After one full season at Kentucky under his belt, Will Levis set the bar pretty high of what type of offense he can lay out on the field on a weekly basis. After the Penn State crew slept on his abilities, Levis ultimately made the decision to transfer.
As he continues to manage the hype after 13 complete games with plenty of expectations for what's to come during round two, I wanted to reflect on what all he accomplished this past season before we reach that point. As a junior, Levis totaled for 2,826 passing yards on 233/353 attempts (66%) for 24 touchdowns, along with 13 interceptions and 22 sacks. Of course there are some things that can be tinkered with to up his draft stock and prove he belongs versus the rest of the quarterbacks in college football. However, he did some amazing things along the way to get to where he stands now. With that being said, I've put together what I think were his five best games as a Wildcat.
5. 30 -13 Loss At Georgia
Stats: 192 passing yards, 32/42 passing attempts (76.2%), 2 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 3 sacks, 85.9 QBR, 12 rushing yards.
Explanation: You're probably wondering how a loss could make the top-five of a players list of best games, but just remember the outcome doesn't always correctly reflect how a player played. Especially when the game was against the future national champs. This performance came against one of the best defenses college football has ever seen. Kentucky kept the game close the entire first half in Athens, holding the Bulldogs to just two scores, down 14-7. While Georgia took the game away late into third and on, Will Levis was about as dominant as one could hope playing on the road against that defense. His 76% completion rating is what stuck out to me most, not throwing a single interception the entire game and setting a season high in completions (32). His stats tell the story of a 'went down fighting' type of a game and many Kentucky fans were satisfied with his (and the rest of the teams) performance despite the loss.
4. 42 - 21 Win Versus LSU
Stats: 145 passing yards, 14/17 passing attempts (82.4% - season high), 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 1 sack, 91.7 QBR, 75 rushing yards (6.82 per carry), 2 rushing touchdowns.
Explanation: This was one of those game where you realized that this team was actually really, really good. Coming off a home win over No. 10 Florida the week before, then absolutely destroying LSU from the start to cap off a 6-0 start of the season had Kentucky as the talk of CFB that night. Will Levis totaled 5 touchdowns (season high) and put on a show, as Kroger Field turned into an absolute party and we saw Ed Orgeron's job go up into flames.
3. 56 - 16 Win Versus New Mexico State
Stats: 419 passing yards (season high), 21/31 passing attempts (67.7%), 4 touchdowns, 1 interception, 0 sacks, 90.9 QBR, 11 rushing yards.
Explanation: Without a doubt this performance against New Mexico State was Will Levis' best statistical passing game as a Wildcat. He set his career high in passing yards, threw his second most touchdowns in a single game and had his third highest QBR score of the year. When solely looking at what he can do as a quarterback, that's just out there slinging the pigskin, this is the tape you look at. He came to play that afternoon and "put a hurtin'" on the Aggies.
2. 20 - 17 Win Versus Iowa (Citrus Bowl)
Stats: 233 passing yards, 17/28 passing attempts (60.7%), 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 6 sacks, 61.9 QBR, -11 rushing yards, Bowl win.
Explanation: Okay, I get it, Will didn't have the best game this afternoon stats wise, but this spot on the list was for a separate reason. The reason I decided to put this at number two was from the grit and determination we witnessed him display throughout the entire game and especially in the fourth quarter alongside his teammates. Despite struggling to convert his plays into touchdowns, his defense kept him afloat, as well as his short passes to keep moving downfield. The entire game the Cats made the fundamental plays to keep it close with the game coming down to the final stretch for the win. To have his back against the wall on an all-or-nothing drive against a top-twenty defense in college football, then to come out of it alive, was skill backed by pure heart. This team led by Will didn't want to end such a special season in a losing effort, so they bucked up and did what needed to be done. Down that final drive, Will made the correct plays, wasn't phased by the big moment and put the ball exactly where it needed to go and executed the mission. They all go up in glory and leave Florida with the bowl win.
In his first season as a Wildcat he finished with a 10-win season and brought home a Citrus Bowl trophy while becoming the most popular man in the entire city (eye-to-eye with Oscar Tshiebwe, of course)... A story-book debut if you ask me.
1. 52 - 21 Win At Louisville
Stats: 149 passing yards, 14/18 passing attempts (77.8%), 0 passing touchdowns, 0 interceptions, 0 sacks, 99.2 QBR (season high), 113 rushing yards (8.1 per carry), 4 rushing touchdowns (season high), 4 L's down gestures.
Explanation: Again, passing-wise this wasn't Will's best game overall, but he did finish with 282 total yards (149 passing, 133 rushing) alongside 4 touchdowns in an absolute beatdown of the in-state "rivals." He showcased that his ability to move in the pocket and take off running at any moment should be put on a tip-top shelf of highlight reels when his career is over. The defense had no answer for it, even though that was the entire offense for the whole game which put off "Lynn Bowden in 2019 vibes" all night long. With Louisville going scoreless in the second and third quarters on their own home field, paired up with Will throwing the 'L's down' for every single rushing touchdown he earned, it had Card fans exiting the stadium before the fourth quarter even began as they trailed 38-7 with fifteen minutes left to play. I can honestly say there hasn't been many players who have understood how the fuel this rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville as fast as Will Levis has. He immediately caught on as soon as he got here and was perfect all week leading up to the game with his subtle trash talk online. The way he poked at Louisville then backed up what he said through his play made this his all-around best game at Kentucky, in my opinion.
Disclaimer - I'm sure many of you are wondering how I didn't include a top-ten win over Florida in this list, but I had my reasons for it. If you go back and look at his stats, Will didn't play that great against the Gators. The rushing onto the field by the fans and the snapping of the Kroger Field record might've swayed your view just a little bit, but Will only had 7 completions, 1 touchdown, an interception and just 108 total yards of offense that night. His 41.2% completion rating and 24.0 QBR for the game clearly shows he was not the main reason Kentucky won that game. Looking back, I consider that a top team-win of the season rather than one of Levis' best of the year.
After his first year has been completed and he's in the middle of summer training, preparing for another go-around, I can't help but think back and ponder over how lucky we got last offseason. To hire a brand new (and highly praised coming in) Offensive Coordinator into the coaching staff and for him to handpick a quarterback from another school - a backup quarterback so to speak - and bring him with him spoke volumes already. I mean, last year at this point we were sitting here debating if our starting quarterback for the season was going to be Joey Gatewood or Beau Allen... The reports that came out of the summer workouts and fall practices last season had Will Levis as the guy from the get-go and to see how he ultimately fit right in and accomplished so much in just one year was nearly unbelievable. Those two, complimented by Wan'Dale Robinson, have absolutely 180'd the wide-receiving room within the program and is the sole reason why we have a very deep core of receivers going into this season. The additions of Liam Coen, Will Levis and Wan'Dale Robinson for that one season will be talked about for decades as to a pivotal moment in UK Football history in terms of what changed things. Receivers now want to come here and it's starting to change how people view Kentucky instead of just the running heavy offense it was for years.
The best part about this all? We get another year of the main component in all of it through Levis. Now, he'll be directly targeted by a QB guru in Rich Scangarello with more than just one target at receiver and a season full of confidence and experience under his belt. Honestly, I couldn't be more excited for September to get here, because this team and program as a whole has a lot of success coming its way.