Dee-Fense! Dee-Fense: Most of the excitement when the new coaching arrived in Lexington surrounded Neal Brown and the return of the “Air Raid” offense, but somewhat overlooked was the reputation Mark Stoops and D.J. Eliot had for turning around suspect defenses in a very short amount of time. When the duo was at Florida State, the Seminoles went from being ranked among the NCAA’s 20 worst units, statistically, to one of the best in just two years. So far, they’re showing that’s no fluke. Kentucky kept Ohio out of the end zone on Saturday, an accomplishment the Cats haven’t been able to say too many times in recent history. Recruiting is paying big dividends on that side of the ball, especially when it comes to team speed. (See Ryan Flannigan's first career sack, pictured above.) Plays that used to be gimmes against the Cats are now being closed on quickly or eliminated entirely. It will be very interesting to see if the unit can hold up when the competition gets dialed up significantly this week against Florida.
Boom Goes The Freshman Mite: Brown joked in camp that freshman tailback Stanley “Boom” Williams has to earn that nickname before he’ll start using it regularly in conversations with the media. The 5-foot-9 Georgia native went a long way toward earning it Saturday when he exploded for a 53-yard touchdown run in the first quarter to give the Cats a 14-0 lead. He’s already a Big Blue Nation favorite, as evidenced by the “Booooooooooom” chants raining down at Commonwealth Stadium following his first TD of his college career.
So Fresh & So Clean: The Cats are now 6-0 in arguably the most important stat category in the sport: turnover margin. One would like to see a couple more takeaways against Ohio, but the fact that the Cats are nearly flawless on the offensive side of the ball with so many first-time starters and newcomers in the two-deep is extremely encouraging. They also had only four penalties on the day. Stoops and Brown have constantly stressed how important making the routine plays and not getting “behind the chains” is to being a better offensive club this season. That’s been a big part of the Cats’ success through two games.
The Blue & The Gray: UK finally unveiled the long-rumored gray jerseys on Saturday and even added a blue chrome helmet to boot. Paired with blue pants, the combination was almost universally praised by the fans. It’s a sharp look, and one that should draw a lot of young prospects’ attention moving forward. I’m looking forward to seeing the gray “britches” paired with a blue jersey at some point.
By The Numbers:
0 – Points allowed by UK in the first half this season. It marks the first time since 1988 that the Cats have had consecutive games with no points allowed in the first half. They did it to Alabama and LSU that season.
1 – Defensive plays allowed this season 30 yards or longer. That ranks fifth nationally. The Cats are one of only 24 teams that haven’t allowed a play of 40 yards this season.
7 – Number of Kentucky offensive plays 40 yards or longer, more than any team in the nation. The Cats are tied for second in plays of 50 yards or more with four.
17 – Consecutive times UK has won the second game of the season, the second-longest streak in FBS behind only Oklahoma at 18.
22– Rushing attempts for sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles, who is showing he can be a real threat with his legs, too. That number is a bit high for my taste, and I get nervous every time he doesn’t slide at the end of the run, but there’s no doubt he can be an additional weapon for the Cats that opposing defenses now have to take into account.
94 – Snaps run this season before the Cats allowed a sack. Some top-notch protection by the Kentucky O-Line so far.
Inconsistent Kicking: Mark Stoops says he’s not concerned about redshirt freshman Austin MacGinnis missing two fields Saturday and starting the season 2-for-5, but a number of fans certainly are. The BBN realizes how small the margin for error is once the Cats begin SEC play, and that a kick here or there can determine the outcome of the game. I say it’s too early to panic, though. MacGinnis is a real talent, as evidenced by his school record-tying 53-yard field goal against Ohio in the third quarter. Let’s give it another game or two before it becomes a major topic of debate.
Red Zone Success: The Cats moved the ball pretty well between the 20s all day -- finishing with a solid 402-yard day -- but were not as sharp in the red zone as Neal Brown would like to be. Getting no points on two out of four trips, including zero on a first-and-goal from the 2, could have been fatal in a more competitive game. As mentioned previously, that margin of error will not exist in SEC games.