Despite falling to Tennessee 45-42 at home, Kentucky had their most explosive night offensively of the season.
Taking just one glance the stat sheet, it looks as though the Wildcats should’ve pulled the victory out against Tennessee. I mean—how many teams gain over 600 yards of total offense and still come up short? Kentucky out-gained the Volunteers 612-461 yards while dominating the possession arrow 46:08-13:52. The Wildcats would run 99 total plays on the night compared to Tennessee’s 47.
“I'm proud of these guys—proud of the way they competed,” Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen said. “[I’m proud] of the way they executed in a lot of instances, a lot of execution specifically on third downs. In the red zone we did some good things, there's a lot of things to build off of and we were a lot better than last week.”
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis had one of his best performances of the season, completing 31-49 of his passes for 372 yards and three touchdowns while rushing in two more. More importantly, however, Levis implemented seven different receivers into the game—something Big Blue Nation had been calling for the entirety of the season.
Wan’Dale Robinson, who’s been Kentucky’s go-to player this season, is far and away WR1 in the Wildcats’ offense; Josh Ali is a distant second. After that, it’s more of who Levis feels comfortable throwing to at the time.
Against Tennessee, however, Levis had the hot hand and played more confidently in the pocket than ever before during his tenure in Lexington.
“Do I want to throw the ball 50 times, no,” Coen said. “But [Levis] was feeling it, guys were making plays—you're going to go with the hot hand.”
Robinson finished with 166 receiving yards and a score; Ali finished with 74 as well, but it was some of the tertiary receivers that stepped up in big-time moments throughout the game.
Izayah Cummings had one of the biggest games of his career that featured a 28-yard catch on fourth and 24 with under a minute remaining in regulation that kept Kentucky’s hopes alive. The sophomore receiver-turned-tight end had four catches for 75 yards and a score on the night.
“[Cummings is] just is a great example of a kid that just does all the right things both on the field and off the field, and when his number’s called, he has a great game and make some plays,” Coen said. “… Good things happen to guys who do things right all the time, socially, academically and on the field.”
The other two tight ends in Justin Rigg and Brenden Bates combined for five catches for 38 yards, which included a touchdown reception hauled in by Rigg in the second quarter.
A new face in the Kentucky lineup—freshman wide out Chauncey Magwood. The former Lee County High School standout made his first collegiate reception against Tennessee with a big-time catch on third down that set the Wildcats up inside the red zone in the first half. Coen and the rest of the coaching staff even trusted the ball in the former high school quarterback’s hands for a throwback play to Levis following the reception.
“I had absolutely no reservations about putting him in a situation,” Coen said about Magwood. “I knew he would [make a play]—we all had faith in him making those plays on not only the double pass, but on the third down conversion he made was a big win versus man coverage, so I was really pleased.”
If and when Kentucky can get former four-star freshman wide receiver Dekel Crowdus back, who’s been out the entire season with a knee injury, it’ll only give Levis more options when dropping back in the pocket.
With the announcement that Syracuse transfer Taj Harris and four-star Lexington-native Dane Key are both heading to UK next season, the future of the wide receiver room looks bright and it seems as though Saturday night was the first step.