Lost in the poor performance of Kentucky's defense was the play of sophomore
quarterback Max Smith. The Grenada Hills (Ca.) native was one of the
bright spots for the Wildcats on an otherwise dreary day in Louisville.
Kentucky's defense never regained their composure after having Louisville
pinned on their own one yard line on third down early in the first quarter.
The Cardinal offense found sophomore receiver DeVante Parker down the right
side for a long gain and from that point forward, Louisville was in control.
But amid the questions and the dominating performance, Max Smith played
a pretty steady game, despite being often pressured and rarely having time
to go down the field for bigger gains.
Smith finished 35 of 50 for 270 yards and two touchdowns in the game.
He attempted probably about 40 percent more passes than the Kentucky staff
would like him to throw, but the Wildcats were behind from the get-go. So
they were trying to make up ground.
Still, Smith made the right throws most of the time. He didn't try to force
passes that he couldn't make and he found the open man, most often out of
the backfield and a few times coming across the middle.
Aaron Boyd and Darryl Collins emerged as targets for the Wildcats, while
senior LaRod King was his normal steady self. Smith also looked for the
tight ends more often than his most recent predecessors, Morgan Newton and
Mike Hartline. He target Tyler Robinson for a touchdown pass early on and
Ronnie Shields also made a couple of catches.
Smith was able to do most of everything you'd ask for your sophomore
quarterback to do. But there is still room for growth.
Along with the offensive line, Smith will need to better learn how to
uncover the blitz packages of the defense. Smith will also have to make
sure that ball security remains a priority.
Smith is still a young quarterback, so he's got time during his career to
learn these things. And they will come for him with experience.
Unfortunately, the future is now for the Wildcats.
There are a lot of questions surrounding the program and the direction. The
play of Kentucky's defense against arch rival Louisville make it appear, at
least early this season, that the offense will have to carry the load.
Smith and his comrades will have to play mostly mistake free football and be
very efficient in controlling the ball in order for the Wildcats to compete
in the SEC at even a moderately successful level.
Can Smith learn the nuances quickly enough to help this team to a bowl game?
Only time will tell.