4 > 3: Big Blue Nation is going to be concerned, perhaps rightfully so, that this game is a red flag for the remainder of a season filled with high hopes. But once UK fans have a chance to step back from the shock of going to overtime against an FCS opponent -- a really good one, but an FCS opponent nonetheless -- I think the only thing that really matters is the Cats survived and picked up their fourth win. With a 4-1 record, UK remains ahead of schedule, so to speak, with a lot of potential to not only reach a bowl game, but perhaps a really attractive one. A 3-2 record would have been an entirely different outlook, and a significant amount of additional pressure would have mounted on a young team that may not be equipped to deal with it. In the aftermath, I think what the Cats showed in three hard-fought SEC battles prior to the EKU game should carry more weight than what we saw Saturday night.
Baker's Dozen: The 12 points produced by UK receiver Dorian Baker at the end of regulation and overtime were glimpses of just how much raw talent he sophomore from Cleveland possesses. On the first touchdown pass, a beautiful fade from Patrick Towles on 4th down with the game hanging in the balance, Baker used his 6-foot-3 frame to jump over EKU's extremely talented corner, Stanley Absanon, who, despite his ability and nearly perfect coverage on the play, could not match up at just 5-foot-11. On the second touchdown pass, the eventual game-winner, Baker caught a quick screen and used his 210-pound body to run through Colonels safety Kobie Grace, who was giving up almost 30 pounds to the wideout. He then powered through four other EKU defenders at the 1-yard line to find his way into the end zone. It was five of the toughest yards you'll ever see a receiver gain on individual effort.
CJ's Encore: Senior Cory "CJ" Johnson followed his career-high 11-tackle performance against Missouri with a 19-tackle effort against EKU, numbers unheard of for a defensive lineman in Kentucky football history, and really, anywhere. I'd be really surprised if it took more than one hand to count the number of times it has happened in SEC history, if it's ever happened at all. Truly remarkable. It was like the D-Line equivalent of Prince following up the "1999" album with the "Purple Rain" soundtrack.
Aggressive Return: Kentucky finally got a big play in the punt return game just when the Cats needed it most as Ryan Timmons fielded a short, bouncing kick -- a gutsy move on his part -- and returned it 19 yards to set up the offense at the EKU 39 with 3:49 remaining. It will get overlooked in light of Baker's heroics, but it was a huge play. Had he let it keep rolling, UK could have lost another 20-plus yards in field position.
First Possession Blues: In three of UK's five games this season, the Cats have opened with a turnover on their first possession. Kentucky was picked off by South Carolina and Florida on its first drive of the game, and the Cats fumbled Saturday night against EKU. It's been quite an unwelcome turnaround since Stanley "Boom" Williams took the first snap of the season and raced 75 yards for a touchdown against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Where Was The O? We expected the absence of "Boom" Williams to be a factor, but not to the extent it proved to be. Kentucky's first seven possessions produced a lone score, three punts and three turnovers as UK took a meager 7-6 lead into halftime. It didn't get much better in the second half until the final seven minutes of play when individual talent just took over. Kentucky finished with only 21 more yards of total offense than EKU posted. Most alarming? The Cats rushed for 55 yards on 36 carries. They also added four sacks to their SEC-worst total of 16. The UK staff has to be scratching its heads over the Jekkyl & Hyde nature of the unit.
Questionable PI: I've watched the Cody Quinn pass interference call from overtime a half-dozen times on DVR and still can't come up with an explanation for the flag. It was textbook coverage and a great play on the ball. PI is never an easy call for an official, but I've always thought it should be egregious, otherwise let the players battle.
Football Crowd 101: With Kentucky scrambling to tie the game at the end of regulation, the CWS faithful who decided to stay on a frustrating, cold, rainy night (+1) reached their most vocal output of the night (-1) when the UK offense was trying to relay signals at the line of scrimmage. It didn't help that the UK cheerleaders were also leading a raucous "Go Big Blue!" chant over the loudspeakers. Save it for defense, folks.
No Snaps for Barker: Once again, UK missed a good opportunity to get its backup quarterback, redshirt freshman Drew Barker, some much-needed game experience. The Cats have to hope and pray that Towles makes it through the season healthy. Things could get dicey if Barker has to get his first snaps under fire in an SEC game.
By The Numbers...
- 1.5 - Kentucky's average yards per carry, its worst figure of the season coming against an FCS defense.
- 4 - The Cats had allowed only five touchdowns in the red zone this season, one of the best figures in the SEC, but gave up four to the Colonels on six trips.
- 44% - The UK defense had been performing well on third down all year, but allowed the Colonels to convert on eight of 18 attempts. Usually, a 44-percent rate will get you beat.
- 180 - Net yards rushing for EKU. Scary thought: The Colonels had just 35 against N.C. State earlier this season, a team that just lost to Louisville this weekend.
- 35K - Approximately how many people actually got to see the end of UK's comeback victory.