On the first full Saturday of the college football season, Ohio State and Kentucky all had 11:00 a.m. kickoffs. Of the two, one had 35 points at the half. The other: six.
Yeah, I would have guessed Ohio State scored the 35 too.
Early defensive successes were undone by big first half plays on the ground and through the air, as Kentucky ran away from UT Martin 59-14 behind 446 first half offensive yards. On the game’s opening possession, UTM forced UK into a 4th and five in Skyhawk territory. UTM forced an incomplete pass, leading to a turnover on downs.
After the offense went three and out, the rout was on.
The game’s first score was set up by a 56-yard pass from Patrick Towels to Ryan Timmons, part of an 8-play, 75 yard drive for a touchdown. The next two scores, a 73-yard and 43-yard run, both came from UK rushing back Braylon Heard, his only first half carries.
“I don’t know if I saw any positive defensively,” head coach Jason Simpson said.
UT Martin’s offense had limited success in the first half — mostly from the outside rushes from Abou Torre. The senior rushing back posted 48 yards on the ground on eight rushes against the UK first-team defense. From a quarterback perspective, Jarod Neal barely had an opportunity; Neal only had three passes while playing the entire first quarter, going 2-3 for -1 yard. Dylan Favre entered the game in the second quarter, and mostly shined early, helping UTM drive down the field in the second quarter, until Favre was picked off by a flying, acrobatic catch from Kentucky safety A.J. Stamps.
Ahead 21-0, Kentucky put together lengthy 90-yard and 91-yard drives to take a commanding 35-0 lead into the break. By the end of the first half, UK’s mascot was…tired. Come for the pushups, stay for the SEC Network commentary.
The start to the second half was a complete disaster for the Skyhawks. On the opening kickoff, UT Martin broke free, but would fumble the ball when tripped up. After UK missed a field goal, Favre threw another pick on the ensuing possession — one far less impressive than the first.
Down 45-0, Neal led UT Martin into the red zone, only to see a receiver fumble the football, it sit on the ground beside the receiver for at least a second, Kentucky scoop it up and return it 90-yards for the touchdown.
It was that kind of afternoon.
In the fourth quarter, Neal led UT Martin on a 14-play, 75 yard scoring drive to prevent the shutout. He would lead another long drive, throwing a 15-yard touchdown strike to Caylon Weathers.
To summarize the quarterback situation after the first game — it appears exactly nothing has changed from last year. Favre is a playmaker, but makes more mistakes. Neal is consistent, but doesn’t seem to have as high a ceiling as Favre.
“Those quarterbacks need to play better than they did today,” Simpson said.
According to Simpson, Neal will start under center when UT Martin heads back on the road next Saturday as they travel to Central Arkansas