Senior quarterback Mitchell Guadagni was on the field for the first time since his season-ending injury against Western Michigan last October. And for the most part, he looked like his old 2018 self. Guadagni adds an extra offensive weapon to Toledos offense with his scrambling ability, and Kentucky struggled to stop the senior on the ground throughout the afternoon.
Guadagni raced past the Wildcat defense for a 17-yard carry on a key 3rd-and-long conversion in the second quarter. Two plays later, he sprinted around the edge, untouched, for a 21-yard rushing touchdown. On 14 rushing attempts (which included two sacks), Guadagni led the Rockets in rushing yards with 73.
Rose has the speed, Rodriguez has the power, and Smoke has the perfect combination of both. No back is going to willfully carry the Cats to victory with 30 carries like Benny Snell was able to last year, but as a group, these three are going to be the offenses biggest strength.
Kentucky Football vs. Toledo Rockets: 6 takeaways and postgame news from Wildcats victory
MONEY MITCH FOR 6⃣@MGMitchyG takes it 21-yards untouched for the @ToledoFB TD!#MACtion I #LiftOff pic.twitter.com/PbxGRQVVsB
However, Guadagni slid at the end of a 19-yard run in the third quarter and was on the receiving end of a targeting foul. Guadagni, who suffered a concussion last season against Fresno State, left the game with another apparent concussion, leaving Carter Bradley to finish the game at quarterback.
Toledo benefitted from having one of the countrys best receiving corps the last two seasons. But Diontae Johnson and Cody Thompson are gone from Toledo, currently in pursuit of their NFL dreams. Even the Rockets third receiver from 2018, JonVea Johnson, graduated, leaving behind a combined 2,068 receiving yards and 27 touchdowns of production between the trio.
Share All sharing options Share All sharing options for: Kentucky runs past Toledo: 6 things to know and postgame banter Reddit Pocket Flipboard Email Jason Marcum – Sea of Blue The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Toledo Rockets on Saturday afternoon 38-24.
That leaves a more inexperienced group of Danzel McKinley-Lewis, Bryce Mitchell, and Desmond Phillips to lead the receivers. Outside of McKinley-Lewis 39-yard catch on the opening drive, Toledo didnt thrive much in the passing game. The 39-yard bomb nearly accounted for a quarter of the Rockets total passing offense in Lexington.
The Cats got off to a bit off a bad start. Toledo elected to receive the opening kickoff and drove the ball right down Kentuckys throat. The drive was seven plays for 63 yards to get Toledo on the board first.
With Guadagni out, Bradley completed just 4-of-13 passes and threw the only interception for Toledo in the afternoon. Overall, the two quarterbacks completed 11-of-25 attempts, averaging 6.6 yards per throw.
The lack of starting experience in the receiving unit may cause Toledo to go through some growing pains in the passing game, but if theres one thing head coach Jason Candle excels at, its creating elite offensive talent. Toledo has finished in the top 20 in scoring offense each year under the fourth-year head coach.
Toledo allowed four sacks, Kentucky recorded a total of seven tackles for loss, and in the pocket, Guadagni and Bradley looked under constant duress.
The Rockets offensive line is clearly suffering from the loss of their glue-guy, center Bryce Harris. Harris, a 2018 Second Team All-MAC lineman, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first week of August. That leaves the Rockets with less experience on the makeshift offensive line.
The trio of AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke, and Chris Rodriguez is going to be really, really fun to watch this year. Rose is the lead back, but all three players are capable of making big plays.
However, the run game looked strong at moments. During Bryant Kobacks 5-yard touchdown run and Guadagnis 21-yard scamper, the offensive line nailed its assignments and let both runners enter the end zone untouched. But pass blocking was a different story Saturday. Especially in the second half, when Bradley was under center, Kentuckys pressure permeated the Toledo backfield and forced several incompletions and negative plays.
On the opposite side of the ball, Toledo needed to create more pressure in order to record stops. Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson Jr. had plenty of time in the pocket to ace his throws, and that he did. Wilson completed 19-of-26 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns, throwing zero interceptions in a dominant outing.
While Toledo managed seven tackles for loss and starred at stopping running back A.J. Rose, pressuring Wilson has a whole different animal. Kentuckys offense was primarily carried by running back Benny Snell Jr. last season, but Wilsons comfort in the pocket led to arguably his greatest performance in his 14 collegiate starts.
Jamal Hines was the most disruptive force on the Rockets defense. The defensive end finished with a team-high two tackles for loss and occasionally would burst past the Kentucky line en route to pressuring Wilson.
When Guadagni left the game with an injury, Toledo was positioned on the Kentucky 28-yard line, trailing 24-14 with 5:05 remaining in the third quarter — still a winnable game for the Rockets.
While Toledos offense stalled on six consecutive possessions, Guadagni was creating a potential scoring drive when he left following the head injury. The Rockets ended up with a 46-yard field goal to cut the game back to one possession, but the team finished with -1 yards on the remainder of the possession following Guadagnis injury.
The following four series resulted in three punts and one interception. Toledo evidently missed Guadagni on the offense, and his playmaking on the ground game was required when the passing game struggled in the second half. In 2019, Toledo will go as far as Guadagni takes it, and a lot of that depends on the quarterbacks health. Luckily for the Rockets, they have two weeks in between their first and second games, so Guadagni has time to recover before returning to the Glass Bowl to face Murray State.
Edit Slot to 247Sports Home Slot to Kentucky Wildcats Newsletter Slot to Kentucky Links Kentuckys band formed a 22 to honor Jared Lorenzen. pic.twitter.com/WxXPoceltS
Saturday afternoon marked the first time that the Kentucky Wildcats took the football field after the passing of former quarterback and fan favorite Jared Lorenzen. Tributes to Lorenzen were abundant at Kroger Field during the game.
Several Wildcats wore cleats that honored Lorenzens memory, and the band payed tribute to him during the halftime show. During their performance, the Wildcat Marching Band formed the number 22, which is the one Lorenzen donned during his playing days in Lexington. The former Kentucky signal caller died from heart problems on July 3, and the entire Kentucky community has paid its respects to him.
Current Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson initially wanted to wear the No. 22 for Saturdays Week 1 game against Toledo, but instead he chose to wear cleats in Lorenzens honor. Wilsons blue and white cleats feature Lorenzens nickname, “Hefty Lefty,” and a pair of angel wings around the No. 22. Wilson told Kentucky Sports Radio that he knew he had to pay tribute to Lorenzen after learning about his impact on the program.
“Coming to Kentucky and seeing all the history that he made, and all the big games he went through, and all that he did for this program, it was huge,” Wilson said, via KSR. “So when I saw Jared’s passing, I felt like I had to do something. I felt like I needed to show my honor and respect for him and his family and this university.”