LEXINGTON – The Kentucky soccer program has had lots to have fun of late.
The Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are ranked No. 8 on this week’s Related Press Prime 25. They don’t seem to be but two weeks faraway from coach Mark Stoops setting a faculty file with 61 profession wins, a quantity he added to final Saturday with UK’s win over Youngstown State.
The varsity saluted Stoops with a pregame introduction that day. It handed out a commemorative poster to followers.
After which the Cats beat the Penguins 31-0, and the enjoyable was over.
“Truthfully, when you had been on this facility Sunday and Monday, it felt like we had simply misplaced that (Youngstown State) recreation,” huge receiver Tayvion Robinson mentioned Tuesday. “Due to how nice we need to be – how nice this workforce needs to be, and this offense.”
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Kentucky hasn’t been nice offensively. Not shut. Not but.
And although the Cats are undefeated and heavy favorites to deal with Northern Illinois on Saturday at Kroger Subject, no one appears all that happy with the state of issues.
Actually Mark Stoops is not. He walked into his game-week information convention Monday and processed himself “actually form of upset and just a little sad with a number of the undisciplined play that we had” in opposition to Youngstown.
The Kentucky protection has been as marketed. UK ranks twelfth nationally in scoring protection, 14th in whole protection and hasn’t allowed a passing landing.
The offense has but to reside as much as its billing.
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So it’s going to attempt to discover a get-right recipe in opposition to one other overmatched opponent Saturday earlier than the convention season begins in earnest subsequent week. Three issues you must know in regards to the UK-Northern Illinois matchup:
Kentucky’s offensive misalignment
UK coaches have pressured that their offensive issues prolong past the wall of linemen in entrance of quarterback Will Levis.
There’s been some sloppy blocking all around the area, some missed assignments by operating backs, receivers and tight ends alike.
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However the offensive line has shuffled and stumbled early, and the numbers do not look nice for what UK calls its Large Blue Wall.
The Wildcats rank 122nd out of 131 FBS groups in speeding offense, averaging 74.3 yards per recreation. Solely 15 FBS groups have fewer than UK’s three speeding touchdowns.
And the Cats have allowed 11 sacks, tied for 124th nationally.
“I assumed they did a pleasant job in opposition to Florida, however I assumed in (the Youngstown) recreation that they didn’t meet the usual of play that we count on,” UK offensive coordinator Wealthy Scangarello mentioned. “They usually know that.”
Scangarello mentioned the road and the offense as an entire “should personal” the struggles, however he preferred what he noticed early this week in apply. And Northern Illinois might present a possibility to get on monitor. The Huskies are a middle-of-the pack speeding protection nationally; they’ve allowed no less than 100 yards in all three video games this season, together with 173 in a loss to Vanderbilt final Saturday. Northern Illinois has 5 sacks.
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The Huskies’ QB query
Any probability Northern Illinois has to tug off the upset rests on the standing of quarterback Rocky Lombardi, a Michigan State switch with some recreation to match his all-time soccer identify.
Lombardi left the Huskies’ loss to Vanderbilt final Saturday with an undisclosed second-quarter damage. He had accomplished all seven of his passes for 79 yards and a landing.
The Huskies’ hope is he’ll return in time for Saturday’s recreation at Kroger Subject.
“We obtained higher information than what we anticipated,” Northern Illinois coach Thomas Hammock mentioned at his weekly information convention Tuesday. “So we be ok with the place he is at and his progress that he is gonna be capable to make. However we obtained the remainder of the week to determine it out. “
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In his first two video games this season, Lombardi accomplished 32 of 53 passes for 451 yards and 4 TDs with one interception. Final season at NIU, Lombardi threw for two,597 yards and 15 touchdowns and ran for 473 yards and 9 scores.
“Lombardi is a very good participant with some good expertise and he is form of a artful man,” Stoops mentioned. “You could possibly see his consolation degree of him in that pocket early in that (Vanderbilt) recreation simply by the best way he was directing issues.”
Backup Ethan Hampton got here in to finish 12 of 19 passes in opposition to Vanderbilt, throwing two touchdowns and an interception.
Changing JJ Weaver
Kentucky expects to be with out linebacker JJ Weaver, tied for the workforce lead in tackles with 15 regardless of having left Saturday’s win with an upper-body damage.
Formally, Weaver’s standing is week-to-week. However Stoops mentioned “it does not seem like he’ll be capable to play this week,” and Weaver was absent from the depth chart UK launched Monday.
Technically security Alex Afari will slide right into a linebacker spot reverse Jordan Wright.
However Kentucky’s protection has completely different appears, and Afari – who has 11 tackles and a sack this season – is not really adjusting to a brand new function.
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“With out getting overly sophisticated,” Stoops mentioned, Afari performs a hybrid nickel again / strongside linebacker spot.
“So it is a matter of what we name it on first and second down,” Stoops mentioned. “He has been enjoying that place. It is only a matter of whether or not we resolve to go along with an enormous man or a defensive again. “
If UK goes huge, it might flip to 6-foot-5, 237-pound freshman Keaten Wade, listed as Afari’s backup this week.
Wade is “actually good and stable” and “has an excellent really feel for the sport at that place,” Stoops mentioned, and given extra reps he’ll “begin producing the performs that a few of our outdoors ‘backers have over time.”
Wade has performed in all three video games and has eight tackles, together with half a sack.
What’s the betting line on the Kentucky-Northern Illinois recreation?
Kentucky is favored by 24.5 factors, in accordance with the VegasInsider consensus line.
Prediction: Kentucky 42, Northern Illinois 13
The Huskies have a historical past with power-program colleges. They name wins over Energy 5 colleges and different distinguished opponents “Boneyard Wins,” and NIU has racked up 17 of them, together with one in opposition to an SEC program. The Huskies gained at Alabama in 2003. However regardless of its offensive struggles, UK is 3-0 in opposition to the unfold this season, and the protection – even down a frontrunner in Weaver – ought to be sufficient to make sure that the Cats hold protecting. Anticipate the operating recreation to take a step ahead; perhaps not sufficient to instill confidence for subsequent week at Ole Miss, however lots to maintain the sport snug for Kentucky.
Attain Louisville males’s basketball reporter Brett Dawson and email@example.com and comply with him on Twitter at @BDawsonWrites.