Under the lights of Kroger Field on Saturday night, Kentucky football battled the Tennessee Volunteers and endured their third straight loss.
This loss brings the Cats to 5-3 on the season and still one win shy of being bowl-eligible. Let’s take a look at the good, bad and ugly from Saturday.
Going into the eighth game of the season, Kentucky football fans were starting to wonder if they would ever see the Devin Leary that was hyped up as being as good or better than Will Levis. Last Saturday finally gave fans a preview of what Leary is capable of, and it was against a Tennessee defense that is tied for third in the SEC in sacks (29) and is fourth in yards allowed at 327.5 a game.
Leary picked apart the Vols defense, passing the ball going 28-39 on the day for 372 yards with no interceptions while connecting with eight different receivers. Dane Key led the group with 7 receptions for 113 yards and 1 touchdown.
Don’t be fooled though, Leary was able to do what he did because the offensive line did their job. Leary was not sacked, and Tennessee only had four tackles for loss. If Leary and the Wildcats’ offensive line can continue to create similar stats for the rest of the season, Kentucky will be dangerous.
As good as the offensive line was, it did not have an answer for the Tennessee defense when the Cats were running the ball. Ray Davis struggled, carrying the ball 16 times for 42 yards for an average of 2.6 per carry. As a team, the Wildcats averaged just 3.0 per carry and only had 72 yards on the day. Kentucky needed the running game, but it was nowhere to be found on Saturday.
Kentucky football could not stop the run! Jaylen Wright had 11 carries for 120 yards, Dylan Sampson had17 carries for 75 yards, and Jabari Small had 9 carries for 32 yards. Every Tennessee running back averaged more than 3.5 yards per carry on the day. The Volunteers carved up the Cats, rushing for 253 yards total on 47 attempts. For comparison, Tennessee only threw the ball 21 times Saturday. They had a gameplan and stuck with it once they figured out Kentucky couldn’t stop the run.
If you told me before this game that Leary would throw for 372 yards with no interceptions or sacks, I would have told you Kentucky was going to blow Tennessee out. Unfortunately, eight games into the season we still haven’t seen Kentucky excel on both sides of the ball in the same game. We’ve seen games that parts of the defense looked great, that the running game looked great, and now, one that the passing game looked great.
Eight games into this season I’m still wondering what this Kentucky football team’s identity is. They better find the answer to that question fast, the clock is ticking on this season, and they are capable of so much more than what they are showing.