CRAWFORD | Three and out: Takeaways from Kentucky's 59-14 win ov - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Three and out: Takeaways from Kentucky's 59-14 win over UT-Martin

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 LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) -- The University of Kentucky football team on Saturday experienced something that the rest of college football has known for a while: It's nice to gobble up your cupcakes before moving to the main course.

The Wildcats hadn't even opened a season at home since 2007 before welcoming Tennessee-Martin to a 59-14 beatdown before an announced crowd of 50,398 at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday.

They got some big contributions from freshmen -- which is exactly what coach Mark Stoops wanted -- and steady play from starting quarterback Patrick Towles, who completed 20 of 29 for 370 yards and a touchdown -- without an interception. The Wildcats rolled up 656 yards of total offense on just 61 plays. Just as important, it was what Stoops calls a "clean" performance. Few penalties. No turnovers.

"We're significantly better," Stoops said. "You can see, we definitely have more playmakers. ... Whether it was young guys or older guys getting better, it was nice to see guys making ball plays."

While it's tough to draw conclusions in such a mismatch (the biggest play of the day may have been avoiding Western Kentucky in the season-opener), our three-and-out will draw a few anyway.

1. NICE START. Braylon Heard, a transfer running back out of Nebraska, got off to what you might call a fairly decent start. His first touch was a 73-yard touchdown run. His second touch was a 43 yard touchdown run. He left the game with a leg injury, or he might've run a marathon. Stoops said earlier this week that he thought he had SEC-caliber talent and depth at just two positions -- running back and defensive end. (Interestingly, those are perhaps the two toughest positions to achieve that.) Heard, with 116 yards on two carries, backed up that assertion pretty well. After the game, Stoops said Heard twisted an ankle, adding, "We hope it's not bad."

2. YOUTH MOVEMENT. When you have 14 freshmen or redshirt freshmen on your two-deep, you're hoping to get something from them. And when you open with UT-Martin, you'd better get something from them. This week and next are big weeks to develop confidence, and timing. Take a look at this list (in addition to the performance of the newcomer Heard):

  • Freshman receiver Blake Bone, 2 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD.

  • Freshman running back Mikel Horton, 6 carries, 42 yards, 2 touchdowns.

  • Junior college transfer safety A.J. Stamps, 8 tackles, 4 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception.

  • Freshman wideout T.V. Williams, 2 catches for 45 yards.
That, more than anything, is why you don't schedule a Top-25 team in Game 1 for a young team. Stoops needed a chance for this team to play, to see how the offense is supposed to work, to have a chance to make mistakes. Without question, there's more physical talent on this team. It's young, but it should give UK a chance to improve as the season progresses.

3. REALITY CHECK? When you win by 45, there's not much going wrong. But one small thing should be filed away. UT-Martin isn't a good team by any stretch. But the Skyhawks still, against UK's No. 1 defense, rushed for 4.8 yards per carry in the first three quarters. But that's not much.

Stoops said after the game it "aggravated" him, but he still came away positive.

"It was aggravating at times, but then it was great to see guys step up and get a turnover, so I was glad to see that. Late in the game it was aggravating, but we just don't have the depth yet to get that deep."

In all, the game will give Stoops something to harp on and stay on his guys about. After a pair of losses to WKU to open the past two seasons and the struggles of the program during the Joker Phillips era, UK and its fans deserved a drama-free start, and they got it.

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