Last week I thought that Kentucky needed a decisive win over Kent State to build momentum. After a bit of a slow start they were able to do that. The offense was as good as we’ve seen in a long time, throwing for 354 passing yards, which is the most since Andre Woodson threw for 430 against Tennessee in 2007.
The Cats now face a Western Kentucky team that has won eight of their last ten games. Their lone losses are to LSU last year and Alabama last week. Kentucky opened as a mere 3.5-point favorite, but that is now climbing towards six. With SEC play on the horizon, the Wildcats need another decisive win to build confidence before they travel to Florida.
Here’s what the Cats need to do to get that decisive win.
Avoid the slow start
Last week the Wildcats were able to overcome a slow start to Kent State. You don’t want to have to do that again against the Hilltoppers. Especially, when there will be a nice little contigent of Western Kentucky fans at Commonwealth ready to cheer if they hang in the game. Jump out front early and put them away. WKU is 0-14 against SEC schools. Keep it that way.
Protect the quarterback
The Hilltoppers are coming off of a game at Alabama where they sacked the quarterback six times. Senior defensive lineman Quanterus Smith recording three of his own. After having that kind of success against the Crimson Tide’s vaunted O-line, WKU will come in to Lexington will kinds of confidence. Kentucky has looked solid, dare I say potent, with their passing attack. The best way to stifle the passing attack is to pressure Max Smith. Larry Warford and company have to keep Smith clean.
Consistency from the ground game
Last week Raymond Sanders had his first 100-yard rushing game and Jonathan George broke a big run. But, most of their success on the ground was on big plays. UK has to find a way to build consistency through their ground attack and be able to get that three or four yard gain whenever they need it. Their struggles in that area were evident last week when Dyshawn Mobley could not punch it in from the 1-yard line on back-to-back tries. With CoShik Williams back in the starting lineup the Cats need to poke and poke at the WKU defense with successful gains and then gash them for big runs.
Improve on defense
There’s no denying Kentucky’s struggles on defense in their first two games. They’ve allowed an average of 437 yards, 200 of which are on the ground, in their first two contests. This number has to improve on Saturday and if it doesn’t, not only will it make it more difficult to get a “W” against WKU, wins in SEC play become even harder to come by. The inability to stop the run does not fall on one group. The UK defense as a whole has to work together to come off of blocks, close gaps and make tackles.
Win the turnover battle
This is an easy one and should be a part of every team’s key to win. As an underdog, you need to force turnovers to have a chance. As the favorite, prevent them and you will likely win. Turnovers prevented the Cats from having any chance of upsetting the Cards in Louisville despite the fact that they moved the football effectively. Joker has placed a huge emphasis on the UK defense creating turnovers. It will be interesting to see if that work comes into fruition. WKU quarterback Kawaun Jakes has been solid in his first two games this year, but in the past has been plagued by inconsistencies. Rattle Jakes and there should be opportunities for takeaways. If the Cats win the turnover battle, any chance of an upset should go to the wayside.
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