4:22:43 UKvsUTMartinFB2019

Two UK players dive after a live fumble during the University of Kentucky vs. UT Martin football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 50-7. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

From the very first snap until the end of the game, Kentucky football’s defense was in control. 

Kentucky shutdown the University of Tennessee at Martin Skyhawks’ offense at Kroger Field on Saturday afternoon in a blowout 50-7 victory on a wet, soggy, chilly field in front of a sparse yet vocal fanbase.

The Wildcats’ defense played with an emphatic lights-out performance, limiting the Skyhawks to just 204 yards of total offense, -12 rushing yards and a season-low seven points – the second time UK has allowed such few points this year.

12 rushing yards are the fewest allowed against any UK opponent so far this season. The 204 yards allowed overall are just six yards shy of the team’s season-low 198 yards allowed against Vanderbilt last week. UK head coach Mark Stoops says that his defense has been picking up momentum as of late and taking advantage.

“I think if you watched us lately, we’ve been playing fairly solid defense. And so, I think we’re just trying to continue to build on the good things we’ve been doing,” Stoops said. “Brad’s [White] been doing a really solid job, good job and all the coaches have.”

Things went haywire right from the start for the Skyhawks. On the game’s first snap, Skyhawks’ center Austin Newsom snapped the ball way over the head of quarterback John Bachus III and into the end zone. Bachus recovered the ball and heaved it before he was called for intentional grounding. That led to a safety, giving UK an early 2-0 lead.

The Skyhawks’ (7-5, 6-2 OVC) misfortunes only doubled from there. Newsom again snapped the ball above the head of Bachus and into the end zone for anyone’s taking. Safety Yusuf Corker, coming off of his first career interception last week, recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchdown, increasing the Cats’ lead 9-0.

Misery and cold rain fell over the Skyhawks’ offense for the remainder of the game. Kentucky forced six straight punts up until halftime as the Cats led 29-0. Outside linebacker Jamar “Boogie” Watson says that the first two scores seemed to generate momentum, opening up the door for Lynn Bowden and company to provide some wreckage. 

“When you get a safety, it helps your mojo out to know that we can keep dominating.” Watson said. “We didn’t like the way we’ve played against previous FCS opponents. We got to the quarterback pretty well and that’s been our focus all season.”

Watson’s sack helped break down Bachus’ short-lived pocket throughout the night. The Cats totaled a season-high 11 tackles-for-loss and six sacks on Bachus and his eventual replacement, Dresser Winn, along with three forced fumbles, two of which the Cats recovered. Calvin Taylor and Josh Paschal each had a game-high 1.5 sacks. Taylor, named SEC Defensive Player of Week back on Oct. 28, leads the team in sacks this year with 7.5 and says that his consistent technique improvements have helped him garner recent success.

“We’re just working that burst and that’s something we’ve been emphasizing lately in practice like the takedown right when you get to the quarterback. Because, earlier in the year, we had a lot of pressures and we couldn’t really close it down,” Taylor said.

Several other young studs like J.J Weaver, KD McDaniel and Jared Casey among many others got to see playing time during the course of the blowout. Linebacker Jamin Davis, filling in for the injured DeAndre Square, led the team in tackles for the second straight week with six and had a goal line interception just six seconds into the third quarter. 

“It’s what we expected form Jamin today. It took him a little bit to get to full speed again. But he’s shown that he’s gonna be a contributor this season and in seasons to come,” White said.

Now bowl eligible with a regular season finale against in-state rival Louisville Cardinals at Kroger Field looming just a week away, the Cats (6-5, 3-5 SEC) showed they have depth from both young freshmen and veteran standouts. That’s something they’ll need against a Cardinals team that’s averaging nearly 438 yards per game.