Instant analysis from Kentucky’s 24-17 win over Southern Mississippi:
How the game was won
The Kentucky defense forced four fumbles and recovered three that led to two UK touchdowns as the Wildcats held off another determined Southern Miss comeback.
Stars of the game
1. Kentucky defense. Basically won the game for a sporadic UK offense.
2. Denzil Ware. UK outside linebacker recovered a fumble that set up an offensive touchdown and also picked up a fumble for a 20-yard scoop-and-score.
3. Matt Panton. In his first outing as UK punter, the Australian averaged 42 yards on nine kicks and pinned Southern Miss inside its 20 four times, twice at the 1-yard line.
4. Kwadra Griggs. If Southern Miss had used the redshirt junior quarterback for the entire game — instead of just in the second half — it might have won.
Room for improvement
1. The Kentucky rushing attack. It was the strength of last year’s TaxSlayer Bowl team, but without last year’s leading rusher Boom Williams, UK’s ground attack was pretty well throttled in 2017’s debut.
2. The Wildcat formation. UK fans loved it last year; not so much Saturday.
3. Kentucky offense. When you lose the amount of playmakers UK has lost from last year, it’s going to take some time. When you gain only 254 yards but win, you are fortunate.
Ten. As Kentucky coach, Mark Stoops now has 10 wins in games played in August and September. Stoops is 10-7 in such games, 4-4 in SEC contests.
Passion for fashion
For its 2017 season opener, Kentucky wore white helmets, white jerseys with blue letters and numbers and blue pants.
Kentucky (1-0) will face intrastate rival Eastern Kentucky in the 2017 home opener at noon Sept. 9 at Kroger Field (formerly Commonwealth Stadium) in a game that will be telecast on the SEC Network. EKU, which went 3-8 in 2016 in Coach Mark Elder’s initial year as head man, opened its season Saturday evening at Western Kentucky.
Know your foe
1. Kentucky leads the all-time series with Eastern Kentucky 4-0. The Cats beat the Colonels 52-7 in 1998, 51-10 in 2007, 37-12 in 2009 and 34-27 in overtime in 2015. All the games have been played in Lexington.
2. EKU has two transfers from UK on its roster. Wide receiver Cameron Fogle — the favorite target of Kentucky’s Drew Barker at Conner High School — caught 22 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns last season for Eastern. Defensive back Jared Tucker had 32 tackles and an interception last year for EKU in eight games before being injured.
3. Kentucky outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Dean Hood was, of course, head coach at Eastern for eight seasons (55-38 from 2008-15) before being fired.