Updated: Sep 7, 2022
Heading into the halftime locker room, Kentucky held an uncomfortable 13-10 lead over Chuck Martin’s Miami RedHawks. A 100-yard return by Barion Brown and a fumble recovery and return by Keidron Smith allowed for a quick 14-point turnaround that eased a lot of nerves inside Kroger Field. Outside of that important stretch, there are a lot of things to take away from the Wildcats’ victory.
The Offensive Line Concerns Are Real
The two main question marks coming into the season were the secondary and the offensive line. For the most part, the secondary impressed in the season opener. Without Chris Rodriguez, the Big Blue Wall would have to create more space for this group of backs who are not at the level of the all-SEC back in terms of running after contact. Unfortunately for Rich Scangarello and the offensive staff, Kentucky was only able to muster 50 rushing yards on the night. The pass protection was not any better. Will Levis had defenders in his face all night and was sacked four times, three of which came on third down. Kentucky was able to get away with poor offensive line play tonight, but the same won’t be true moving forward into SEC play.
Special Teams Is The Best Unit
We always talk offense and defense, but there are three facets in the game of football. I’ve already mentioned the 100-yard kick return by Barion Brown, but let’s not forget the other crucial plays that were made on special teams tonight. JJ Weaver had a blocked punt that resulted in a field goal, Tayvion Robinson had a great punt return that got the Wildcats another three points, and Matt Ruffalo nailed a 50-yard field goal to put Kentucky up three possessions in the second half. This game would have been much tighter had the Wildcats not dominated on special teams.
Alex Afari Is Going To Be Elite
Is this statement a game one overreaction? Probably, but the true freshman was very impressive in his first game in blue and white. Afari totaled 6 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 1 sack. The Cincinnati native was all over the field in his debut and lived up to the hype that Mark Stoops put on him with his rave practice reviews. With many questions about the secondary coming into the year, it was a great sign to see Afari emerge.
Was this the most flashy win in the world? No, but thats not what Mark Stoops is known for. It is clear that there is plenty for this group to work on, but Coach Stoops and his staff now have a better idea of where Kentucky stands heading into an all-important matchup against Florida. The Gators will likely be ranked after their 29-26 upset over No. 7 Utah. Football is back. Enjoy the win, Big Blue Nation.