Western Kentucky needed a trick play to beat Kentucky last season. This year it wasn't that close.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WDRB) – In the end there was Bobby Petrino taking another knee against the University of Kentucky.
It wasn't as one-sided as some of Petrino's victories against UK when Petrino coached the University of Louisville. But Western Kentucky's 35-26 victory over Kentucky at LP Field was more than enough for the Hilltoppers to celebrate for hours, days, months, years, generations.
For more than 3 1/2 hours, Petrino's Western Kentucky football team pushed Kentucky up, down and all around LP Field, taking the lead in the first five minutes and never giving it up.
Kentucky had been Petrino's favorite punching bag during the four seasons he coached at the University of Louisville. When UK fans howled that he had run up the score on the Wildcats, the next time around Petrino ran out the clock by taking a knee.
On Saturday night it was as if Petrino had never left the state.
Last season WKU needed a trick play on an extra point to beat the Wildcats in overtime. This time the Hilltoppers treated the Wildcats as if they were just another school from the Sun Belt Conference, rolling to 487 yards and a nine-point victory.
BOBBY BALL – When Petrino said he used his one season away from football to watch as many games as possible and sharpen his play-calling skills, he was not exaggerating.
The first time WKU had the football the Hilltoppers marched 75 yards in nine plays. Touchdown. No third-down plays.
The third time they had the ball, it was 80 yards in a dozen plays. Touchdown. The fourth time? Another 75-yard, nine-play march. Touchdown.
The Hilltoppers ripped through the Kentucky defense for 245 yards less than four minutes into the second quarter. They added a fourth 70-yard touchdown drive in the third quarter.
The man knows where to put his Xs in spots where your Os can't cover them.
AIR RAID OR GROUND TROOPS? – Neal Brown made his way back to Kentucky as the offensive coordinator because of the passing attacks he developed at Troy and Texas Tech.
Brown does not have a problem being flexible.
It was the running game that carried Kentucky's offense for most of the night. Running by quarterback Jalen Whitlow, who gained 75 yards. Running by halftime Raymond Sanders who gained 98 yards on 14 carries.
Brown pulled Whitlow for Maxwell Smith after the Hilltoppers pushed their lead to 35-17 early in fourth quarter. Smith looked like a better choice for the Air Raid attack, completing 8 of 13 for 125 yards and a touchdown. Whitlow was 10 of 15 for only 78 yards
QUARTERBACK KINGPIN – You know the list of quarterbacks that Petrino has developed – Stefan LeFors, Brian Brohm, Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson.
It's probably too soon to add Brandon Doughty to that group, but stay tuned Doughty looked like a Petrino quarterback against the Wildcats. Doughty's final numbers were certainly Petrino-worthy -- 26 for 33 for 254 yards. He threw one touchdown pass without an interception.
WILLIE'S WOES – Petrino has the WKU job because Willie Taggart bolted for the University of South Florida after the season. There's work to do in Tampa. Big-time work.
The Bulls were booed as they left the field at halftime after they slipped behind McNeese State 33-7. USF lost – ouch – 53-21.
That's not a good loss for Taggart or The American Athletic Conference, the University of Louisville's league. McNeese State went 7-4 last season in the FCS division. USF had never lost a home opener and had an all-time record of 23-0 as a I-A program against I-AA competition.
TRAFFIC TURMOIL – Five stars to anybody who made it to LP Field before kickoff while traveling from Kentucky. Traffic was outrageously bad. Actually, it was worse than that.
The folks who run this stadium should be embarrassed. It took more than an hour to go the final mile. The Three Stooges could have done a better job of directing people off the expressway into the parking lots.
I've covered games at Michigan, Penn State, LSU, Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee, the Rose Bowl and several other stadiums that have room for considerably more fans and never encountered anything worse than Saturday night.
Toss in traffic that completely stopped on I-65 southbound at the Kentucky state line, and I'm thinking the folks in Tennessee were sending a message that they're still perturbed UK defeated the Volunteers in 2011.
UP NEXT? – Kentucky returns home to Commonwealth Stadium for Mark Stoops' debut. The Wildcats play Miami (Ohio). That game kicks off at noon. Miami lost its season opener to Marshall, 52-14.
Western Kentucky gets Part II of its Southeastern Conference Great Adventure. The Hilltoppers visit Tennessee, which blitzed Austin Peay, 45-0, to open its season Saturday. That game begins at 12:21 p.m.