The Kentucky football team opened its 2017 season with a 24-17 win down in Hattiesburg, Mississippi against Southern Miss. The Cats did enough to escape with a tough road victory but there are certainly some areas that Mark Stoops and his team need to improve on in preparation for tougher foe’s like South Carolina and Florida in the upcoming weeks.
Here are three things Kentucky fans want to see in today’s game against EKU:
Rhythm on offense
The Kentucky offense never got into a rhythm against a veteran Southern Miss defense, whenever it seemed like the Cats were close to breaking it open the Southern Miss defense forced mistakes. The offensive line and running backs are looking to bounce back in the home opener. Star running back Benny Snell was held to just 67 yards on 20 carries, not a normal outing for the All-SEC running back. After a fumble on the goal line early in the 1st quarter Snell failed to make a big impact on the game. Look for Snell to run with more patience this week as he becomes more comfortable with John Schlarman’s re-arranged offensive line. It’s important for Snell to find success behind this offensive line ahead of the South Carolina game.
Consistency in the passing game
Stephen Johnson went 11 for 20 for 176 yards and a touchdown in the season opener, respectable numbers, but the senior quarterback missed some throws that would have gone for big plays. Garrett Johnson, Charles Walker, Tavin Richardson, and Kayune Ross combined for just 5 receptions and 56 yards. I expect Eddie Gran to open up the playbook a little bit to look for some shots down the field for Juice and Richardson. We know from the Louisville game last year that Johnson can be successful on deep throws. If the Cats can connect on a deep ball early in the game it will help the running game find success as well.
More Denzil Ware and Josh Allen
The self-proclaimed “Blitz Bros” set the tone for the Kentucky defense against Southern Miss last week as the tandem combined for 8 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown. Ware and Allen give the Kentucky defense something that we haven’t seen as Kentucky fans since Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith back in 2014. In obvious passing situations the Kentucky defense has an advantage as Ware and Allen have turned into two of the best pass rushers in the SEC. The emergence of Josh Paschal gives defensive coordinator Matt House another weapon to deploy on third downs. Fans should be excited to watch Ware, Allen, and Paschal chase down quarterbacks all season long.