to air it out.

We quickly learned UK’s new offensive coordinator has no problem calling for the deep ball. We saw Patrick Towles attempt a handful of bombs early in the game. In fact, it seemed UK was only running the ball or throwing vertical there for a little while. I’m a fan of the aggression, but QB play will have to improve if that’s the route they’re going.

Speaking of QB play…

Patrick Towles didn’t win anyone over tonight.

Several fans were calling for Drew Barker in the second half when Towles appeared to be completely out of it. Accuracy was Towles’ biggest problem after we heard all summer he had really improved in that area. Sadly, that did not show tonight and the “clear-cut favorite” for the starting job in camp will need a much better showing against South Carolina — or the Barker whispers will only grow louder.

16-of-34 isn’t going to cut it.

The defense must get better.

And with so much youth and a couple key players out tonight, it will. But it was pretty bad in Game 1, outside of a couple solid performers. JD Harmon and Josh Forrest come to mind when looking back at individuals. Melvin Lewis, too. Outside of those three guys, everyone could’ve done a little more to help out, the D-line especially.

Need to get Flannigan healthy and Hatcher back from suspension ASAP.

I’m a big fan of Juice.

That’s Garrett Johnson, in case you didn’t know. He was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 85 yards and one touchdown. We’re going to hear his name called A LOT this season.

247 yards rushing for Lafayette.

Elijah McGuire, the guy we heard so much about heading into this one, was outshined by his backup, Torrey Pierce. Pierce rushed for 110 yards with two touchdowns and 11 yards per carry. McGuire wasn’t too far behind, racking up 87 rushing yards with 27 carries.

There’s no reason why a Sun Belt team should run for almost 250 on an SEC defense. Unacceptable.

Mikel Horton needs more touches.

While Boom is flashy and capable of breaking one at any moment, Horton may be the back Kentucky needs to survive the conference. As Stoops noted in his postgame comments, Horton showed a great desire to find the end zone on his game-winning carry late in the game.

The sophomore looks like a completely different player from one year ago and he’s going to be a problem for anyone trying to pull him down. Get him the rock.

Shout-out to Charles Walker for the big third down reception.

The sophomore walk-on, who played the role of Elijah McGuire on the scout team all week, made a big reception and fought for a couple extra yards on UK’s final drive. He fell inches short of the first down, but his effort set up Towles’ QB sneak on fourth down to keep the game-winning drive alive.

The pregame atmosphere was incredible. 

Seriously. The entire scene was madness, from the Cat Walk (biggest one I’ve witnessed) to the enormous crowd for the Sundy Best concert and everywhere else around the stadium. Awesome showing from the fans and I can’t wait to see what they bring for the Florida game. So much excitement. It’s a shame they weren’t rewarded with a little bit better of a performance on the field, but still a fun day nonetheless.

Kentucky is undefeated in the New CWS.

And in the end, that’s all that matters.

Go Cats, everybody.

Article written by Drew Franklin

I can recite every line from Forrest Gump, blindfolded. Follow me on Twitter: @DrewFranklinKSR

56 Comments for Cats win in the New CWS, but leave lots of room for improvement

  1. Darrel Thomas
    12:25 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    When does a win feel like a loss? Remember how you felt when this game ended?

  2. Jeremy
    12:36 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    This game took the wind out of my sails. I feel more dejected then anything, and I think stoops is wrong to feel good about this game. Its 3 years bud, comments like those are going to get the fans questioning if your the right coach for this job. I think Barker needs a look next time towls struggles like that, just to see what he can do. how many over thrown passes or short passes did you see tonight. Too many.

    It’s just the first week. You usually see the most improvement first games of the season so hope this is a wake up call and they bring their A game for a whole game next week in Columbia.

    • Craig Sager's Suits
      12:48 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      I’ve been questioning him since day 1 and been vilified for it. Don’t say nothing bout the coach bro, he can do no wrong! -rolls eyes-

      Seriously, I agree with you on your first paragraph.

      My bet I made against someone for 8 games regular season is looking great for me. It’s a shame too because I wanted to be wrong.

