Kentucky’s defense shines, but will the turnovers be a concern for Florida?

The Cats have started the 2021 season off with a statement as they are 4-0 (2-0 in the SEC) after a 16-10 win over South Carolina in their home stadium. Kentucky ended up with a slim win over a weaker South Carolina team. The main problem that the team has faced this season is turnovers and this game was super sloppy once again. These mishaps keep the weaker teams closer in the end, giving them confidence and making the game stressful for fans. The defense carried the offense this game tremendously. There were a few highlights for the game, but there’s a lot to improve before the next game against Florida.

To start, Will Levis did not live up to my offensive player of the week pick. Levis threw for a 68% completion percentage (15-22) which is solid, but his throws were not on target a lot of times like in the Chattanooga game. He threw his 5th interception of the season, tying him with Florida’s Emory Jones for the most in the SEC. Levis must drastically improve his passing in these next few SEC games if we want to have a chance to stay undefeated and play with the top teams like Florida and Georgia. Wan’Dale Robinson had 65 yards on seven receptions, leading the team once again. Josh Ali struggled during the game with holding on to the ball as he fumbled twice. Big improvements must come quick for the team if Kentucky wants to compete for the crown.

Kentucky’s running game was very solid for the most part against the Gamecocks. Chris Rodriguez Jr. has yet another monster game with 144 rushing yards on 26 attempts. He continued to put up monster numbers and run over anyone in his way, but he also had a couple mishaps where he fumbled again. Rodriguez Jr. is one of the best blacks in the country, but he MUST improve his ball security if he wants to be the horse Kentucky can rely in during the season. Kavosiey Smoke had arguably his best game so far this season, as he had nine attempts for 50 yards. He also scored the teams only touchdown as he rushed in a 15-yarder in the first drive of the game. The passing game must compliment the running game if this teams wants to get over the hump to be elite.

There were no problems for Kentucky’s defense this weekend. South Carolina were shutout in the first half of the game by elite defense everywhere. Everyone was doing their part, but Deandre Square was the name that was called more often than others. Square continues to impress as an undersized linebacker with a ton of heart and competitiveness. He led the team with five tackles. Carrington Valentine and J.J. Weaver both picked up a sack. Both Valentine and Weaver have impressed this season with their play. The defense has played amazing all season and will be crucial for the team’s success over the rest of SEC play. The Cats defense only let up 158 passing yards and 58 rushing yards against the Gamecocks. Florida will provide the team with the toughest game plan for the defense, but the veteran squad should be prepared for one of the biggest games at Kroger Field this season.

A 4-0 start got the Big Blue Nation hype for the rest of the season, but we will see how well the team actually is with the toughest part of the schedule coming for the Cats. Coming this Saturday will be Florida coming to Lexington @ 6 P.M. Next, LSU comes to Lexington and then the Cats will go to Georgia. Kentucky has received votes for the AP top 25 but has fallen short once again after the South Carolina game. Will Kentucky earn a spot with a win over Florida? Is it the Cats time to shine? And never forget, GO CATS!

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Devin Hall is a columnist for MESPORTS digital.  A University Louisville graduate who loves good music, good games and good times. He can be reached at DHall@maineventsports101.com. Follow him on Twitter @Mista_Hall25

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