JAMIE H. VAUGHT: Football Wildcats Okay Against Miami

Personal observations of UK’s season-opening 37-13 win over Miami (Ohio) at Kroger Field Saturday night:


--It was a pretty nice win for the Wildcats, playing against a very respectable RedHawks team from the Mid-American Conference. Kentucky, now 1-0, travels to Gainesville this coming weekend for a big date with Florida at the Swamp (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). It won’t be an easy trip as the surprising Gators upset No. 7 Utah 29-26 Saturday night. If Coach Mark Stoops’ club is going to make significant noise this fall, it will need to win at Florida.

--Gamechangers took place when Kentucky scored 14 points in 62 seconds at the beginning of the second half. Rookie Barion Brown sprinted for a 100-yard TD on a kickoff return to give the Cats a more comfortable 20-10 margin. Just moments later, Kentucky defense recovered a fumble. Two plays later, the Cats scored on a TD pass. Without these two touchdowns, the Wildcats would only lead 13-10.


--Who is Barion Brown, who also had three catches for 45 yards, including a 38-yarder? A five-star prospect, the 6-1, 166-pound wide receiver is a true freshman from Nashville, Tenn. The all-around athlete also won back-to-back state championship in the 100- and 200-meter dash. Other than playing football, his dream job is to become a coach.


--Despite his team’s offensive line’s struggles, especially in the first half, quarterback Will Levis did a fine job. The senior from Madison, Conn., hit 21 of 32 passes for 303 yards and three TDs.


--Virginia Tech transfer Tayvion Robinson led UK’s receiving corps with 136 yards in six receptions, including a 45-yarder. Before coming to Kentucky, he played three years for the Hokies when he was the team’s leading receiver during his sophomore and junior years.


--Without suspended star running back Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky struggled with its running game, gaining a total of only 50 net yards in 26 carries.


--I thought the defense was respectable. Senior linebacker DeAndre Square led the Cats with seven tackles.


-- Kicker Matt Ruffolo was solid against Miami. The graduate student from Ohio native hit three field goals, including a career-tying 50-yarder. He also hit a 45-yard FG but it was nullified by his team’s delay-of-game penalty. Ruffolo returned to UK for his sixth year, taking advantage of the NCAA’s ruling to grant an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime sports columnist in Kentucky, is the author of five books about UK basketball, including recently-published “Chasing the Cats: A Kentucky Basketball Journey.” He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com Magazine, and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via email at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.

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