The Kentucky Wildcats opened the 2019 season with a 38-24 victory over the Toledo Rockets. Read all about it here.
The new-look Kentucky defense was tested right away as Toledo took the game’s opening kick-off to the 37-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Rockets to pick on the Wildcats’ young secondary as on the third play of the drive, Toledo quarterback Mitchell Guadagni hit Danzel McKinley-Lewis for a 39-yard gain. A few plays later, former Wildcat Bryant Koback found the end zone on a six-yard run to put the Rockets up 7-0 as it took them just two minutes and 45 seconds to score the game’s opening touchdown.
After both teams’ exchanged punts, the Wildcats took over at the three yard-line. The poor field position would not phase them as Terry Wilson went 4-4 passing for 27 yards on the drive and A.J. Rose, Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke combined for 75 rushing yards, the Cats marching the ball down to the Toledo one yard-line to end the quarter.
Score After First Quarter: TOLEDO 7, KENTUCKY 0
Set up with second and goal at the one, Kentucky pulled even on the first play of the quarter as Chris Rodriguez fumbled into the end zone, but Justin Rigg jumped on it for the Wildcats’ opening score. The drive went for 97 yards as the Cats offense rebounded nicely after going three and out on their opening possession.
The Kentucky defense would not be able to carry the momentum generated by the offense as Guadagni burned the Cats with his legs and arm, throwing for 28 yards and running for 36, including a 21-yard touchdown run to put the Rockets up 14-7.
After both teams exchanged three-and-outs, Kentucky made quick work of its fourth drive of the game. Wilson hit Lynn Bowden for 29 yards, Rose carried for 21 yards and then 11 more to find the end zone as the Cats tied the game on a 59-second touchdown drive.
The game would enter halftime even after both Kentucky and Toledo were able to get key defensive stops on their own side of the field to end the half.
Halftime Score: KENTUCKY 14, Toledo 14
After the Wildcats went three-and-out to open the second half, their defense finally came through with a big play. Josh Paschal forced a Koback fumble and Yusuf Corker recovered as the Cats took over a the Toledo 34 yard-line.
Kentucky would again go three-and-out, but redshirt freshman kicker Chance Poore connected on a 46-yard field goal to give the Cats their first lead of the game, 17-14.
On the next Toledo drive, it was Paschal who again came up big as he got to Guadagni for his first sack of the season to help force a three-and-out. Kentucky’s offense would take full advantage this time as wideout Ahmad Wagner drew his second pass interference of the game and Wilson hit Keaton Upshaw for 17 yards. Then it was spring game star Bryce Oliver making a tremendous grab in the front corner of the end zone from 32 yards out to put the Cats up 24-14.
Momentum would shift later in the quarter, however, after Toledo recovered a Bowden fumble. The Rockets took over and struck immediately when Guadagni ran for 19 yards and picked up 15 more yards when linebacker Chris Oats was called for targeting. The hit forced Guadagni out of action and the Cats eventually held the Rockets to an Evan Davis field goal, trimming the lead to 24-17.
Score After Third Quarter: KENTUCKY, 24, TOLEDO 14
After Kentucky opened the quarter with a three-and-out, Toledo back-up quarterback Carter Bradley led the Rockets, connecting with Drew Rosi for 17 yards, but the Kentucky defense was able to hold Toledo off the board, forcing an incompletion on third down.
Kentucky’s offense would reward the defense with a touchdown drive that saw the Cats cover 92 yards. Bowden hauled in a 30-yard reception and Smoke sprinted to the end zone on a 40-yard touchdown drive to give the Wildcats a 31-17 lead.
On Toledo’s next drive, the Cats got their second turnover of the game as Deandre Square picked off Bradley to set up the Cats offense in Toledo territory. Wilson and company would take full advantage as they found the end zone on a two-yard Josh Ali touchdown reception to take a commanding 38-17 lead.
The Rockets would score late in the fourth when Bradley rushed for a seven yard touchdown but it would be too little, too late as the Wildcats took the season opener.
Final Score: KENTUCKY 38, TOLEDO 24
MVP: Deandre Square
No one had a better day than linebacker Deandre Square. The sophomore was all over the field as he recorded 11 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, half a sack and grabbed an interception. Kentucky entered 2019 looking for a leader on defense with Josh Allen in the NFL; the Cats just may have it in Square.
Honorable Mention: Max Duffy
A shout-out goes out to UK punter Max Duffy, who punted six times and averaged an incredible 54 yards per kick, twice pinning Toledo inside the 20 yard-line. With a young defense, every yard of field position helped and Duffy was able to provide the young unit with plenty of green grass behind them.
Here’s a look at the highlights from today’s action, courtesy of UK Athletics.