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Kentucky vs. Ball State Recap

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

Kentucky kicked off their 2023 campaign against Ball State on Saturday. Here is a breakdown of what happened as the Wildcats moved to 1-0.


Kentucky won the toss and elected to receive. Stoops mentioned this was planned to get the crowd excited right away. The kickoff sailed into the end zone and Leary lined up under center for the first time as a Wildcat. His first play was a 44-yard strike to Dane Key. The Cats couldn't capitalize off the first play momentum and ended up settling for a 41-yard field goal attempt. Georgia Southern transfer kicker Alex Rayner stepped in and nailed the long kick to give Kentucky an early 3-0 lead.


After trading drives, Ball State took the lead with a 13-play drive that ended with a 1-yard QB sneak for Layne Hatcher to give the Cardinals the lead 7-3.


Kentucky wasted no time responding as they led an 11-play drive of their own that ended in a Ray Davis rushing TD to reclaim the lead 10-7.


Ball State had started to move the ball again when Alex Afari laid a massive hit and knocked the ball loose from a crossing TE and Jalen Geiger returned it 69 yards for a TD.


A few drives later, Kentucky almost had another scoop-and-score right before halftime but officials blew the play dead after determining the runner was down. Replay showed that was not the case. Maxwell Hairston was credited with the forced fumble and Jordan Lovett got the fumble recovery. Kentucky ultimately got the ball at the 31-yard line and added a field goal to extend the lead to 20-7. Kentucky wasn't quite done in the half as they got the ball with 31 seconds left after a 3-and-out by Ball State. After a 26-yard strike to Barion Brown, Kentucky added yet another field goal as the clock hit triple zeros.


HALFTIME: UK 23, Ball State 7


In the second half, Kentucky forced a punt after a Wallace/Saunders sack on 3rd down. Leary found a streaking Brendan Bates up the seam to put UK in the rezone and then found Dane Key for his first passing touchdown as a Wildcat to extend the lead to 30-7.


Ball State responded with a TD of their own to make it 30-14.


The Cats needed an answer quickly and the Ball State kicker kicked it to Barion Brown. Brown took the kickoff 99 yards to the house to immediately respond. If you think back to media day, Barion Brown called his kickoff return and warned opposing kickers not to kick it to him. They did anyways, and the lead was pushed to 37-14.


Ball State put together another successful drive through the air but Kentucky came up with a 4th-and-goal stop on a failed QB sneak that got zero push. With less than 30 seconds remaining, Ray Davis scampered 30 yards for a touchdown and made certain bettors very happy.


FINAL: UK 44, Ball State 14



Overall, this game was very odd. The Wildcats only ran 51 plays on offense due to the defensive and special teams touchdowns. Devin Leary showed some rust but looked really good in the second half. The offensive line showed some growth but it's still not where we want it to be. Courtland Ford and Jeremy Flax traded the first few drives but Flax earned the nod for a majority of the game. Senior guard Kenneth Horsey went down and was eventually carted off the field with what looked like a left knee injury so we will hold out hope for good news there. WVU transfer Dylan Ray, who stepped in for Horsey, graded out as UK's second best lineman yesterday which is a positive.


Defensively, the pass rush looked a lot better than it has in recent years. Trevin Wallace might be a first team All-SEC LB when its all said and done. Wallace was everywhere versus the Cardinals and had 12 total tackles. The secondary had some good moments but definitely not its best performance.


Kentucky will look to improve next week as they take on the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky University. They will face EKU at 3pm on Saturday at Kroger Field.





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