EDITOR'S NOTEBOOK: Kentucky's Victory Over Bobcats Is Nothing Like the 2004 Matchup in Lexington
By Jamie H. Vaught
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Some random tidbits and thoughts from Saturday afternoon's UK-Ohio college football game:
---While Kentucky's important 20-3 win over the Bobcats wasn't all that pretty, it sure was nothing like 10 years ago when the Cats last faced the same school.
As you may recall, coach Rich Brooks, in his second year at UK, had a very rough 2004 campaign. And his rebuilding Cats couldn't even beat Ohio that year, losing 28-16 in Lexington, as they finished with a poor 2-9 mark.
Regardless, the Cats should feel pretty good about the 17-point victory. Even though Ohio is from the lower-tier Mid-American Conference, the Bobcats, guided by ex-Nebraska boss Frank Solich, were coming off five straight post-season bowl appearances.
In addition, the Mid-American Conference teams can be dangerous and they have come up with impressive wins over big-name schools in nonconference matchups for the past two years. They have beaten squads like Iowa, Purdue, Virginia, UConn (twice), Army (twice), Penn State, Wyoming, Indiana, South Florida, Kansas and Cincinnati, among others.
Nevertheless, beating Ohio is a nice accomplishment, a step in the right direction, as Kentucky has already matched its victory total from last season when it finished with a 2-10 mark. And UK coach Mark Stoops is excited to be 2-0.
"Maybe wasn't as pretty as we'd like it to be, but we're always going to respect wins," said Stoops. "That's a good thing. We did some very good things, and then we did some things that we'll get cleaned up on film, so overall very pleased with the effort."
---Many folks aren't comfortable with UK QB Patrick Towles' wild running game against the Bobcats, rushing for 22 times for 59 net yards. While Towles has the 6-5, 238-pound frame and a pretty good speed, they simply don't want to see him hurt.
''We might have to back off that a little bit," said Stoops. "But we'll do whatever we have to do to try to win games, so if that's what it calls for, then Patrick will be glad to do it. He's just a big guy. He's sneaky fast."
---The Wildcats have blanked the opponents in the first half of both games against UT Martin and Ohio. It is UK's first back-to-back first-half shutouts since 1988 against Alabama and LSU. In addition, Kentucky has outscored its opponents by 62 points to open the campaign, recording its largest scoring margin through two games since a 76-point margin in Rich Brooks' memorable 8-5 bowl season of 2007.
----Ohio's Solich said his team didn't executed very well and praised the Wildcats.
"I think Kentucky’s got a very good football team," commented Solich. "They are very athletic. They’ve got good team speed. Their quarterback was able to make plays, both in the throwing game and in the running game, he kept some drives alive."
---The Bobcats, by the way, are doing something that is very rare in college football. Ohio is the only school in the nation that has kept its head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in place for the past nine years.
---At his post-game news conference, Stoops was asked by a reporter if the coach would like for the media to nitpick his team's victory.
"I feel probably like you do," said Stoops. "That's okay. That's a good thing. We want it that way. I want to continue to strive to get these victories and look pretty doing it, but again, all that matters is winning. And we still made progress today. It's good to be in a tough game, things not go perfect and win."
---Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Timmons, who posted his career highs in receptions (10) and yards (95), said the Cats should have scored more.
"We went into the red zone about four times and didn’t get a touchdown," said Timmons, who is from Frankfort. "It hurts leaving points up there on the board. We just need to watch film more and try to execute in the end zone."
---In two games, the UK offense so far hasn't made any costly mistakes, posting no fumbles or interceptions.
---Kentucky freshman placekicker Austin MacGinnis hit two of four field goals against the Bobcats. While missing two short field goals (28 and 35 yards), the Alabama native hit a 53-yard FG in the second quarter, giving the Cats a 17-0 advantage.
Stoops said he is not too concerned about MacGinnis and his inconsistent kicks. "He'll be okay," added the coach.
---The Cats won't be facing the same Gator quarterback who beat them 24-7 last year in Saturday's 7:30 p.m. game (SEC Network) at Florida. That backup QB (Tyler Murphy) is gone and is now playing for Boston College as a graduate transfer. Now playing QB for the Gators is redshirt junior Jeff Driskel, who last fall had a leg injury which ended his season prematurely.
It will be a tough nightcap for the Cats in the Swamp with Florida owning a 27-game winning streak in the series. Like Kentucky, Florida also played against a team from the Mid-American Conference last Saturday, whipping Eastern Michigan 65-0. The Gators are certainly hungry after a poor 4-8 performance in 2013, marking the worst season at UF since 1979.
---My quick (and revised) forecast: UF by 17.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. The editor of KySportsStyle360.com online magazine is also a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. Reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle360@gmail.com.