Now that most UK fans have had time to either repent for all the things they yelled at the TV or climb down from their respective jumping ledges after Kentucky survived Saturday night against FCS and backyard opponent Eastern Kentucky 34-27 in overtime, let’s consider five good takeaways from the matchup in Lexington
1. Kentucky won. Whether you like or dislike the way it happen, the fact remains the Cats clawed back from a 27-13 deficit late in the 4th quarter to force overtime and win on a Dorian Baker screen pass from Patrick Towles and a huge defensive stop against a EKU offense that gashed them for most of the night. UK showed up when they had to, and that is progress.
2. Kentucky is 4-1. If you could, go around to these SEC programs and ask them if they would like to be 4-1 right now: Tennessee (2-3), Vandy (2-3), South Carolina (2-3), Arkansas (2-3), Mississippi State (3-2), and Auburn (3-2). It doesn’t matter how the Cats got there, the fact is they are there, tied for second in the SEC East a game behind Florida, the Cats' only loss on the season.
3. The OVC is a pretty good conference. Call them FCS or Division 1-AA, but the Ohio Valley has got some major talent at their mid-major level. The Colonels played with a QB from Cincinnati, a running back from Kentucky, a defensive end who was All Big Ten last year at Ohio State, and a safety from Arizona State. That’s not garden variety talent. Plus, ask Auburn how good OVC foe Jacksonville State is. The Gamecocks took the Tigers to OT also before losing 27-20.
4. Patrick Towles. I may make some readers a little upset, but the redshirt junior played well when the pressure was on, finishing with 329 yards passing and 3 touchdown passes. Towles is and should be the quarterback going forward without question. Towles is tough, heady, and doesn’t rattle. I think in time the Cats will find the opportunity to get freshman QB Drew Barker out of the garage and see what he can do, but UK is building something that looks better and better this year. The last thing the Cats need to do is start benching the QB when he makes mistakes. Towles is 4-1 as a starter, completes 62% of his passes for 1,153 yards and 8 touchdowns, beat South Carolina and Missouri and has engineered three comeback wins. This writer says leave him alone.
5. Auburn comes to town on Thursday night, Oct. 15. I really believe UK has a great opportunity to show how far the program has come against the War Eagles. Auburn has struggled this year, and the Cats have a golden opportunity to stake a claim as a legitimate contender in the SEC this year. The Tigers still have great talent despite their record. UK will have to play very well to win. With running back Boom Williams returning, the Cats will have the firepower to score some points. If the defense can correct some things against the run (specifically the zone read), look for the Cats to run their record to 5-1 with a 33-20 victory.
Shane Shackleford is a third grade teacher at Evarts Elementary School and an assistant boys' basketball coach at Harlan County High School, both in Harlan, Ky. He and his wife Elizabeth reside in Harrogate, TN with their dogs Molly and Bear. Shane can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org