Numerous Wildcats have contributed on offense
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) One of the most satisfying aspects of Kentucky’s best start in seven years is that multiple players have contributed on offense.
Shared responsibility between Wildcats running backs and receivers has culminated in an offense that ranks sixth in the Southeastern Conference at 448.5 yards per game. And Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC) aims to use everybody available on Saturday night at LSU (5-2, 1-2).
Four backs and quarterback Patrick Towles have at least 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns each, and three have posted 100-yard games this season. Six receivers have at least 100 yards with four catching two TDs each.
Even better than the numbers, Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown says that spreading the wealth on offense has been ”great for team morale” and made more difficult for opposing defenses.
”It makes us a little harder to prepare for,” Brown said. ”People can’t (focus) their coverage (on) a certain guy.”
Kentucky’s past two victories in particular have showcased different stars rushing and receiving.
Freshman running back Stanley ”Boom” Williams is coming off a career-best 104-yard performance against Louisiana-Monroe, a game that included a 75-yard return of the opening kickoff. Wide receiver Javess Blue caught three passes for 109 yards and two TDs as well.
Sophomore and leading rusher Jojo Kemp (297 yards) shined the previous week in an upset of South Carolina with 131 yards and three TDs out of the wildcat formation. Junior Braylon Heard set the tone in the season opener against Tennessee-Martin, breaking TD runs of 73 and 43 yards on his only two carries.
”We’ve been (running) by committee a little bit,” Brown added. ”Each one of those guys at different times has shown an ability to make big plays. I think it’s been a positive for us.”
Towles meanwhile has shown his versatility with 112 yards rushing on a team-high 60 carries along with passing for 1,541 yards and 10 TDs. His highlight was a 369-yard, three-TD game at Florida with freshman Garrett Johnson totaling six catches for 154 yards and two TDs.
Ryan Timmons leads the team with 315 yards receiving and just missed the 100-yard mark in a 20-3 win over Ohio.
Kentucky’s numerous options are things LSU coach Les Miles said his defense must be ready for in Baton Rouge.
Towles ”spreads the ball around, he hits five players with at least 12 receptions,” Miles said. ”Good balance. They run it and throw it. They will use a wildcat quarterback who can run it and throw it some.”
Backfield depth was considered one of Kentucky’s strengths entering the season, and it has gone a long way toward adding balance to Brown’s pass-oriented Air Raid scheme. Williams’ emergence as a speedy playmaker has added another dimension that Heard says makes it harder for defenses to key on one aspect.
”We’ve got so many guys on the field who can do so many different things,” he said. ”Every time Boom touches the ball, something big can happen.”
For his part Williams is happy to be part of a scheme that’s thriving so well that it doesn’t matter who stands out from game to game. In fact, players have come to expect a different star.
”This offense might be the most explosive offense that Kentucky has had,” he said.
Good as it has been for the Wildcats, their challenge is cracking an LSU defense ranked fifth in the SEC with a per-game average of 333.3 yards. Doing so will mean all hands on deck, but then, Kentucky has been good at that.