The Kentucky Wildcats did what they were supposed to do against Miami (OH). They dominated an inferior opponent, and gave new head coach Mark Stoops his very first win as a head coach. While it was far from a perfect game, the Wildcats were able to show some improvement from their season opening loss against Western Kentucky.
The decision to start Max Smith over Jalen Whitlow was vital in getting the Kentucky “Air Raid” offense going early and often. Smith has proven himself to be the better passing quarterback and has felt the need to be a leader for the Wildcats. Smith earned his first start since suffering a season-ending ankle injury last September. Smith responded by throwing 310 yards and three touchdowns in the 41-7 blowout win.
Despite not starting, Jalen Whitlow still played with the intention of being a productive member of the offense. Instead of hanging his head and being down on himself, he accounted for 103 yards on 10 completions and scored one touchdown on a run. After the loss to WKU, Whitlow admitted being nervous and that caused some of his passing attempts to go array. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown was really impressive in the methodical way he switched the quarterbacks. The RedHawks never seemed to know how to handle Smith’s passing or Whitlow’s running. Brown kept the opposition guessing on who would be the quarterback, and that played a serious advantage for the ‘Cats.
The Wildcats racked up an astonishing 675 yards of total offense compared to only 122 for the RedHawks. Smith and Whitlow combined for 25 of 35 attempts passing and neither threw an interception. Miami (OH) quarterback Austin Boucher struggled against Kentucky’s defensive line, completing only 4 of 14 passing plays and totaled 23 yards. Javess Blue was the star of the wide receiving core, catching 6 passes for 114 yards and one touchdown. Four receivers had one catch for the RedHawks, the longest being an 11 yard catch.
While the “Air Raid” sirens were getting a workout, the defensive side of the ball needs some applause as well. Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree had a field day getting in the Boucher’s grill and forcing him into bad throws. The defense only allowed four completed passes, eight first downs and 23 yards of passing offense. Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree combined for five sacks against Boucher. The longest play the defense gave up the entire game was a 33 yard gain on a kick return.
After praising the offense and defense, I need to play bad cop and discuss a few miscues. The big one came on a punt return by Daryl Collins that he fumbled near the goal line. The RedHawks defender picked up the loose change and ran it in for their only score. The Wildcats were also penalized 11 times, accounting for 117 yards. A lot of those penalties were for taunting, personal fouls and unnecessary roughness. A little more maturity will go a long way with this team, and this coaching staff will get that cleaned up. The Wildcats will never compete with better football teams by having numerous penalties, especially those that are caused by poor judgement.
The RedHawks are not a very good football team, period. They were blown out by Marshall University in their opener and have now lost their last six games. Their last win was against Ohio University on Oct. 27 in a 23-20 triumph. The Wildcats starting blowing the door off early with a 17-0 start. If Kentucky takes out the silly penalties, they win this game by 50 points or more. The Wildcats needed a great win in front of a faithful contingent of 54, 846 in Commonwealth Stadium. They needed the confidence they can actually blow out someone, and they did so with earnest.