    • Old Coach John
      12:52 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Excellent comment Jeremy. I also question why Barker was not put into the game. Stoops said earlier in the week that Barker was going to get playing time tonight and Towles gave Stoops at least a half dozen reasons to put Barker in. Something HAD to be done about the defense this year, and obviously nothing was. Why is DJ ELIOT still here? Is Stoops the problem and not Eliot??? This defense is no different or any better than last year and this team at this point looks no different than last year and I am betting the final results will be no different unless they learn how to play defense between now and next weekend.

    • "ThisDefense"
      1:31 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      while lacking a bit of fire was also on the field 37 minutes on what was decidedly not a cool evening. it was also playing plenty of true freshman and lacking a couple of big names due to injury and suspension.

    • Old Coach John
      2:22 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      …and excuses only satisfy the person that is making them.

    • Excuses?
      1:55 pm September 6, 2015 Permalink

      We won the game. I’m not sure you understand how excuses work.

  3. Mark McKenney
    12:38 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    1-2 will be the record after first three games.

    • SCCat
      8:00 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      3-0. Keep the faith

  4. Wildcat
    12:45 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Charles walker is not on the scout team. That is another walker. Charles is a friend of mine currently behind Timmons. Maybe not anymore after tonight though. The kid dominates in practice and finally got his moment

  5. catdaddyd
    1:03 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Whooo Hoooo we just snapped a 6 game losing streak.

    • CigarMan
      2:23 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Hey! There is something positive that came out of this win after all.

  6. TXCat
    1:12 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I thought the TE was to be a big part of the offense? Unless I’m mistaken, CJ Conrad wasn’t in for one snap.

    • SCCat
      8:38 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Surprised me too but I do expect to see the TE a little more next week – really believe if we sharpen up the passing connections and we commit to running a little more to move the chains, we’ll win next week.

    • rockatao
      10:45 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      i think conrad lined up as a blocking back a couple of times on the last drive

  7. Anonymous Big Picture Student
    1:14 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I wish everyone could just relax a little bit. UK would’ve lost to ULL the past two seasons and I say that with the utmost confidence. Stoops has brought the talent level at UK way higher than my 1st year at UK but that talent is still YOUNG talent at most if not every position. Now, as any person who watches any sport would know there is a couple common trends amongst young teams:
    1. They can blow big leads in a heart beat no matter how talented they are. Don’t believe me? Go back and watch some of the earlier season games in basketball over the past couple years. We don’t always win without any adversity.
    2. They play to the level of their opponent. UK didn’t in the first half. Flipped the script in the second half. I bet most of those younger players thought we are blowing them out so why do I need to be going at 100%? Given age an experience these trends will likely dissipate.
    A couple things I learned tonight is simply there is improvement still to be made but UK has the talent to go out there and smash a quality opponent in the mouth via explosive plays. I was reminded of our youth in the second half (see 1-2). UK needs to get their older linebackers back to stop run game. Every other position seems in decent to good shape.
    Don’t put too much stock in how they performed tonight. They are young, lots of pressure to perform in a brand new stadium, and my god it’s the first game. Jitters! Next week we’ll get a better look at where we are. Til then, everyone relax and enjoy the victory (y’all do remember we lost our previous 6 right?).

    • WeareBBN
      1:26 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      I can agree with some of this but the defense IS a major concern. Even when they were in position to make plays they missed alot of tackles. And QB play is also a major issue, he was not good as even several completions were not good throws. These 2 issues will not cut it in the SEC. As I said below I agree we are way more talented and young, Stoops and staff have done a great job there. Only gripe with coaching is not seeing adjustments made like we see from other teams, we lose to any SEC team except Vandy tonight the way we played. I understand it was the 1st game but it was also the first game, and on the road, for our opponent. We were dominated in the stat sheet by a team with lots less talent. We are supposed to run 80 plays a game, hard to do that going 3 and out and not being able to stop the other team.

    • Dangers
      1:38 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      This may sound completely off the wall, but did anyone else feel like the defensive woes in the run game were due to the offensive inconsistency? It seemed like the offense was never on the field very long. It was either 3-and-outs (or otherwise short drives) or a lot of big plays. Short offensive drives= the defense being on the field more+ opponents with a legit run game= our defense gets gassed. And then by that point, they just ran it all over our defense, hence the big comeback. I think that when the offense hits their rhythm, our defense will be significantly better by proxy.

