Stoops Ties The Bear
When Saturday night’s game kicked off Mark Stoops set a Kentucky football record. By the end of the evening, he’d tied another one. At 10 seasons he’s now the longest-tenured coach in school history. In addition, he equaled the legendary Bear Bryant with 60 wins in Lexington. Like many opening games, it wasn’t easy but a strong second half put the game away as Kentucky beats Miami (Ohio) 37-13.
First Half Struggles
Miami took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards for a touchdown. Brett Gabbert completed six passes as the RedHawks took a 7-0 lead on a 22-yard run by Tyre Shelton. Kentucky came right back as Will Levis led the Cats 79 yards in five plays for a score. The touchdown came on a Levis to Brenden Bates six-yard pass. Of course, if you’ve followed us at all here at Last Word we’ve preached about how UK should feature the tight ends more.
From there Kentucky couldn’t get much going as Levis was picked off at the goal line negating another score. The UK signal caller led the SEC in picks last season and that’s one of the biggest things he’s worked on during the summer. Kentucky’s points came on two Matt Ruffolo field goals as Kentucky took a 13-10 lead at the half.
One thing the Big Blue Nation was worried about was the rebuilt offensive line. Miami had three sacks and hurried Levis numerous times.
A Much Needed Boost
Coming out of the break Kentucky needs a lift and they certainly got it. Freshman Barion Brown took the second-half kickoff 101 yards for a score.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 4, 2022
Brown’s the first UK player to take a kickoff to the house since Derrick Locke took one 100 yards in Kentucky’s 31-27 win over Louisville. Going back even further he’s the first freshman since Kio Sanford in 1994 to have a kickoff return for a touchdown.
Following a Miami fumble, the Cats needed only two plays to score again. This time Levis hit Chauncey Magwood on an eight-yard score and UK finally got some separation. Another Ruffolo field goal and a one-yard pass from Levis to another freshman Dane Key wrapped up the scoring as Kentucky beats Miami (Ohio) 37-13.
Next week the Cats head to “The Swamp” when they play at Florida under the lights. Of course, last season Kentucky beat the Gators at home for the first time since 1986. They’ve now defeated Florida twice in the last four years after losing 31 straight.
On the other side of the ball, Billy Napier’s debut in Gainesville was a winning one as Florida pulled out a 29-26 win over seventh-ranked Utah. They’ll undoubtedly be in the Top 25 next week setting up one of the better matchups of Week 2 in college football.
In a fun bit of irony Stoops’ first win came against Miami 41-7 back in 2013. Fast forward ten years later and he’s now at 60. Remember he was 12-26 two games into his fourth season in Lexington. A lot of credit goes to athletic director Mitch Barnhart. In many places, Stoops would have been gone. However, he stuck with him and has gone 48-27 since with two ten-win seasons and four straight bowl victories.
In many ways, it was a typical first game showing several things to work on. The normally vaunted Kentucky rushing game only mustered 50 yards on the ground. Furthermore, they had a paltry 1.9 yards per carry. Whether some of that is due to Chris Rodriguez’s unavailability remains to be seen. No doubt the Big Blue Wall must play better next week.
Minus the one interception Levis looked pretty good throwing for 303 yards and three touchdowns. In his first game, Tayvion Robinson showed why he’s expected to be the top guy at receiver hauling in six passes for 136 yards. Also big shout out to the special teams. Ruffolo made three field goals including a 50-yarder and Brown of course had the touchdown. It all adds up as Kentucky beats Miami (Ohio) 37-13.
Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back later in the week with a Florida preview