Big Blue Den's
Whodathunkit... Shane Boyd not only starts, but goes wire-to-wire against Letterman U. The redshirt freshman from Lexington passed his first test as a starter, completing 15 of 22 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. After misfiring on his first three attempts --- a trio of Chuck Knoblauch specials on the first series of the game --- Boyd showed tremendous composure by bouncing back with 15 completions on his last 19 throws. He showed both an ability to make plays out of the pocket and to convert on roll-outs. The minus on this grade comes for a fumble inside the opponent's 10-yard line for the second straight week, a miscue that in most games that the Cats are expected to be competitive, could cost them the game.
The Cats' ground game accounted for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 28 attempts. Solid play out of Chad Scott, Artose Pinner, Martez Johnson and blocking fullback Gus Jacobs. Scott topped the 100-yard mark for the third time in his career, highlighted by a 67-yard touchdown run. Pinner made good on his red zone potential, blasting off left guard for the Cats' first TD of the season. And Johnson, seeing his first carries since being bannished into Neverneverland following an 11-carry, 53-yard effort in last year's Oct. 14 LSU game, looked good with 24 yards on five attempts.
An improvement from last week's game, particularly from a technical standpoint, but the Cats were not overly dominating against the MACsters. The protection for Boyd was good (a doughnut in the sack column) but outside of Scott's 67-yard TD run, the ground game averaged only 2.9 yards per carry. Individually, Josh Parrish graded out highest and was cited for the team's O-lineman of the week award. Antonio Hall also played well, according to Guy Morriss, recording 11 "knock-down" blocks. As a unit, however, the play must improve, and depth must be developed.
A major improvement from Week 1, perhaps due to continuity at quarterback and a simplified gameplan, but still an area that needs to improve for SEC play. Sophomore Derek Abney has proven to be slick as a bar of shower soap after catching short passes. His five catches for 84 yards and one touchdown was a welcome sight. Tight end Derek Smith was also productive, hauling in five catches for 57 yards and a TD. The Cats also found a way to get WR Ernest Simms and TE Chase Harp involved in the passing attack, which was an encouraging sign. A lingering surprise of another kind, however, is that JUCO All-American Aaron Boone, who showed flashes of brilliance during camp this summer, is catchless through two games.
Ball State rolled up 257 yards rushing and averaged 5 yards per carry, so this was a step back for the unit from a nice effort against Louisville. Kentucky's anchor, Dewayne Robertson, rolled an ankle early in the game and played sparingly. With fellow sophomore Jeremy Caudill still sidelined by a back injury, that put a lot of pressure on backups John Robinson, Derrick Johnson and Ellery Moore. Robinson and Johnson combined for only three tackles against a team that ran the ball 51 times, but Moore responded with an impressive 7-tackle, 3-TFL, 1-sack effort. The ends --- Dennis Johnson, Chris Demaree and Otis Grigsby --- struggled at times against Ball State's option attack. Johnson, however, rose to the occasion with a pair of late sacks when Ball State had an opportunity to drive for the game-tying score.
Another area in which injuries proved to be a factor. The Cats played the majority of the game with converted safety Chris Gayton and converted receiver Mike Beirne at inside linebacker. Gayton admirably responded with a career-high 13 tackles, but many were after positive yardage had been achieved. After reviewing film, Morriss cited the linebackers for good effort, but overrunning several plays.
Patrick Wiggins stepped up with a career-high 14 tackles and Octavius Bond added seven tackles and a pass breakup, but like the linebackers, many of the plays occurred as afterthoughts following a successful play by the Cards. It appeared the duo played well against the pass, but should have been a bigger factor against the Cards' option attack.
last week, but these