There were a lot of empty seats at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday night.
The 48,346 announced attendance at Kentucky's 47-14 thumping of Kent State was the fewest in the building since 1996. The number was the lowest to see a home opener since the team moved to Commonwealth Stadium in 1973.
But Coach Joker Phillips said he hopes that if UK can keep putting up big numbers and winning games that the crowd will be back.
"We've got to put a better product on the field than we have in the past and they'll come," Phillips said. "I appreciate the ones who came tonight. They gave our kids a lot of energy and we expect them to be back here next week."
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Next weekend Kentucky faces Western Kentucky, which fell at No. 1 Alabama 35-0 on Saturday afternoon.
"You look up and you kind of see the empty seats," sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith said. "I just hope fans can come out next week versus Western and cheer us on. And hopefully we can put on a good show."
Smith said he wasn't frustrated by the lack of people in the stands.
"It's actually understandable," he said. "If I was a fan and we weren't winning games, weren't putting up points, who really wants to come see that? But hopefully this offense and us being more explosive, that's exciting to see. So, BBN, come on out."
Kentucky's smallest announced crowd last season was 54,098 against Jacksonville State.
Keeping it simple
After Louisville racked up 466 yards of offense on Kentucky's porous defense last week, something had to change. That something was the complexity of the defense, at least until the play improved.
The Cats went significantly younger at certain positions and moved Bud Dupree to weakside linebacker (in order to get Taylor Wyndham on the field), defensive coordinator Rick Minter said.
Overall he was pleased with the progress, although there's still much work to do. But that doesn't mean UK's defense will stay that simplistic.
"We can't be totally as simple as we were because we didn't bring a lot of pressure," Minter said. "But I wanted to see us line up and play and be defensively sound and make plays on the ball."
Kentucky allowed Kent to put up 409 yards and convert on half of its 18 third down tries. Neither of those numbers were overly pleasing to Minter.
"We've got to be a lot better than that for us to be any good," Minter said.
However, he was pleased with the play of the younger kids the Cats put in, though.
"Those guys are full of grit and energy and determination and 'want to' and that's what you want," Minter said.
Four different players had seven tackles to lead the Cats, including Kory Brown, the junior college transfer. Other youngsters who saw significant action included Fred Tiller (five tackles), Daron Blaylock (four tackles, one pass breakup), Khalid Henderson (three tackles) as well as Pancho Thomas and J.D. Harmon.
"We've been working hard, me and a bunch of other freshmen," said Harmon, who had two pass breakups and two tackles. "We've all just been ready for our name to be called and to get out there and play whenever we need it."
Towles likely to redshirt
When freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow took the field in the fourth quarter to relieve Smith, the writing was on the wall.
Joker Phillips confirmed it in the post-game news conference that the plan is to redshirt Patrick Towles, the former star from Highlands. The UK coach said the staff spoke with Towles about it earlier this week.
"We'll continue to travel him and work him and he'll be ready in case of emergency," Phillips said.
For now, Morgan Newton will continue to be Smith's backup, but Phillips indicated that they'd like to get the senior quarterback on the field in other capacities. He lined up at receiver and in the H-back spot on Saturday.
"He's too good an athlete to not be out there," Phillips said.