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Kentucky Football

Kentucky Grounds the Rockets, Beats Toledo 38-24

August 31, 2019
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Kentucky started off slowly, but controlled the second half on their way to a 38-24 win against Toledo. Kentucky got big plays from De'Andre Square and Josh Paschal on defense, picking off a pass and forcing a fumble which led to 10 Kentucky points. Touchdowns for Bryce Oliver and Josh Ali came on two big plays by the receivers to produce the two passing touchdowns for Terry Wilson. AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and Chris Rodriguez (technically Justin Rigg recovered the fumble, but you get my point) all scored on the ground for Kentucky's three rushing touchdowns. Chance Poore also hit a 46 yarder in the third quarter. Overall, the game was a sloppy one, with 18 total penalties called. Kentucky stalled themselves on multiple drives with penalties, committing 7 in total for 61 yards.

Toledo got the ball first and marched down the field, attacking cornerback Jamari Brown, and former Wildcat Bryant Koback scored the first touchdown of the game. After a three and out on their first drive, Kentucky marched 97 yards down the field to tie the game on a 14 play drive that lasted almost 7 minutes. Eight Kentucky players gained yards on Kentucky's first scoring drive which was capped by a Chris Rodriguez fumble that was recovered by Justin Rigg in the endzone. Ahmad Wagner also drew one of his two pass interference calls to go along with five-yard catch on the drive.

Toledo answered with a seven-play drive for a touchdown on a Mitchell Guadagni quarterback scramble, followed by another UK three-and-out. After a big sack from TJ Carter to force a third-and-long for Toledo and consecutive punts, Kentucky responded with a three-play, 56-yard touchdown drive highlighted by a big Lynn Bowden pitch and catch as well as two strong runs from AJ Rose. The Cats went in tied with Toledo at the half, 14-14.

Coming out of halftime, Kentucky made the first major move via a forced fumble by Josh Paschal that led to Kentucky's first lead after a 46-yard field goal from Chance Poore that snuck inside the right upright. The Kentucky defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense responded, pushing the lead to 10 after a great play in the endzone by Bryce Oliver on a 32-yard touchdown catch. Terry Wilson put the ball in a good spot, and the redshirt freshman went up and made a play.

On the ensuing Kentucky drive, Lynn Bowden put the ball on the ground, which led to a Toldeo field goal with five minutes to go in the third quarter. That drive also saw Chris Oats ejected on a controversial targeting call on a hit which knocked Guadagni out of the game. There wasn't much Oats could have done to avoid the sliding Guadagni, but it was called nevertheless. He will miss the first half of EMU because of his ejection. 

The next big play came on a 40-yard touchdown run by Kavosiey Smoke following two big completions from Terry Wilson (who also missed several throws on this drive). On the ensuing drive, DeAndre Square batted a pass up, and picked it out of the air, for an interception at the Toledo 33. Kentucky capitalized, scoring on a beautifully designed play from Terry Wilson to a cutting Josh Ali who was able to tap his toe in the endzone. Kentucky led 38-17 after that, and the only other scoring was a Toledo touchdown following Chris Rodriguez's second fumble of the day. However, this touchdown came with 1:00 left, so Kentucky was able to enter the victory formation and close the game out.

As a whole, Kentucky left a lot to be desired on the offensive side. They need to clean up the mental mistakes and penalties while making more consistent plays on first and second down. UK was just 3-11 on third down due to the long yardage they often faced during the game. Staying ahead of the chains will be huge for this offense, especially early in the year. Pre-snap penalties and multiple fumbles will be something Kentucky will need to clean up if they want to compete in the SEC. With that being said, Kentucky still gained 422 total yards and scored 38 points, something they only did twice last year. Kentucky did have eight players catch passes and got touchdowns from 5 different players, none of which were named Lynn Bowden. They have things to clean up, but overall it was a solid performance from a UK team that lost the best back in school history and the entire right side of their offensive line.

On the defensive side, similar to their offense, Kentucky has room to improve but showed positive signs today. Everyone is aware that the secondary is inexperienced, but they showed some promise as well as some mistakes and miscommunication. Brandin Echolls was banged up during camp but came out and broke up three passes and looked like a potential anchor at corner. Yusuf Corker got banged up but made a couple plays in the run game prior to his injury. Jamari Brown got picked on early but had a series where he made two plays in the endzone late in the game.

Kentucky started slowly up front but got going as the game went on, harassing the Toledo QBs all day and accumulating 4 sacks and 7 total TFL. TJ Carter was in the backfield constantly, and DeAndre Square and Josh Paschal both looked like all-SEC caliber players. 

Lynn Bowden didn't have a great day returning kicks, making multiple mistakes in the return game, but Kentucky's kickers all had great days. Chance Poore hit every one of his kicks including a 46 yarder and 5 PATs. Max Duffy was back to his old ways, averaging 54 yards/punt and putting 2/6 inside the 20. Grant McKinniss kicked off 7 times, 5 of which went for Touchbacks.

Offensive MVP: Terry Wilson
Despite not looking his best, Terry completed 19 of his 26 passes, good for 73% and threw for two touchdowns. Terry made some mistakes but was able to bounce back and make plays when Kentucky needed him. He made some great throws today and showed trust in his receivers to make plays, which was rewarded by a couple of big plays from multiple receivers. Terry Wilson is now 11-3 as a starter.

Defensive MVP: DeAndre Square
A career-high 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception for Square in his second career start ain't bad. Square bulked up over the offseason, putting on almost 20 pounds and was all over the place for Kentucky tonight, making plays in the backfield and in coverage. 

Play of the Day: Bryce Oliver 32-yard Touchdown
There are a lot of plays I could have picked, including Square's interception, but Bryce Oliver made a contested catch for a touchdown, and for the future of Kentucky that is the most important play of the game. Oliver should be a playmaker moving forward and him skying on a corner in the endzone is a play that likely doesn't get made last year.

Pass Interference of the Day: AHMAD WAGNER X2
All the man does is draw pass interference calls. Well not exactly, because he had 3 catches for 57 yards including a great play where he broke one tackle while stiff-arming another potential tackler. He also drew two more pass interference flags, and he is a LOAD on the outside. I love it, and I'm sure Terry Wilson and Eddie Gran do too.

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Kentucky Grounds the Rockets, Beats Toledo 38-24

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