JOE COX: Kentucky-Louisiana Lafayette Should Be A Decent Game To Watch
It’s September, fall is on its way, and home springs eternal once again for the fan base of the Kentucky Wildcats football team. National media projections ranging from 5-7 to 8-4 have been spotted, but after nearly a month of fall camp, it’s time to take it on the field.
For the record, both I and editor Jamie Vaught have projected a 7-5 regular season for the Wildcats. But there’s a ton of football between now and then, and let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
First things first—starting with Saturday’s season opener against the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette.
WHERE WE’RE GOING
It’ll be a revamped (and judging from the photos, probably vastly unfinished) Commonwealth Stadium that is unveiled on Saturday. More seatbacks, fewer seats, etc. And hopefully, it’ll be a loud and alive stadium, because Louisiana-Lafayette is legitimate. Quick—which FBS teams have won 9 or more games for each of the last four seasons? Oregon. And Louisiana-Lafayette. That’s it.
If La-Laf is going to be successful on Saturday, it will likely start and end with RB Elijah McGuire. McGuire ran for 1264 yards and a 7.6 yards per carry average in 2014. In two seasons, he has gained over 3000 yards rushing and receiving. In La-Laf’s four losses last season, McGuire totaled 33 carries for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns. In their nine wins, he amassed 1106 yards on 133 carries, with 12 rushing touchdowns. As McGuire goes, so goes Lafayette.
The Cajuns are breaking in a new QB—junior Brooks Haack. He threw just 23 passes last year, so he is relatively untested. The passing game looks like nothing special.
Defensively, La-Laf is an aggressive team. Senior LB Dominique Tovell is the heart of the defense, and La-Laf has added some defensive coaches from Auburn to their staff. Lafayette held opponents to only 73% scoring in the red zone, and they were +3 on turnovers for the season. La-Laf totaled 84 tackles for loss in 2014, including 32 sacks.
The kicking game is something of an unknown, as the Cajuns were debut some freshmen specialists. Kentucky could exploit this inexperience.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR FROM UK
Since we don’t have a past game to review, here are five predictions for things we might see from the Wildcats on Saturday.
1) A big game for the tight ends. Freshmen Conrad and Long are names that should become familiar. In the past, having a reliable tight end turned UK’s offenses from decent to explosive. Hopefully, we’ll see more of the same.
2) Big time play from the young guys defensively. With Cory Johnson and Jason Hatcher both suspended, it’s time for some of the talented youngsters on defense to make a statement.
3) A very solid game from Towles, and some playing time for Drew Barker. There isn’t a QB controversy, there won’t be one, but Stoops would be foolish not to get some snaps for Barker.