Story published: Sunday, September 10, 2006
The one thing Kentucky did do fairly well against Louisville last week was move the ball through the air, as quarterback Andre Woodson threw for 231 yards and three touchdowns.
So when the Cats looked at Texas State's stats and saw that the Bobcats gave up 356 passing yards to Tarleton State last week, UK had to feel good about its aerial attack last night.Sure enough, Woodson was able to pick apart the Bobcats' porous pass defense, throwing for three more touchdowns as Kentucky posted a 41-7 win in its home opener last night at Commonwealth Stadium.
Texas State spent most of the evening putting eight or nine men in the box and blitzing, and Kentucky made the Bobcats pay through the air.
"Their defense is structured to stop the run," said UK offensive coordinator Joker Phillips. "We knew if we could protect, we could get some things going downfield."
The Cats had people open all night long. Dicky Lyons Jr. caught a 10-yard slant for Kentucky's first score. Lyons Jr. then ran a crisscross play with fellow receiver Keenan Burton and stood and waited alone on the left sideline for Woodson to float him a 35-yard TD that put the Cats up 20-0 with 6:36 left in the second quarter.
"We saw their weakness," said Lyons, who made his first career start last night. "We picked out a couple of plays that we knew would be big hitters, and they worked."
Lyons now has four touchdown catches on five receptions this year. Burton led all receivers with five catches for 80 yards.
"Dicky can be a big-play guy for us," Phillips said. "He's a great complement to Keenan, especially when teams are keying on Keenan."
Woodson picked up another easy TD when he play-faked and threw to fullback John Conner in the flat. Conner took it in untouched for a 17-yard catch-and-run as Kentucky took a 27-0 lead into halftime.
Woodson finished the half by completing 10 consecutive passes, and Kentucky didn't punt until the 10:21 mark of the third quarter. Woodson finished 13-for-20 for 197 yards.
Once again, it took Kentucky quite a while to get untracked. On UK's first play from scrimmage, running back Rafael Little was dropped for a 2-yard loss. Little then fumbled on the next play, and TSU linebacker Jeremy Castillo returned it 24 yards to the Wildcats' 6-yard line.
But the UK defense, whipping boys in last week's 59-28 loss to Louisville, answered the bell.
Linebacker Wesley Woodyard stuffed Daniel Jolly on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and forced Jolly to cough the ball up into the hands of Roger Williams.
"That was really big; maybe the turning point of the game," said UK defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "Who knows what happens if they go in and score? That was a big boost mentally for our guys."
Woodson's only mistake of the night came on UK's second possession when his pass intended for Jacob Tamme was overthrown and intercepted by TSU's Walter Musgrove.
But UK got the ball back two plays later when Marcus McClinton picked off Texas State quarterback Chase Wasson.
Coach Rich Brooks liked the way his team responded when the Bobcats had them on the ropes early.
"I think the struggle to start was maybe a good thing because we found out we can get on track," he said. "We turned the ball over twice, we were kind of on our heels a little bit, and the defense stood up and made a play to get us back the ball, and then we took it over and did some very good things."
Brooks and Archer had expressed concerned over the fact that the defense had one less day to get ready for Texas State's unique spread-option offense. But the Bobcats picked up only 210 yards of offense.
"Our defense, on a short week to prepare for what they had to prepare for, did a good job," Brooks said.
It was the largest margin of victory in the Rich Brooks era, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
"I think it's obviously a game that we had to win and we should have won, but I think we won it the right way," Brooks said.