    • CATandMONKEY
      7:53 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Dangers, not completely off the wall. Clock management and controlling time of possession is part of the game. Both are areas that we did not master in yesterday’s contest. However, even when gassed you have to still make the plays. We should improve on all fronts but when facing a team like Georgia that will throw numerous 5* running backs our way, an effort akin to yesterday’s will leave us hurting, badly.

      Technique and being in the right position are critical for defense but when those breakdown we still need to find a way to adjust and make the tackles.

  8. WeareBBN
    1:16 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Only 2 good things were…1. a win and 2. I liked that we throw deep alot more. Our D is still horrible and can’t tackle, no more excuses it has to be the coaching so either Stoops or DJ need to be accountable. Our Oline did not show all that well either allowing pressure often vs this team does not look good for the SEC games. Now ULL is not the normal cupcake opening game, they are not a bad team but they dominated us in stats. Ran way more plays, more yardage, everything was in their favor except for turnovers and that is my concern. Luckily South Carolina is not that good so we don’t have to be great to get that win. Hard to say what happened here, was it running out of energy after the big 1st half and everything lading to this new era, I hope so. ULL made adjustments and we did not so is it coaching. Really don’t think Patrick is an SEC QB, did not think so before this game and think even less now. No doubt we are much more talented and I will say we are still young so some youthful mistakes are expected. But to get dominated in stats and need some late penalties to beat ULL is not a great start to an expected good season.

    • cig107
      1:29 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      You need to watch the game again then. The tackling was MUCH improved in the first half, but went back to frequent arm tackles when tired in the second. And the O-line protected Towles well for the majority of the game, especially in the last three quarters.

      Can’t believe so many are doubting Stoops after the first damn game. You’ll never be happy. Talent level is as good as we’ve had here. Defense was TERRIBLE vs the run last year, it’s not going to improve as much as you want it to overnight, especially with two important linebackers missing. In the first half they contained well, allowed no big runs and everyone made tackles so much better than last year. When they got tired, it went down hill fast, but that’s what happens when you have young guys in important spots and when you’re just not a good unit yet. Chill a bit.

      Biggest worry is Patrick Towles. The defense will make some stops for us if we can score the ball, but can’t send them out there for series after series so quickly.

    • Dangers
      1:59 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      I agree, the defense wasn’t THAT bad. They got gassed in the end because they were on the field almost constantly late in the game. As I said above, I think that if the offense starts putting together some longer drives, the defense will keep some in the tank and do better. It seemed like our offense was all or nothing. Either a 3 and out or a big play or two.

    • WeareBBN
      11:29 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Agree the offense did not help but if the defense makes some stops they are not on the field so much so it goes both ways. The D was horrible, they gave up drives in the 1st half as well but got away with it because of miscues by ULL. Remember ULL was driving for a TD before the fumble.

  9. 1Won1Lost
    1:48 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Ain’t it grand? Grand when Kentucky fans get angry over a win! My, my, my now we know why our kids have such short attention spans. Well to be fair, parenting AND technology. Here’s what I know: Kentucky played an overmatched MAC team to a 7 point win. Meanwhile, Louisville had a great second half to lose by just 7 to the 6th ranked team in the country. Interestingly at the end of the day one team is 1-0 and the other 0-1. If I have to choose one of the two scenarios I’m taking the former all day long.

    • Correction
      2:03 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Sun Belt team.

    • cig107
      3:20 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      True. Think a lot of people just couldn’t stand seeing them wear the D down and get run on, coming back from 23 down. I couldn’t either…but UK won, and we saw good things from the backs and receivers. All 3 backs had big runs, but could’ve been more consistent especially in the 3rd quarter. Mikel Horton really impressed me, transformed his body for sure.

      More consistent running would help the passing game as well, get more first downs instead of 3rd and 7’s, 9’s.

  10. Craig Sager's Suits
    4:43 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Defense getting gassed because they’re on the field a lot? Sounds like a conditioning and coaching problem to me. Coaching as far as having a QB play like he did in the second half of the schedule last year with over and under throwing, a lot. Towles, remove head from sphincter then pass! I think with Boom Williams doing his thing he should get 20-25 touches instead of 10 and we should run the old Pittsburgh Steelers run first offense. Air raid is clearly not working as well as we had hoped.

    I understand it’s the first game of the year, but, with a back like Boom, I wouldn’t mind seeing that and seeing what he could do.

