I was wrong about South Carolina. The Gamecocks are solid and beat NC State in its opener. The game’s final statistics may surprise you as my ACC friends say, “NC State will NC State.” Lots of talent but find ways to lose football games. That used to be called Clemsoning but that phrase has been buried six feet under the ground. Based on week one action I still think Kentucky’s 2017 schedule is proving to be more challenging than its 2016 version.
Let’s take a look:
The Colonels played WKU closer than expected. It lost 31-17 but fumbled two QB/C snaps when threatening to score. The Colonels held the vaunted Western offense to 364 total yards. QB Tim Boyle racked up 320 through the air. EKU managed just 25 yards on the ground. Over 20 transfers are listed on Eastern’s roster; some are of the 4-star variety if that matters. This one sets up for the UK pass rushers to prove if its game one performance is going to become a consistent trend.
At South Carolina
NC State QB Ryan Finley threw for 415 yards. The Wolf Pack totaled 29 first downs and 504 yards. Carolina’s offense was billed as being one of the best in the league but only accumulated just 12 first downs and 246 yards. However, it found a way to win the game 35-28. WR/KR Deebo Samuel is a star. He returned the opening kickoff 97-yards for a touchdown and caught a couple scores. South Carolina scored 14 points off 2 NC State turnovers. QB Jake Bentley’s numbers were good enough for the win and at times the sophomore flashed elite QB traits. However, by the numbers; his stats were solid but not overly flashy: 17/29, 215-yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT. Bentley effectively managed the game. See, game manager gets a bad rap. Carolina rushed the football for just 31-yards. South Carolina is much better than I expected. Again, I was wrong. The Gamecocks are for real and a serious contender in the SEC East.
Florida is a mess. Gator touchdowns came from two pick-6’s; one from Duke Dawson and the other from CJ Henderson. It was held to 192 total yards including a lowly 11 on the ground. The Gators fumbled the football 5 times; lost 3. It has to be noted that UF was without the services of 10 players that were serving suspension. I fully expect all 10 to be re-instated the week of the Kentucky game.
Quarterback Todd Porter effectively managed the EMU offense in its road opener. Porter was 24/31,285-yards, and 2 TD’s as the Eagles never trailed to win the game 37-19. Charlotte nearly matched EMU in total yards 357-356. The 49’ers had the advantage on the ground 157-yards to 72. Eastern Michigan at Rutgers will provide a better gauge, but don’t sleep on this team. It went to its first bowl game since 1987 a year ago.
As predicted, Mizzou lit up the scoreboard and smashed offensive records. But, it won ugly but did have beautiful offensive statistics. Mizzou scored 72 points and totaled 815-yards against Missouri State. QB Drew Lock was playing 7 on 7 last Saturday: 21/34, 521-yards, 7 TD’s, 1 INT. RB Demarea Crockett had 18 carries for 202-yards and a couple scores. Receiver J’mon Moore caught 4 passes for 187-yards and 2 TD’s. All three aforementioned Tiger offensive players were listed amongst SEC statistical leaders a year ago.
Defensively, well again; the Tigers are what we expected. Not very good. It surrendered 43 points to Missouri State and actually trailed 21-20 at the end of the 1st quarter. In fact, Missouri State scored touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions including one 73-yard TD run. It must be noted that Missouri State was 4-7 a year ago. Missouri started 2016 in nearly the same fashion as it demolished Delaware State 79-0 in week four.
That takes us to the perfectly placed open date. I learned a valuable lesson last year. I literally evaluate this Kentucky Football team one week at a time while also keeping an eye on future opponents. There will be opponents that peak and drop. A 12 game season is a long stretch of ebbs and flows.