The Ohio Bobcats squeaked by with a thrilling win against Kent State this past Saturday. Kentucky did not. The Wildcats pounced on UT Martin from the start, shutting their opponents out throughout the first three quarters.
These teams did share something in common last week, however. The Bobcats and Wildcats both took until their second drive to get the scoreboard turning on offense. Kentucky started off with an impressive drive, but it stalled on a missed fourth down conversion in UT Martin territory. Ohio began their game with Kent State with a seven-yard run by running back Daz’mond Patterson. The drive quickly stalled.
That cannot happen for the ‘Cats in Kentucky on Saturday because the Skyhawks were buried behind 45 points at halftime at Commonwealth Stadium. A young offense cannot afford to work from multiple scores behind in the opening quarter.
“There’s an awful lot to prepare for,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said of Kentucky. “They executed extremely well in their first ballgame, so it will be a matter of playing very, very well. We’re going to have to match up and physically play well.”
Quarterback Derrius Vick handled the opening of the new era for the Bobcats by being the dual-threat quarterback successor to Tyler Tettleton. Vick’s ability to run the ball aggressively and hit his receivers in tight pockets will be the most daunting task for the Kentucky defense on Saturday.
But this time he needs to be able to lead his team in finishing drives. If Ohio goes three or more punts in between scores in the first half they will have a tough hill to climb the rest of the way.
“Any time you’re playing a bigger conference school that always gives you more momentum,” Vick said. “It’s an SEC-caliber team, so we’ve got to be ready to play.”
What is scary for the Bobcats isn’t the Wildcats defense — they allowed UT Martin to only reach the end zone twice in the fourth quarter — but it’s their Air Raid offense. The way the Air Raid is set up allows for Kentucky to analyze and choose a point of attack against the Bobcats before the snap. Kentucky opted to run the ball a lot more on the Skyhawks because of the defensive packages they were throwing the Wildcats’ way.
“If we don’t come ready to play they can turn the score on us real quick,” Vick said.
Ohio’s performance against the Kent running game may force Kentucky to pass the ball more. Add into the mix that running back Braylon Heard — who rushed twice for 116 yards and two touchdowns — most likely won’t see any action Saturday and quarterback Patrick Towles suddenly has a lot on his plate.
Both teams are somewhat young and somewhat inexperienced, but the Wildcats came to play in the season opener. Ohio (1-0, 1-0 MAC) will have to be sharp from the start if it wants to survive week two.
“I think we can handle any adversity that comes our way from here on out,” Ohio wide receiver Landon Smith said.
About the Opponent: Kentucky Wildcats (1-0, 0-0)
Location: Lexington, Kentucky
Colors: Blue and White
Mascot: The Wildcat
Notable Alumni: Former Miami Heat coach and current owner Pat Riley and Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel
Players in the NFL: Green Bay Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Stevie Johnson
Previous Bobcat Game: 28-16 Bobcat win at Commonwealth Stadium – Oct. 2, 2004
Current Matchup: Saturday at 3:30 p.m. — Commonwealth Stadium
Bobcats to Watch
Offense: QB Derrius Vick – Solich said in the week leading up to the season opener against Kent State that we would see Vick and J.D. Sprague share time together in the opener, but that wasn’t the case. Vick put together an 18-of-24 performance, good for 262 yards and two touchdowns. There is no question now that Vick should be the outright starter. With one game under his belt as the 2014 starter, he will now have the task of keeping pace with an offense that scored 59 points last weekend. Vick was accurate last week, but he will need to develop a more involved passing game.
Defense: S Nathan Carpenter – With the other captain safety, Josh Kristoff, battling an injury, Carpenter will have to step up. Linebacker Jovon Johnson, who led the team with 11 tackles last week, is also battling an injury, but Carpenter is the perfect player to fill any void on the defense. He is comfortable leading a veteran and experienced team, and the team stepped up in huge ways last week. The defense came up with a crucial interception in the red zone early on against Kent State and also only allowed seven points off four straight Ohio turnovers during the third and fourth quarters.
Wildcats to Watch
Offense: QB Patrick Towles – Towles made his first career start for the Wildcats on Saturday, and it went better than Vick’s 2014 season opener. Towles, a sophomore, led the Kentucky offense to its fourth highest yardage total in team history: 656. Towles threw for 377 yards through the air, ending up with two touchdowns (one a 23-yard run). Towles completed at least two passes to eight receivers in the season opener. He also threw a 79-yard pass to senior wide receiver Demarco Robinson. Although the Kentucky run offense also steamrolled UT Martin, Ohio’s secondary was the most exposed against Kent State.
Defense: S A.J. Stamps – The junior JUCO defensive back is not in this preview because of the glory he received on SportsCenter. His overall performance against UT Martin included more highlights, including track-stopping hits. The the last thing that the Ohio running backs need coming off a four-fumble second half against Kent State is to be rattled by the likes of Stamps. Stamps finished with a team-high eight tackles, proving that he is a multi threat in the Kentucky secondary.
Wildcats 30, Bobcats 24 – I think this one will be a lot closer than most are thinking. The spread right now is 10 points, but the Bobcats will be within striking distance of Kentucky come the end of this game. Look forward to seeing some early scores, mid-game struggles and a finish that will come down to the fourth quarter.