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Stoops says 35-20 win over Central Michigan a “starting point” for Kentucky

Chris Westry got ejected for a targeting call that kept a Central Michigan touchdown drive alive. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky either nearly beat itself or did a remarkable job of overcoming its own mistakes to still beat Central Michigan 35-20 Saturday.

If you are a pessimist, you have to worry about the two interceptions and one lost fumble that starting quarterback Terry Wilson had and maybe the lack of big plays in the passing game.

If you are an optimist, you point to both Benny Snell and A.J. Rose rushing for over 100 yards and each having a touchdown run of more than 50 yards or the way backup quarterback Gunnar Hoak came on the final minute of the first half when Wilson was hurt and led UK on a go-ahead touchdown drive.

Or if you are Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, you are just glad you got the win, got to play so many players and didn’t have any serious injuries into the Southeastern Conference opener at Florida.

Kentucky had four turnovers the first half. Last year UK had 15 turnovers in 13 games. Yet at halftime UK still led 21-20 and the Cats dominated the second half.

“It’s a starting point. That’s one,” Stoops said after the game. “And we’re excited to get back to work. That’s the good thing about this team. They’re excited just about the opportunity in front of them and getting one in the books and getting ready to get back to work on Monday.”

Central Michigan coach John Bonamego said it wasn’t hard to tell why UK dominated the second half.

“(In the) second half, Kentucky did a better job of taking care of the football. In the second half, I think we really hurt ourselves with some critical penalties that eliminated some big plays and had a long kick-off return,” the coach said.

Kentucky limited Central Michigan to 255 total yards. Linebacker Josh Allen had eight tackles, including six solo stops along with three tackles for loss. He also had a quarterback sack — despite being held on the play — and one quarterback hurry.

“It was a great start. Could have had another sack, but I didn’t finish so I have work on that. I could’ve played better, but I feel like it was a good start,” Allen said.

Stoops didn’t realize how productive Allen had been until he was told after the game.

“I knew he had the sack and he was playing well. I didn’t realize his production was that high. So that’s good. I think he has a chance to have a real big year,” the UK coach said.

Stoops said winning despite four first-half turnovers and a minus four turnover margin — along with a targeting penalty that kept alive a Central Michigan touchdown drive — says a lot about his team.

“We gotta be aware of the situation, down, distance and what you’re getting into there. But yeah, other than that long drive on the defense with, again, could have been stopped on that penalty, I was proud of the way they played,” Stoops said.

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  1. Great to get the W but question still remains,,,why can’t Stoops get the team fired up and prepared to play in season opener? That certainly was a disaster by the OL in first half. Guess the team wanted to showcase their readiness for the Swamp. If they play like they did first half, the streak continues not that it won’t anyway. Stoops took the choke collar off at halftime, and they played much better. Looks like Gran wants to continue to target CJ like he did last year and wants to add Baker to that list.

  2. 128 yards passing will not win many games. UK has two really good backs in Snell and Rose, they don’t need running yards from a qb. UK needs a qb that can get players other than the backs involved in the game. Not impressed with Wilson, at all. If they were playing a better team, two more of his passes in the first half would have probably been intercepted. UK has a lot of good players at several positions on offense, but having a qb that cannot make passes just hog ties the offense into a one dimensional team. This looks to be another year where all the opponent has to do is stop the run.

    1. Stop the run and complete short passes..too early to make a call on Wilson but he played close to stats he brought here. A lot of our guys played very well but my vote for MVP goes to CMU penalties.

  3. Honestly, if UK plays like that next Saturday at Florida they will get beat. School is still out on Wilson, Hoak was the better QB yesterday, but they kept him on a short leash. I don’t see why they don’t play them both going forward and stick with the hot hand. The turn overs were hard to watch. Rose is another capable back, Snell is a beast even with a fever. Stoops, as usual, looks lost on the sidelines, and Gran won’t throw the deep ball enough, and with all those capable receivers on this team. I think they threw the football towards Conrad a whooping two or three times that I can recall. I think he caught one pass. The starting QB couldn’t get the ball to the open man most of the time either. I will conclude it was opening game jitters, but this was a depleted MAC team they faced at home, with no senior leadership. UK made it look way to hard, especially the first half. UK didn’t beat the point spread, There were also a ton of empty seats. It could be a long year. I keep hoping UK can get to 8 or 9 wins, but they will not if this game is any indication of their progress. Just glad they got the “W.”

  4. I was there in person the stadium wasn’t half full my opinion. The first half the Cats pretty much shot them in the foot with all the turnovers. We’re going have throw the ball better if we going have a successful season and I don’t know if we have a QB to get that done.

    1. Cats 79, Hoak led them right down the field with pin point passing and into the end zone when it counted most. He performed under some great pressure, but gets yanked, go figure. The UK coaches pulled him when UK lost field position due to not fielding punts, but letting them roll deep into UK territory on several CM punts. They put Wilson back in to continue their ground attack. Gran is afraid to air it out it looks like to me. This team has to run the ball, and they did, I get that, but you have to have a deep threat in the air too to win in this league.

  5. This was not a single digit game as I had forecast, but it was not a 3 TD or larger victory as many in the BBN forecast. a 2 TD win against a depleted CMU team is really a yawner, and over the course of a 60 minute game, a lot of things happen and don’t happen that contribute to the final outcome.

    I believe the final outcome tells the story. This one tell a story of a 4 to 5 win season, not a 7+ win season.

    Yesterday, Florida beat Charleston Southern by 53 points (56-3) in a game they were favored to win by 38 to 39 points, exceeding the margin by about 15 points while Kentucky beat CMU by 15 when the margin was projected by Sagarin and Vegas at 17 or 17 1/2 points, slightly under performing on these measures.

    When the Cats go to Gainesville next week, UK will be underdogs. I would say the line will be 9 to 11 points, and we will see what the Vegas boys have to say when they open on Tuesday. About 70% of games end within one Standard Deviation unit of the predicted outcome, and at 9 to 11 points that is about 1 SD unit. Therefore, the probability of a UK win would be about 30% if the line is in this range. Based solely on these first game outcomes, this game could get ugly for the Cats. That is why I expect the final margin will be greater than the 9 to 11 point line.

  6. I thought Hinshaw was supposed to be something special when it comes to working with qbs. So far he hasn’t shown the ability to get us a qb that can even come close to completing passes at an acceptable rate. If Wilson remains the qb and doesn’t improve a tremendous amount, UK will be hard pressed to win 5 games. In this offense, already having good running backs, Wilson’s running yards are not what is needed. We need passing yards to go along with Snell and Rose.

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