Rome wasn’t built in a day.
And neither will the Kentucky Wildcats football ball team be instantly cured of the problems that plagued them last year.
After months of hype and talk about the new culture for Kentucky football, the result was remarkably similar to the Joker Phillips era at Kentucky. Let’s be fair. We know that this would be a tough season this year and no one expected a bowl bid, but most UK fans expected a win against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Or at least a much better effort. And it did not happen as Mark Stoops Wildcats were bashed and bullied in a loss to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers.
The warning signs were there early as Western Kentucky, behind the running if Antonio Andrews, pushed the Wildcats all over the field during a 9 play, 75 yard opening drive. Brandon Doughty was 5-5 on the drive and Kentucky missed several tackles which gave extra yardage. Keshawn Simpson bulled into the end zone and Western had a quick 7-0 lead.
UK answered with a three and out, but got a big break when Avery Williamson recovered a Antonio Andrews fumble. Jalen Whitlow hit Anthony Kendrick with a 17 yard pass which set up a first and goal from the nine, but the offense stalled and Joe Mansour booted a short field goal to make it 7-3. Then it became time to become really concerned if you were a UK fan.
In what would be the continuing theme for the night, Western Kentucky just bullied UK on offense. No matter who ran the ball, they ran with ease. Also Bobby Petrino noticed a potential mismatch with his tightends and exploited the Wildcat defense. Doughty put together a 12 play, 80 yard drive which gave WKU a 14-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Kentucky used the big play to keep the game relatively close in the first half. Raymond Sanders dashed 49 yards to set up a Jalen Whitlow 19 yard rush for a touchdown which made the score 14-10, but Kentucky was outclassed. Western drove nine plays on 75 yards and Simpson scored his second TD and Western was back up 21-10. Kentucky answered with the big play … this time a Whitlow 50 yard run, but the passing game was non-existent. Jojo Kemp made his debut with a 9 yard run and Jonathan George carried the pile into the endzone to make the deficit 21-17. And that was the scoring for the half.
Despite the close half time score, Western Kentucky was owning this game. If not for the two turnovers, it could have been much uglier. And as exciting as Whitlow was with his feet, he had to start connecting on passes as UK had just 16 yards through the air in the half. Kentucky was very fortunate to be in the game and you had the feeling that Western was just one play from putting this game out of reach.