    • WeareBBN
      11:31 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Air raid is dependent on completions so I agree, with Patrick at QB we should run much more. Sad thing is we have a tremendous group of WR, lots of talent there.

  11. BigBlueTrue
    7:19 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I agree with most of the comments. It would have been a DISASTER and a MAJOR setback had UK lost this opening game in a newly renovated stadium before a sold out crowd against a Sun Belt Conference foe. I guarantee you that Stoops pooped his shorts a time or two during that second half. My biggest concern is our 4th year in the program QB. I am glad Patrick led the game winning drive but it was his poor play in the entire second half that put us in the position to almost lose what should have been an easy victory. What would it have hurt to put Barker in for a couple of series when it was obvious to EVERYONE in the stadium except apparently the coaching staff that Patrick was struggling? We won only because it was ULL and not a SEC team not named Vandy. I can look past a very inexperienced and tired defense but can’t look past a junior QB who seems very one dimensional and bland at times. If Patrick plays the same way at USC, it is going to be a very long evening. I guarantee you that Spurrier would have ZERO problem pulling a QB if he had a Drew Barker waiting in the wings.

  12. Linds Skaggs
    7:27 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Kentucky is a bigger, stronger, deeper, faster rectum of SEC

  13. Daddy
    7:31 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Its funny how I never see a offense use a tight end; That’s a freakin joke; Why not try some Kemp with the wildcat to mix it up. Our Defense on the front line could be in trouble next game. Keep bringing in those recruits and were a still a year out. I know its too early too tell but we could struggle in the SEC

  14. Detours
    7:35 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    No doubt in my mind what happened last night……this is a coaching problem. Better get ready Cats for another disappointing season. One good thing going for the Cats is that the next new coach will enjoy the new and renovated facilities UK will have to offer.

  15. Belbivdivoe
    7:41 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Don’t believe the hype BBN, and for those who haven’t been hoodwinked in to “shame on this fanbase if you don’t sell out the first game!” Matt’s comparison from Stoops to Billy Donovan in making an impression was laughable this week. A back to back title winner compared to a man who has won 2 conference games in 3 years. Think they have a problem selling out games in Tuscaloosa…..? Winning will take care of selling tickets. Don’t get the cart before the horse. When is it on the man who makes the millions to start producing for the folks paying the millions? Who is to blame now? Oh yea Joker has been gone 3 years. They are forever young to quote Rod Stewart and them facilities looking better than anything Coach Brooks ever had to use. My new motto and I suggest the rest of the DBBN (Dilusional Big Blue Nation) needs to stand by to quote Flava-Flave…….”Don’t believe the hype!”

    • Detours
      7:59 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Stoops is nothing but hype and BS. He is comparable to a used car salesman taking advantage of a desperate buyer. As the old adage goes….”fools will be led by their own illusions”.

  16. MrBlue
    7:54 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Well looking at the above comments I can see I’m not the only one that doesn’t believe
    this team will beat Florida in two weeks. At least ULL isn’t 2 and 61 against SEC schools now.

  17. kes
    7:55 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    ” Dey post to be SEC”….LOL

  18. SEC
    8:32 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I wonder why none of the good teams use an Air Raid offense? Oh yeah….because it doesn’t work.

    • 40PointsSaysWhat?
      2:01 pm September 6, 2015 Permalink


  19. Reality
    8:36 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Awesome. Every major publication and analyst said Kentucky would be 13th in the SEC, but noooobody believed them. Now reality is here and people are shocked. What did you people expect? Atlanta? LOL.

  20. Unicorns&Toothfaries
    8:40 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Appears UK Tight Ends are “One of Us”

  21. 3 fan
    8:43 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Towles, the defense and the conditioning coach all had one thing in common. They sucked

    How the hell does Barker not get a snap? 16-34???? That’s horrible. ULL had 3 turnovers and on the last drive gave us two penalties. Very very unimpressed here.

  22. Kay Essar
    8:50 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Same shit, different year.

    • David E.
      12:29 pm September 6, 2015 Permalink

      I really hate to agree, but I agree.

  23. wildweed
    8:53 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    ull should have won.Kentucky looked sooooo slow on defense. towles was terrible.3 and 9 at best.come on basketball.

  24. gottodoit
    8:57 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Not this year . . . not next year . . . maybe, never.

