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Cats have SEC speed





Bob Watkins

Bob Watkins

Curious thing the rant of studio talking head experts, so logical at front end of a weekend, but hard to recognize by Armchair Quarterback meeting on Monday.

South Carolina was a two touchdown favorite against visiting Texas A&M and the Aggies gave the Spurriers a good whipping. Closer to home, MAC Conference champion Bowling Green would spank Western Kentucky, they said.

Hmmm.

Here, in Kentucky the appropriate way to describe what Western Kentucky did to Bowling Green on Friday and Kentucky did to Tennessee-Martin a day later might be two words — Pretty Work.

In Lexington, roughly 8,000 noshows skipped the turkey shoot, but missed a show while 50,000- plus Big Blues and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops were aglow after the 59-14 shelling in what we will call the Schedule Maker Bowl.

Asked to assess quarterback Patrick Towles’s debut, Stoops kept to his credo, keep it simple. “I liked his poise and decision-making.”

Indeed. No sign of the shakes, Towles was crisp and in charge as he should be against a lightweight foe, start to finish — 20 passes complete on 29 throws, 377 yards, no interceptions.

Most striking items about Kentucky’s debut?

1. All new people. “Who are these guys?” someone asked.

2. Speed.

3. And a nice little OVC middleof the-pack team to break in the training wheels. (They come off for Game 3 against Florida).

4. Did I mention, speed?

“ They were really fast,” UTMartin QB Jarod Neal understated. “They were faster than our guys and when they needed to make a play, they made the play. They played sound.” v The words “played sound” and “they” were no exaggeration. Two dozen newcomers got onto the Commonwealth Stadium turf. Try and digest for a moment: A Kentucky football team with (SEC) speed and depth.

• Efficiency? This side of greybeards like me, who can recall a season opening show by Kentucky that projected as much promise than this one?

• Offense? Five touchdowns from half a dozen new Wildcats. Returnee JoJo Kemp had another.

• Braylon Heard’s two carries, two dazzling touchdown runs of 73 and 43 yards, reminded us of Alfred “Sonny” Collins (1972-75).

• Defense. Secondary newcomers E.J. Stamps and Kendall Randolph showed flashes of SEC level speed, savvy and aggression glaringly absent in Lexington for more than half a decade.

NEXT. Kentucky is a 10- points- plus favorite this week against visiting Ohio University ( 1- 0). A win, whatever the spread, is relevant only if it becomes a game tape to add to effi- ciency, reduce six penalties and repeat zero turnovers.

Big Blue faithful know the real story here. As the calendar has turned to September, Kentucky’s real season opener comes next week in Gainesville.

September 13 in The Swamp is far enough off to repeat and refine the Pretty Work.

Western Kentucky

Arguably the most impressive items that came from Jeff Brohm’s first edition Hilltoppers were preparation, poise, (really fast!) pace and production. 59-31.

Western was to Bowling Green what classic Muhammad Ali was to Sonny Liston 50 years ago. Addle him early and be relentless until he surrenders. The Hilltoppers scored 14 or more points in each quarter.

Quarterback Brandon Doughty was more standand delivery Peyton Manning than a Johnny Football. Of Western’s 97 offensive snaps, Doughty threw 56 times, completed 46 for a school record 569 yards. No interceptions. By any measure, incredible.

And so, a (strategic) near flawless gem for Hilltoppers fans and new coach Jeff Brohm to munch on this week. Near flawless because the defense surrendered 31 points.

Strategic because the flag momentum has run up the WKU pole this week. Next comes a bragging rights and recruiting game signature win chance at Illinois. And a chance at redemption for Doughty. A year ago, on the heels of a smartly executed win over Kentucky, WKU went to Knoxville and Doughty had a veritable nervous breakdown against an ordinary Tennessee. The Vols intercepted Doughty five times, scored 24 points in the first quarter and won 52-20.

In Champaigne-Urbana this Saturday, he will remember.

Meanwhile, the Hilltoppers’ defense has Pretty Work to do.

College Hoops

In a bit of industrious thinking, an internet writer posed a list last week called 10 reasons We Can’t Wait for the College Basketball Season to Begin.

The idea was better than the reasons. Two with merit: v First look at how scary the ACC will be. “Now that Louisville has arrived to complete the league’s roster, it’s time for the action on the floor to retake center stage from the action on the map.” v See if Duke can beat Kentucky at its own game (one-and-done).

Mike Krzyzewski could start and compete for a title with four freshmen — Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Grayson Allen.

And so it goes.


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