It’s been a big couple of weeks for the Kentucky Wildcats football program. With a monumental win over Florida and a blowout against Murray State, the Cats are 3-0 for the second consecutive season. And while it’s the first time that’s happened since the 2007-08 season, there have been plenty of other record-breaking performances so far this year.
Kentucky’s defensive improvements have been a major storyline since the preseason, but yesterday’s performance showcased how strong the defense can be, especially when compared to defensive performances from previous years. With future NFL picks like Josh Allen and Mike Edwards on their side, Kentucky fans can finally feel confident in the defense’s ability to keep the Cats in the game, especially if and when Benny Snell or Terry Wilson have an off-day.
But just how efficient has the defense actually been this season? Kentucky has allowed 917 total yards this season, or an average of about 306 yards per game. That’s the fewest total yards through the first three games since 2010, Joker Phillips’ first year as head coach. Mark Stoops, who came to Kentucky as a defensive specialist, has finally found his rhythm with this group of defensive stars.
On the other side of the ball, the offense is operating almost as efficiently. After yesterday’s 245 rushing-yard performance, the Cats are up to 847 yards on the season. On average, UK is generating approximately 282 yards of rushing offense per game – the most since 1987.
Eddie Gran’s offense has also picked up the pace on third-down conversations this season. The Cats went 6-12 against Murray State, hitting the 50 percent mark for the third time this year. That’s the first time UK has hit 50 percent in three-consecutive games since Arkansas, South Carolina and LSU way back in 1998.
The third quarter was massive for Kentucky yesterday. There was Terry Wilson’s 21-yard scramble on first-and-17, AJ Rose’s touchdown and a trick play that led to Zy’Aire Hughes’ 49-yard touchdown. At the end of the third period, the Cats led 34-3. For the third time this season, Kentucky did not allow their opponent to add any points to the board during the third quarter. They hadn’t done that since 1991.
Yes, it’s a long season, and there is still plenty of time for old monsters to rear their ugly heads. But for now, let’s look to the bright side: Kentucky is operating in ways they haven’t in years. A combination of player talent, experience and attitude combined with continuity on the coaching staff has created the perfect storm for Kentucky football. And maybe, just maybe, there’s more where that came from.