  25. Ebell55
    8:58 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I see the the Negative Nacys are out in full force!! Go Cats lets get focused on USC and hopefully Towles can be more accurate going forward!! 1-0!!!

  26. Time Expired
    9:14 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I know this was the first game and most teams way underperform the first time out. The one thing that stands out for the Cats in the quarterback. Towels just does not have the abilities to be the leader of this offense. If he is better than Barker then UK is certainly in trouble. With all the time he had to throw the ball at times and still throw into double coverage and overthrow passes so many times is disheartening. I am afraid Stoops needs a quarterback and needs one now.
    The Cats win the game on that last drive by running the ball which for some reason was not done a lot. Boom with only 10 touches is shameful. Jojo was hardly on the field but looked good when he was. Horton won the game by being the big back that runs over people. Way too much dependance on the passing game that only worked for one quarter.
    The defense just sucked and shows zero improvement from last year. If SC doesn’t just run it down our throats next week then Spurrier needs replaced. This year actually could be worse than last year unless Stoops and staff start working miracles.

  27. Heshimu
    10:20 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Charles walker and cj walker are two different people

  28. Notown Ranger
    10:26 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Sad….. The SEC including Vandy will eat us alive…

  29. Coach Jamin
    11:06 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    Because I’m a die hard, blue bleeding, blue sunglasses wearing, lifer fan, I’m going to stay positive.

    1.) First half was great, except for the lack of sustained drives. It was either big play touchdowns or 3 and outs.
    2.) Second half showed the results of that. Defensively, they were gassed and the change up in QB/RB for ULL really threw them off. I think we got lucky that at the end of the 4th Hudspeth went back with Haack. If he leaves Nixon(sp?) in, we may very well not get that stop.
    3.) I love the big plays. I was, however, surprised a seasoned OC like Dawson wasn’t running the ball a lot more after we got the big lead. He’ll need to adjust in SEC play to do that.
    4.) This is where it ties it all together. I think, and maybe I’m just hoping but, I think that maybe we weren’t really showing everything we had last night. I think a lot may have been held back due to our opening SEC next week. Maybe we were very basic last night because we didn’t want to give Spurrier and the Gamecocks any real help in their game planning this week. If this is the case, then I can accept the playcalling, lack of a consistant run game, lack of a consistant time management area, etc. That coupled with opening night jitters, has me hopeful.

    • WeareBBN
      11:41 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

      Hope you are right but as it kept getting closer that strategy should have been adjusted. We made no visible adjustments to the new QB and we should have put in a new QB. I really hope we are better than we showed last night. We do need to keep in mind ULL is not a cupcake team we should beat 62-10 but we should win by more than 7 on a late score aided by 2 penalties, especially when they had several turnovers.

  30. SinceStollField
    11:26 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I’m a Coach Stoops fan, but I was sorry to hear him call last night’s game “a good start.” We still can’t stop the run and if you can’t stop the run you’re in for a long season, especially in the SEC.

  31. BigBlue37
    11:29 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    If you won’t stand behind our “troops” feel free to stand in front of them #F*ckthehaters

    • HD
      12:15 pm September 6, 2015 Permalink

      This isn’t a pro-military or anti-military discussion you buffoon. Maybe UK will give out 70,000 scholarships to the home crowd next game so we can stand in front of Florida’s buses to keep them out of CWS to protect our team from a beating

  32. Jota
    11:57 am September 6, 2015 Permalink

    I was probably the most upset fan last night, I had high hopes for this team and they were shattered last night. Then I saw this negativity b.s. from the fans. So I started thinking, we have 3 defensive players suspended for this game, one was hurt. are front 7 is going to get way better next week, Hatcher comes back for Florida. I watched are WR. dominate the CB’s and Safety’s of the other team. I saw we probably have the best three punch in the league. Play Kemp and boom for three quarters then bring in the finisher in Horton in the fourth. Towles had a extremely bad half, and played an avg.first half. If he learns to hit the guy in stride it’s over we win 8 games. We started over looking this team in the second half, that team had grit you have to, if you’ve had 4 consecutive 9 win seasons. it’s not the end of the world. Remember last year we came out clicking and fell apart I would rather start clicking later and finish the season strong.

  33. Gary
    1:08 pm September 6, 2015 Permalink

    The first half I said “WOW-who are these guys?”. Second half I said “Now I remember these guys!”.