Rapid Reaction: Defense keys No. 9 Kentucky's easy win over Youngstown State
In the first half of Saturday’s 31-0 victory over Youngstown State, No. 9 Kentucky held the FCS Penguins to a single first down. Kentucky’s offense was uneven, but the defense always had an answer as the Wildcats moved to 3-0 with a defensively-propelled victory.
UK quarterback Will Levis threw for 377 yards, picking up much of his yardage on completions to freshman wide receivers. He did throw a pair of interceptions as well. Kentucky’s ground game struggled, averaging just 1.4 yards per carry in the first quarter, but senior back Kavosiey Smoke did pick things up later in the game, although the Wildcats still plainly miss running back Chris Rodriguez, who will return for the Wildcats’ Week 5 tilt with Ole Miss.
The game was scoreless for a quarter before Kentucky pulled away with a trio of second-quarter scores. First, Levis scored on a 1-yard QB sneak to spot UK with a 7-0 edge with 13:34 left in the half. After a 3-and-out, Levis moved the Wildcats 77 yards yards in 8 plays, finishing the drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Dane Key.
Key, the true freshman wideout, became the first Wildcat since freshman eligibility was implemented in 1972 to catch touchdowns in his first 3 career games, and he nearly had a 100-yard receiving game. He finished with 6 catches for 90 yards. Key opened the drive with a 29-yard catch from Levis, who also had a 24-yard rush during the drive. UK then led 14-0 with 6:10 remaining in the half.
Kentucky then finished the half with a 71-yard scoring march, which finished with a Levis to Chris Lewis 2-yard connection, for the redshirt freshman’s first career touchdown catch. Leading 21-0 at intermission, the Wildcats extended it on a 7-yard Kavosiey Smoke run with 8:36 to go in the 3rd quarter.
Youngstown’s best scoring opportunity was set up by a 64-yard screen pass from Youngstown State QB Demeatric Crenshaw to running back Jaleel McLaughin. But on 1st-and-goal from the 2, Crenshaw tried to hit transfer wide receiver Bryce Oliver in the end zone. Instead, Carrington Valentine intercepted it.
At 3-0 for the 4th time in 6 years, the Wildcats will host Northern Illinois next week before returning to SEC play on Oct. 1st in a game at Ole Miss. Youngstown State, which came in ranked 23rd in FCS, falls to 2-1, but has high hopes of competing in the Missouri Valley Conference this season.