It’s officially football time in the bluegrass, as the Kentucky Wildcats cruised to a 45-10 victory over Louisiana Monroe to open the 2021 season on Saturday. The competition level was admittedly low – the Warhawks finished last in the Sun Belt at 0-10 in 2020 – but the team’s growth on both sides of the football was undeniable and put on full display in the season opener.
Just how impressive was Kentucky football’s debut? The numbers jump off the page, with the Wildcats ranking in the top five of ten major statistical categories, including first in five.
KSR has gathered all of the best and worst statistics in the three major categories: offense, defense, and special teams. Let’s take a look:
The Positives – Offense
Liam Coen’s debut as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator was an overwhelming success, with his unit racking up 554 total yards – including 419 passing – and 45 points to open the season.
- Red zone offense – Tied for No. 1 overall, tied for No. 1 in the SEC (5/5 attempts, 100%)
- Passing offense – No. 2 overall, No. 1 in the SEC (419.0 yards per game, 19.05 yards per completion)
- Yards per play – No. 10 overall, No. 5 among Power 5 programs, No. 2 in the SEC (8.42 yards per play)
- Total offense – No. 11 overall, No. 3 in the SEC (554.0 yards per game)
- Team passing efficiency – No. 12 overall, No. 2 in the SEC (207.62 passing efficiency)
- Scoring offense – No. 20 overall, No. 3 in the SEC (45.0 points per game)
- 3rd down conversion – Tied for No. 24 overall, No. 5 in the SEC (6/11 – 54.5%)
- Tackles for loss allowed – Tied for No. 25 overall, tied for No. 2 in the SEC (4.0 tackles for loss allowed)
The Negatives – Offense
If we’re being honest, you have to nitpick to find the offense’s “negatives.” Most had to do with successes elsewhere, namely with first downs, rushing offense, time of possession, and 4th down conversion. UK had explosive plays – including three touchdowns of 15 yards or more – and clearly focused on hitting home runs through the air.
Mark Stoops was frustrated with turnovers and penalties, but beyond that, it’s tough to get too bent out of shape with any of the other offensive numbers.
- First downs offense – Tied for No. 42 overall, tied for No. 7 in the SEC (24 first downs)
- Completion percentage – Tied for No. 44 overall, No. 5 in the SEC (22/33 – 66.7%)
- Time of possession – No. 46 overall, No. 5 in the SEC (31 minutes)
- Fewest penalties – Tied for No. 71 overall, tied for No. 6 in the SEC (seven penalties, 65 penalty yards)
- Rushing offense – No. 75 overall, No. 9 in the SEC (135.0 yards per game, 3.97 yards per rush)
- 4th down conversion – Tied for No. 77 overall, tied for No. 6 in the SEC (0/1 – 0.00%)
- Turnovers lost – Tied for No. 99 overall, tied for No. 9 in the SEC (Three turnovers lost)
The Positives – Defense
Think the offense graded out well? Wait till you see Brad White’s defensive numbers. Kentucky currently leads the nation in total defense and team tackles for loss, among other major highlights.
The proof is in the pudding: it was an unbelievably dominant defensive effort for the Wildcats.
- Total defense – No. 1 overall, No. 1 in the SEC (87.0 yards allowed per game)
- Team tackles for loss – No. 1 overall, No. 1 in the SEC (15.0 tackles for loss)
- Passing yards allowed – No. 3 overall, No. 1 in the SEC (71.0 passing yards allowed)
- Team sacks – Tied for No. 5 overall, tied for No. 4 in the SEC (6.0 sacks per game, 43 total sack yards)
- Rushing defense – No. 5 overall, No. 3 in the SEC (16.0 rushing yards allowed per game, 0.37 yards per rush)
- First downs defense – Tied for No. 11 overall, tied for No. 3 in the SEC (12 first downs allowed)
- Team passing efficiency defense – No. 19 overall, No. 3 in the SEC (84.82 opponent passing efficiency)
- Scoring defense – Tied for No. 21 overall, tied for No. 4 in the SEC (10.0 points allowed per game)
The Negatives – Defense
Again, not much to dislike about Kentucky’s defensive effort.
- 3rd down defense – No. 45 overall, No. 7 in the SEC (6/19 – 31.6%)
- 4th down defense – Tied for No. 95 overall, tied for No. 10 in the SEC (1/1 – 100%)
The Positives – Special Teams
It was a limited sample size, but UK’s special teams unit did its job on kicks and return coverage.
- Field goal conversions – Tied for No. 1 overall, tied for No. 1 in the SEC (1/1 FG, 100%)
- Extra point attempts – Tied for No. 1 overall, tied for No. 1 in the SEC (6/6 XP)
- Kickoff return defense – Tied for No. 2 overall, tied for No. 1 in the SEC (0.00 kick return yards allowed per attempt, seven touchbacks)
- Punt return defense – Tied for No. 14 overall, tied for No. 2 in the SEC (0.00 punt return yards allowed per attempt)
The Negatives – Special Teams
There were a few miscues with the punting unit, namely with Wan’Dale Robinson’s early muff and a so-so debut for Max Duffy’s replacement, Wilson Berry.
Again, limited sample size and no serious concerns after one game. We should know more about the unit as a whole when Missouri comes to town next weekend.
- Punt returns – Tied for No. 63 overall, No. 8 in the SEC (3.00 punt return yards per attempt)
- Net punting – No. 91 overall, No. 9 in the SEC (35.50 yards per punt)
Other Miscellaneous Numbers
- Three of the four leading receivers in the SEC play for Kentucky (Josh Ali at No. 1 with 136 yards, Wan’Dale Robinson at No. 2 with 125 yards, and Isaiah Epps at No. 4 with 83 yards)
- Will Levis was Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 highest-graded Power 5 quarterback in Week 1 (92.0), behind only Michigan’s Cade McNamara (93.0) and Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez (92.3)
- Josh Ali ranks second in the SEC in long pass plays with five receptions of 10-plus yards
- DeAndre Square ranks second in the SEC in tackles for loss with 3.5
- JJ Weaver ranks third in the SEC in QB sacks with two
Hard to ask for a better overall performance to open the season. Back at it on Saturday.
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