LEXINGTON, KY. (WDRB) -- The University of Kentucky has found a match. Whatever else is written about the Wildcats as this season progresses, let it be said that they found the right guy and gave him the right passing scheme.
The pairing of quarterback Maxwell Smith to offensive coordinator Randy Sanders' hurry-up offense goes together like mac and cheese. But don't call it a match made in heaven. It's a match made in P.E. class back when Smith was in junior high school in Granada Hills, Calif.
"We didn't play 7-on-7 or even 11-on-11," Smith said after completing 30 of 39 passes for 354 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday's 47-14 win over Kent State. "We'd play like 40-on-40. I always wanted to be quarterback. I'd get the ball and look at all those guys running and you had to find somebody in a hurry."
It's that quick decision-making that has led Smith to complete 73 percent of his passes for 6 touchdowns and no interceptions in the Wildcats' first two games. He hit four different receivers for TD passes Saturday.
Knowing the ball is coming often, and coming quickly, seems to have UK receivers on high alert -- and they appear to be responding.
Aaron Boyd, a recruit who came to UK as a four-star receiver but who has been star crossed in his years on UK's roster, seems finally ready to shine as a senior. He had six career catches coming into the season. Against Kent State, he had that many in the first quarter, and 11 in the game for 100 yards and a TD.
When coaches asked Boyd, a Lexington native, what he wanted from this season in August, he didn't give them a number of catches or any statistical goal. He just told them, "I want to be somebody that the team can trust and count on."
It looked like he was playing that role Saturday, with Smith looking his way on a couple of big third-downs.
"It feels good when the ball comes my way, and I want them to look for me," Boyd said.
All of which is fine, though Smith says he's not necessarily looking for anyone in particular when he goes back to throw.
"I just go through my progressions really fast," he said. "If a guy's open, he's getting it. I don't know what number he is or who he is. I just want to get it there."
But did he realize Boyd was having a career night?
"Well, yeah," Smith said. "Because he kept telling me. 'Come to me, come to me.' "
"The things that make Max very good in this system are that he's really fast and makes good decisions quickly," Sanders said. "And he's very accurate."
So that much is established with this (1-1) UK team, which plays host to Western Kentucky Saturday. It can run a pretty good up-tempo passing game. Other things aren't so clear. The Wildcats had negative rushing yards in the first quarter until a late run by Raymond Sanders. With starter CoShik Williams sidelined by injury, UK gradually improved its running performance over the final three quarters, which included a couple of long scoring runs by Sanders (67 yards) and Jonathan George (38 yards).
That's the good.
But the game didn't pass without warning signs, and the red flags can be summed up in three numbers:
3 -- The number of tries UK had to punch the ball in from the Kent State 1-yard line in the third quarter, but did not. An SEC football team has to do that.
182 -- Number of rushing yards for Kent State. UK gave up 4.9 yards per carry for a second straight game, and that will be an absolute death sentence in SEC play.
48,346 -- This is the most alarming of the three numbers. This is the attendance in Commonwealth Stadium for the home opener -- the fewest in any opener since 1993, before the stadium was expanded, and before UK's series with the University of Louisville began.
The temperature was 70 degrees on a glorious evening in Lexington. The opponent was one UK figured to handle, giving fans plenty of reason for celebration. Despite losing the opener at U of L, the UK offense showed the ability to move the ball and figured to put plenty of points on the board against Kent State.
But for a great many fans, enjoying a Saturday of college football took a back seat to making a statement about the state of their program, plain and simple. And in some ways, it speaks more loudly than the numbers on the scoreboard.
No matter who UK is playing this season, one major opponent could be apathy.
The only game plan for that is winning. The hurry-up offense was one right move by UK coach Joker Phillips and his staff. He's going to have to find more where that came from, it appears, to bring people back to Commonwealth Stadium.