Toledo faces stiff test in season opener at Kentucky – Toledo Blade

Toledo faces stiff test in season opener at Kentucky - Toledo Blade
Former Wildcats running back will play key role in Kentucky-Toledo football opener
FILE – In this Sept. 8, 2018, file photo, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops waves to fans after defeating Florida 21-16 during the second half of an NCAA college football game, in Gainesville, Fla. Mark Stoops will receive an annual raise of $500,000 plus incentives over the remaining six years of a restructured contract following the Wildcats best season in 41 years. The seventh-year coach will earn $4.75 million this season with increases up to $6 million in 2024-25. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)MoreLEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — The Kentucky Wildcats most successful season in a generation has made them an even bigger target for opponents – especially nonconference foes eager to topple a Power Five program.

The Wildcats learned a hard lesson in 2016 when they lost their opener against Southern Mississippi. Last years 10-3 finish and Citrus Bowl victory were indications of just how far the Wildcats have come since then and theyre eager to maintain that momentum in Saturdays inaugural meeting against a Toledo squad also coming off a postseason appearance.

Its a great chance early on and well see where were at, Kentucky linebacker Jamar Boogie Watson said this week. Theyre expected to win the MAC West, so its a great opponent off the bat. Well see what weve got.

Kentucky will look different on both sides of the ball without Benny Snell and Josh Allen, career leaders respectively in rushing and sacks.

Offensively, the Wildcats want to pass more behind second-year starter Terry Wilson. Defensively, theyre hoping Watson can present the same pass rush threat as Allen and that former backups can replace key departures in the secondary.

Most importantly, Kentucky desires to pick up where it left off from that 27-24 bowl win over Penn State on New Years Day.

I think you have an idea of who you are, what your teams going to look like, coach Mark Stoops said. Theres definitely a few more emotions with the first game because you really just want to get out there and play and see exactly what you have.

Mid-American Conference member Toledo is just as curious as it seeks to beat its first Southeastern Conference school since upsetting No. 18 Arkansas 16-12 in 2015.

The Rockets are deep in many phases with 13 starters back from a 7-6 team that reached the Bahamas Bowl last season. Six starters return to a high-octane offense that ranked ninth in scoring (40.4 points) and 30th in per-game yardage (443.8).

Fourth-year coach Jason Candle is also eager to see how his defense has matured, especially against a Wildcats squad he said presents a big test.

Kentuckys a program thats definitely on the rise coming off a 10-win season, Candle said, and I think its a program built for longevity. A tremendous opponent, tremendous challenge, and a tremendous opportunity for us.

Wilson has a deep receivers group and eager running backs to work with in his second season behind center. He passed for 1,889 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore, but this seasons objectives are more shorter routes and better decision making after Wilson tossed eight interceptions.

Toledo running back Bryant Koback began his college career at Kentucky in 2017 but was redshirted as Snell emerged as the Wildcats top ball carrier. The Holland, Ohio, native transferred and has thrived with the Rockets. Koback returns as their top rusher with 917 yards and 14 TDs last season, which ranked fifth in the MAC. Hes on the watch list for the Doak Walker Award given to the nations top back.

Kentucky returns three starters among eight players who have combined for 49 career starts. The Wildcats also welcome back 6-foot-7, 321-pound junior left tackle Landon Young after he missed last season with a knee injury. His presence strengthens a unit that helped the offense average nearly 200 rushing yards and allowed just 28 sacks last season.

Wildcats strong safety Jordan Griffin is the only senior in a group that will be significantly younger after replacing all four starters. The two-deep depth chart lists sophomore Cedrick Dort Jr. and redshirt freshman Jamari Brown as the starting cornerbacks with sophomore Yusuf Corker at free safety. Griffin had 13 tackles and three pass breakups while starting four contests as a junior.

Toledo is 83-37 this decade and one of just nine FBS schools with winning records each of the past nine seasons. Candle has played a big role in this run as an assistant from 2009-15 before going 28-13 as coach.

Kentucky vs. Toledo: Everything to know Keep track of everything related to the Wildcats win over Toledo in Game 1 of the new season.

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The Kentucky Wildcats opened their 2019 season Saturday with a 38-24 win over the Toledo Rockets at Kroger Field. It was actually a game in which trailed 14-7 in the second quarter but went on 31-3 run to take command and never look back.

Junior quarterback Wilson completed 19/26 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Junior receiver Lynn Bowden caught six of those passes for 77 yards, including a highlight-reel grab in the fourth quarter that eventually lead to a touchdown.

Redshirt freshman Kavosiey Smoke had 78 yards rushing on just seven carries, including a 40-yard scoring run.

Up next for UK is a home game vs. Eastern Michigan on Sept. 7. The Wildcats won the inaugural meeting 24-20 in 2017.

29 Total Updates Since Aug 19, 2019, 1:56pm EDT Follow this stream September 4 The UK passing game is already showing significant progress from 2018 By danoharris@Dan_O_Harris For UK to have another special season, the passing game needed to step up in a big way. So far, so good.

Everything Stoops, Lynn Bowden, Terry Wilson, and others had to say about win No. 1 for Kentucky Football.

The Kentucky Wildcats open their season against MAC West favorite Toledo. Will the Cats continue their momentum from 2018?

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