Kentucky won a disappointing game against Northern Illinois by the score of 31-23 on Saturday night. As always, there were some winners and some losers.
WINNER: Will Levis, Quarterback
How good is Will Levis? Levis went for 303 yards and four touchdowns on Saturday night. The biggest thing though is that he turned it over a grand total of zero times. He is beginning to look like the first-round draft choice that everyone thought he could be. He was elite on third down, going 10-of-10 for 237 yards and three of his four touchdowns. He did a great job of getting the ball out of his hands when NIU blitzed, and it resulted in plenty of explosive plays for the Wildcats offense. Kentucky will go as far as Will Levis will take them this season, and he is proving he can carry a team on his back.
Will Levis was 10 of 10 on 3rd downs for 237 yards and three touchdowns!
— SEC Mike (@MichaelWBratton) September 25, 2022
LOSER: Offensive Line Again
It is beginning to get concerning regarding the offensive line struggles. Usually, the staple of a Mark Stoops coached team is a good offensive line and ground game. Neither of which have truly come to fruition this year. NIU had six tackles for loss on Saturday, something Kentucky has really struggled to get cleaned up. Not only have they not been able to get the ground game going, but they are also really struggling in pass protection. Will Levis was sacked five more times on Saturday night, bringing the season total to 16. This must get cleaned up if they want to compete with the big boys in the SEC East.
WINNER: Barion Brown and Tayvion Robinson
Will Levis stands strong in the pocket and completes 69-yard touchdown pass to Tayvion Robinson!
— that SEC podcast (@thatSECpodcast) September 25, 2022
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. This is the most talented group of wide receivers Kentucky has ever had. They prove it week in, and week out. On a night where the top receiver, Dane Key, was held to just two catches for 15 yards, fellow freshman Barion Brown and transfer Tayvion Robinson stepped up. The two combined for 11 catches for 249 yards and all four of Kentucky’s touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown to Brown and a 69-yard touchdown to Robinson. It was good to see Kentucky win a football game when Dane Key was taken out of the game. Brown and Robinson will be crucial going forward for Kentucky. Brown earned Co-Freshman of the Week honors in the SEC.
#SECFB 𝐏𝐋𝐀𝐘𝐄𝐑 𝐎𝐅 𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐖𝐄𝐄𝐊
Barion Brown • @UKFootball
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) September 26, 2022
After achieving their first shutout in over a decade, Kentucky’s defense followed it up with a real stinker. Northern Illinois was playing their two backup quarterbacks and still found ways to dice up the Wildcats defense. There were several issues. They were out of position on multiple occasions, gave up plays they usually didn’t, and overall, they didn’t play with the same intensity you usually see. NIU was converting third downs at a significantly higher rate than the other teams have over the first four weeks. Northern Illinois went 6-of-15 on third down. They gave up 128 yards on the ground, with only one tackle for loss for Kentucky. They didn’t create a single turnover. The most concerning issue, to me, is that Kentucky allowed NIU to go 4-of-4 in red zone scoring with three touchdowns. Maybe they were looking ahead to Ole Miss, maybe it was just an off day. Either way, Kentucky’s defense needs to play significantly better if they want to compete in Oxford against the Rebels this Saturday.
After viewing the tape, Mark Stoops says Kentucky was "very undisciplined" on defense against Northern Illinois.
— Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettKSR) September 26, 2022
Kentucky is a top 10 team in the country right now. They should be held to that standard. They did not play well at all against NIU and if it continues, they will be in trouble. I, personally, do not think it will continue as Kentucky heads to Oxford, Mississippi to face the Lane Train and the Ole Miss Rebels.