Sophomores did all of the scoring in the University of Kentucky's season-opening 40-33 victory over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday night, but four freshmen were listed as starters and several others made their college debuts.
Freshman running back Sihiem King was the first Wildcat to touch the ball in the new Commonwealth Stadium, taking the opening kickoff 17 yards to start the 2015 season. King also had a 31-yard kickoff return in the third quarter and a 19-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter, though he did not get into the game on offense.
The four freshmen officially listed as starters were tight end C.J. Conrad, offensive tackle George Asafo-Adjei, defensive end/linebacker Denzil Ware and cornerback Chris Westry.
Conrad — the highest-ranked player in UK's recruiting class of 2015 — lined up at tight end and in the offensive backfield, though he was not targeted in the passing game.
Asafo-Adjei started at right tackle after winning the job during fall camp. Sophomore running back Boom Williams took the first offensive play for a 75-yard touchdown run, so Asafo-Adjei's first series didn't last long.
Redshirt freshman Ware was third on the team with five solo tackles (seven total) and added a tackle for loss. Ware was solid in his college debut, though he was called for a late hit in the fourth quarter, costing the Cats 15 yards on one of Lafayette's touchdown drives down the stretch.
Westry — the 6-foot-4 late addition to the Cats' recruiting class of 2015 — was targeted on the Ragin' Cajuns' first play. He stuck with his man down the field and the pass fell incomplete. He made a tackle on Lafayette's second play of the game and was credited with four tackles (three solos) for the night.
Asafo-Adjei, Conrad and Westry are all true freshmen, and it was the first time since 2000 that UK started three such players in a season opener. (Jeremy Caudill, Antonio Hall and Dewayne Robertson all started in 2000).
King is also a true freshman, though kickoff returners are not officially listed as starters.
Fellow true freshman Jordan Jones was a candidate to start in place of Ryan Flannigan at linebacker, but senior Khalid Henderson got that assignment instead.
Jones entered the game in the first quarter and played in several series. He was credited with three tackles (two solos) and showed his speed in the open field.
Redshirt freshman wide receiver Thaddeus Snodgrass was on the field several times — lining up on the outside — but was not targeted. Redshirt freshman tight end Darryl Long played sparingly and was also not targeted.
Freshman defensive lineman Adrian Middleton, linebackers Josh Allen and Nico Firios and safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West were all credited with one tackle each in their first college games. Junior-college defensive tackle Courtney Miggins also played on defense but did not register a tackle.
Freshman cornerback Derrick Baity played on special teams.
Wide receivers Jabari Greenwood and Tavin Richardson dressed for the game but did not participate. Coach Mark Stoops has said that he'd like to redshirt both players if possible.
"They're both doing some very good things, but as you can tell, there are some good players ahead of them," Stoops said recently. "If we stay healthy, then we'll protect them if we can. If we need them to win football games, then we'll play them.
"Those are two guys that we will hold until we see what happens here in the first couple of weeks."
Redshirt freshmen who dressed for Saturday's game but did not see the field were Drew Barker, Tymere Dubose, Jarrett LaRubbio, Jervontius Stallings and Jared Tucker. True freshmen who didn't play were Kei Beckham, Eli Brown, Kengera Daniel, Will Jackson, Logan Stenberg, Calvin Taylor, Marcus Walker and Mason Wolfe. Junior-college defensive end Alvonte Bell also did not play.
Redshirt freshman linebacker Kobie Walker was not dressed and is still recovering from ankle surgery in the offseason.