In just 15 minutes Saturday, Kentucky was able to get as many interceptions as it had all of last season, which forced a smile from D.J. Eliot.
"They were in the right spots and they caught them," the defensive coordinator said of the three picks, all by safeties, in Kentucky's 17-7 victory over Vanderbilt.
And while Marcus McWilson, Ashely Lowery and A.J. Stamps all showed off their timing skills with those interceptions, Coach Mark Stoops noted that they should be credited to Kentucky's entire defense.
"It comes with pressure, and it comes with good team defense, and we're getting more and more playmakers," the head coach said.
The first interception came at an opportune time for Kentucky.
Early in the fourth quarter, Vandy opted to go for it on fourth-and-4 at midfield only to have Kentucky's Marcus McWilson tip quarterback Wade Freebeck's pass high into the air and pull it down himself.
"That was really good for him because that was a little thing that he did within that scheme that made that play," Stoops said of McWilson's first career interception. "Those are the details that we need to continue to work on, and it was good for him to have that success."
After UK's offense coughed the ball up, the Commodores gave it right back on an A.J. Stamps interception, his second of the season.
The back and forth wasn't over, though, after Demarco Robinson muffed a punt and Vanderbilt recovered at the UK 35-yard line only to toss it back to Lowery, who plucked it out of the air for Kentucky's third interception.
The Cats were much-maligned last season for intercepting just three passes in 12 games, tied for worst in the nation.
"We were able to finish plays, which we've been harping on all offseason, to take advantage of opportunities to get turnovers, and I'm very excited about their play," Eliot said.
Kentucky, which sacked Freebeck four times, pressured him twice and had five tackles for loss, was difficult to maneuver around, the quarterback said.
But many of his miscues were true freshman mistakes, he said.
"It was just going the wrong place with the ball, either late or it was just on me," he said. "They mix it up a little bit, but at the end of the day I have to recognize that and get rid of the ball."
A little Boom and Wildcat
Kentucky's offensive coaches had a message to send Jojo Kemp about preparation and it led to him waiting on the sidelines, helmet in hand for much of the game.
"He's gotta practice better; he's gotta practice better," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said of the relative absence of Kentucky's leading rusher last season.
Brown added that Braylon Heard, who ran 15 times for 62 yards, has won the starting job with his extra work in practice.
"Bottom line is, we're mostly a one-back team, and you can't play them all," Brown said. "I thought (Kemp) did a good job being a man about it, coming in and taking care of business at the end of the game."
It was at the end of the game that Kemp ran seven times for 60 yards out of the Wildcat formation to seal the win.
Stoops praised Kemp after the game for being unselfish.
"Early in the season, when maybe some of our freshmen weren't getting the ball, they were mopey, and Jojo was up on that sideline, grinding it out, being a team player, and at the end of the game when we started to go to the direct snap, Wildcat stuff, he had some great runs; and that's the kind of maturity we need," Stoops said. "I'm proud of Jojo for that."
With his strong practices, Brown said Stanley "Boom" Williams earned some extra time in Saturday's game and he got it, rushing five times for 27 yards, but also leading UK's receivers with three catches for 39 yards.
"He can be big," Brown said of the true freshman. "We had not done a very good job of getting our running backs involved in the pass game. That was a focal point of our bye week."
'Might have gotten away with one'
Replay officials took an extra long look at Ryan Timmons' 20-yard touchdown catch. On stadium replays it looked as if the sophomore wide-out had let go of the ball before scoring.
Kentucky's coaches and players said they thought it might have been overturned.
"I was worried, yeah, they say it was close," Stoops confessed after the game. "Hey, just keep on telling myself — my wife keeps on telling me, 'Hang in there, they're going to come your way sooner or later.' So maybe she's right."
Quarterback Patrick Towles, who threw the ball, even wondered which way it was going to go.
"We might have gotten away with one, but I'll take it," Towles said. "I'm not going to argue with them."
With Kentucky bettering its win totals from the last two seasons just four games into this season, Stoops was asked if the Cats should start thinking ahead to potentially getting to six wins and bowl eligibility.
"No, no, no," he said with gusto.
On Saturday night he was going to worry about friends and family in town and then he's going to worry about South Carolina next.
"If we go one game at a time and do good and prepare, give ourselves an opportunity to win the next game, then we'll worry about the next game after that," he said. "That's been our approach no matter who we're playing. That's it."
When asked if the team was counting down to how many more wins it would need to get bowl eligible, Towles also said no but in a different way.
"We aren't counting down, just really trying to count up," the quarterback said. "We are not satisfied with six wins, we want to win as many games as we can.
"We think we can (reach a bowl). We are halfway there, and we have eight games left, so we have a long way to go."