John Clay

Kentucky football first quarter report: What we’ve learned so far

Terry Wilson improved to 3-0 as Kentucky’s starting quarterback with Saturday’s win over Murray State at Kroger Field.
Terry Wilson improved to 3-0 as Kentucky’s starting quarterback with Saturday’s win over Murray State at Kroger Field. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Three games in the books, here is my Kentucky football analyst first quarter report to the stockholders of the Big Blue Nation:

1. Terry Touchdown sure looks like the real deal.

Any questions about how junior college transfer Terry Wilson would adapt to Eddie Gran’s playbook and the D1 game have been practically torched. First off, Terry Touchdown can fly. He raced 24 yards for a TD at Florida. Saturday, he rambled and scrambled his way to a 42-yard score against Murray State. He puts the dazzle in the dual threat.

He’s also been a surprisingly accurate passer. Labeled a work in progress in that department, Wilson is completing 69.5 percent (41-for-59) of his passes. That’s top-shelf. True, he’s about to enter the dark forest of formidable SEC defenses, but what we’ve seen so far gives us reason to believe Wilson will be able to find his way.

2. Josh Allen is playing like a first-round draft pick.

We’ve seen it before. Rising senior receives offseason hype from NFL scouting types. Visions of draft day celebrations dance in his head. By the time the season rolls around, hyped prospect is either (a) marked man by opposing teams or (b) so consumed with the future he fails to focus on the precious present.

That hasn’t happened with Allen. Through sweet summer sweat, he added muscle mass over the offseason and it shows. “He’s carrying his weight,” said head coach Mark Stoops of the outside linebacker who has both pressured passers and blanketed receivers.

3. Lynn Bowden is becoming a real receiver.

The heralded recruit out of Ohio admits he was “going through the motions” last season as the high school quarterback learned the nuances of being a college receiver. Bowden showed flashes of something special, but just flashes. He ended up catching just 17 passes.

He’s already matched that total through three games this year. Bowden was on the receiving end of Wilson’s textbook 54-yard touchdown pass at Florida. He grabbed eight balls for 89 yards Saturday, none more important than a 25-yard catch on a third-and-26 in the second quarter that set up a fourth-down conversion on a touchdown drive.

“I’m just playing,” Bowden said afterward. “I’m not thinking.”

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4. When Stoops says he can go deep, he can go deep.

“This is the deepest we’ve ever been,” the head coach proclaimed after the 38-point rout of the Racers. That’s not coach-speak hyperbole. He lost expected starter Josh Paschal (malignant melanoma) on the defensive line. The Cats haven’t missed a beat. He lost expected starter Landon Young (torn ACL) on the offensive line. The Cats haven’t missed a beat. Those two setbacks might have sunk past UK boats.

The book on Stoops’ teams has been start fast/finish slow. By the second half of the season, the grind has not been kind to the Cats. Attrition takes its toll. It will be interesting to see if this team’s added depth will write a different ending to this year’s story.

5. The second quarter of the season could tell the tale.

Mississippi State visits Kroger Field on Saturday. The Bulldogs are keeping on under new coach Joe Moorhead. South Carolina arrives the following Saturday. Think the Gamecocks know they’ve lost four straight to UK? Then the Cats pack up the covered wagons for the Lone Star State where Jimbo Fisher has Texas A&M dreaming big.

That’s three SEC games. That’s three SEC games against opponents either ranked (Mississippi State and Texas A&M) or previously ranked. That’s more like a bed of coals than a football schedule. Then again, it’s the SEC.

If the Cats sweep the three — let’s just say Mitch Barnhart won’t have a ticket-selling problem. If the Cats lose all three, the feel-good of the Florida win all but fades away. So, as Kash Daniel would say, here’s the bottom line. One win out of three would be good. Two would be better. Three would signal something special. Buckle up.

Saturday

No. 14 Mississippi State at Kentucky

7 p.m. (ESPN2)



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