Hot or Cold: Kentucky pass rush heating up in SEC play
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops is on fire after recording his first SEC victory as a head coach last week in a 17-7 win over Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are 1-1 and right in the middle of the pack in the SEC East standings, which puts UK well ahead of schedule in its rebuilding process. We found out this team has real ability in the loss to Florida, but actually pulling out an SEC victory is a huge hurdle to clear, even against lowly Vanderbilt. This win will instill confidence throughout the team and the coaching staff, and that confidence will come in handy Saturday against a South Carolina team still searching for an identity this season. The Gamecocks are vulnerable, and if Stoops didn’t already command confidence from everyone associated with the Wildcats, he certainly has their confidence now.
Kentucky’s defensive line played fantastic in the win over the Commodores, recording four sacks while suffocating star tailback Ralph Webb in his worst performance of the season thus far. Bud Dupree finally recorded his first sack of the year, and the pass rush will be vital against South Carolina quarterback Dylan Thompson, who is far from fleet of foot. If the Cats’ D-line can stifle the Gamecocks’ rushing attack of Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds, and can disrupt Thompson in the pocket, UK will have a great chance to win this game.
Quarterback Patrick Towles was due for a shaky outing after three tremendous performances to begin his tenure as the starter, and that shaky outing came against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Towles appeared more turnover prone than he had in the first three games of the season, and his pick-six to Vandy’s Darrius Sims was a dreadful play. The redshirt sophomore did complete his first 11 passes and did lead a 99-yard touchdown drive to help Kentucky earn a victory, so it is not all bad. Towles is still the unquestioned starter and still has the ability to command the Air Raid offense to a bowl game. However, he proved he still has a few things to learn, and those growing pains this year could benefit UK’s offense in Towles final two years of eligibility in 2015-16.
Kentucky’s true freshmen have starred on the field so far this season, but they made a really stupid decision off the field that is going to cost Kentucky in Saturday’s showdown with South Carolina. Four true freshmen — Dorian Baker, Boom Williams, Drew Barker and Tymere Dubose — were all suspended for Saturday’s game for shooting air-soft rifles on UK’s campus Sunday night. The gun shots were reported to police and campus actually went into lockdown for a portion of the evening. Considering what has occurred with guns on college campuses in recent years, this was an inexcusable mistake by four 18 year olds who thought they were just clowning around. Barker and Dubose were going to be redshirted anyway, and their loss will not loom large on Saturday. However, Williams and Baker were major contributors on offense, and their absence will force some other guys to take on a larger role, which could be a detriment to an offense that scored zero second half points against Vanderbilt. All four freshmen will have an opportunity to redeem themselves as their careers progress and they mature, but for the time being Kentucky’s true freshmen no longer look all that spectacular, even if they have superb talent on the field.