Kentucky football: What we learned following Week Zero of the CFB season

New Mexico State Aggies head coach Doug Martin (Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports)
New Mexico State Aggies head coach Doug Martin (Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports) /

The elite power five college football teams, like Kentucky football, are less than a week from kicking off the 2021 season. However, 10 schools that don’t garner much attention did kick things off in CFB’s Week Zero including one future Wildcat opponent that leaves little doubt will be a win.

The leadoff weekend featured games that pretty much went as expected with four of the five ending in lopsided blowouts. The other at least kicked up the conversation that Scott Frost is not the savior at Nebraska as he watched the Cornhuskers stumble to Illinois 30-22 and his seat in year four getting toasty.

Future Kentucky football opponent in action but provided little of it

Kentucky fans most surely weren’t even aware that their week 11 opponent New Mexico State, who travels to Lexington the weekend leading into Thanksgiving was in action. Those who didn’t see this didn’t miss much only that the Aggies fell 30-3 to New Mexico State.

This is one of those cupcake non-conference games that Kentucky schedules and it’s safe to say a win won’t be in doubt.

New Mexico State was 1-1 in 2020 in an abbreviated Covid-19 season and plays as an independent after leaving the Sun Belt Conference in 2017 where they finished 7-6 and won the Arizona Bowl.

They have gone 3-9 and 2-10 in both of those seasons following that, and you have to go back to 2002 for the last time they had a winning season.

Even in former UK coach Hal Mumme’s days coaching the Aggies from 2005-2008 his Air Raid offense only propelled them to an 11-38 record.

When New Mexico State does come to Kroger Field on November 20 it will be a homecoming of sorts for their head coach Doug Martin who is Kentucky football alum and former graduate assistant coach in 1986.

Martin played quarterback at Kentucky under Fran Curci and Jerry Clairborne from 1982-1986, mostly in a backup role, and held on field goals. But he has fond memories he talked about to the Las Cruces Sun-News five years ago.

"“When I go back to Kentucky and I think about that, (Claiborne) is the guy that I really think about. He brought me in and made me a student coach and let me help with the receivers and made sure I got my degree and then started talking to me about being a graduate coach. He let me coach the receivers on my own during that time. I really owe a lot to him.”"

But Martin is on the hot seat and hopefully will last until this game.

Takeaways from the UTEP win over New Mexico State – the Aggies are once again not very good.

Their two quarterbacks completed 9 of 33 passes for 82 total yards while rushing for a mere 101 yards on 34 rushing attempts and their kicker was 1 of 2 on-field goal attempts. They also lost one to two fumbles they coughed up.

In other inconsequential games on Saturday you needed to be out west.

San Jose State had little difficulty with visiting Southern Utah dispatching them 45-14. The Spartans took to the air for 410 yards behind Nick Starkle’s four touchdown throws including a 75-yard touchdown catch and run. They also ran for 133 yards and a pair of scores in the rout.

Nothing could be more dismal than poor Connecticut football that chose not to play last season with the Covid pandemic and apparently should seriously consider whether to continue to play or drop back down in class.

Fresno State rolled over the Huskies 45-0. Bulldogs quarterback Jake Haener racked up 331 yards and three touchdowns passing against a UCONN defense that finished at the bottom 128th in the nation in points allowed per game in 2019.

Fellow SEC school LSU was keeping an eye on their Week 1 opponent UCLA as the host Bruins surged a 24-3 lead on Hawaii in the first quarter and simply rolled from there.  Zach Charbonnet, who transferred from Michigan, carried just six times but tallied 106 yards and three touchdowns.

LSU coach Ed Orgeron will prepare his Tigers to try and reduced the 249 yards on the ground that UCLA finished with when they kick off their season at the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Things are falling apart and heating up in Nebraska for Frost

That takes us to what was supposed to be a good start for the season for Nebraska football and  Frost getting things in gear.

Uh, someone forgot to tell Illini coach Lovie Smith that.

Illinois starting quarterback Brandon Peters even had to leave the game in the first half with a shoulder injury, and still the Illini came away with the win. That was behind the backup quarterback and – gulp- Rutgers transfer Artur Sitkowski.

Known more for his miscues at Rutgers where Sitkowski threw 20 interceptions, including 18 in 11 games as a starter in 2018, Nebraska made him look like an elite quarterback.

It had to be a bad sign for Cornhusker fans when the first points they give up on the season came in the form of safety as they fielded a punt inside the 10-yard line and ran back toward the endzone. Then to finish off the half in the closing minute they fumbled it away and Illinois returned it 41-yards for a touchdown.

Adding insult to injury Smith’s team came out and marched down for a touchdown to open the second half.

Game over and Frost has to find a way to regroup. Nebraska has no playmakers, sense of urgency and is irrelevant in today’s modern game like they once were.

Frost is now 12-21 since taking over the program after going 19-7 in two seasons at UCF, and in Big 10 play is record is just 9-18.

Let’s get ready for Week 1 coming up.

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