Kentucky wins season opener in style; defeats UL Monroe 45-10


Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrates during UK’s home opener against Louisiana Monroe on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 45-10. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Kentucky football began their 2021 campaign with a bang on Saturday, throttling Louisiana Monroe 45-10 at Kroger Field in Lexington. 

Will Levis led the charge for UK, completing 18 of 26 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns. 

Chris Rodriguez Jr led all rushers 125 yards and one touchdown on 19 attempts, while Josh Ali and Wan’Dale Robinson each secured five receptions, collecting 261 receiving yards combined. 

Josh Paschal led all UK players with seven tackles.  

Kentucky outgained the Warhawks 564 yards to 87.  

“We worked on ourselves today. And we needed to just get better, get game reps, get some confidence,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. “I think there’s a lot of people that know we have a lot of good potential, but we’ve got to go out there and play, and it was a good start.” 

The win was No. 50 of Stoops’ career at UK. 

While Kentucky dominated in every aspect of the stat sheet, the first drive of the game for the Cats did not go as plannedWill Levis’ first pass of the afternoon was intercepted by ULM’s Jabari Johnson. The pass deflected off of UK wide receiver Josh Ali, falling to the Warhawk safety.  

The Warhawks would then strike first, as running back Kadyn Roach capped off a twelve-play, 43-yard drive to give ULM an early 7-0 lead.  

Kentucky would respond quickly, as a 33-yard strike from Levis to Wan’Dale Robinson found the endzone to tie the game at seven. 

Long throws were plentiful for Levis on Saturday, as he launched seven completions for more than 20 yards.  

Following a ULM three-and-out, Kentucky would need just one play to take the lead, as a play-action pass from Levis found the hands of Ali for a 58-yard touchdown.  

The next UK possession saw a healthy dose of Chris Rodriguez Jr. The junior attempted six rushes on the drive, eventually punching his ticket in the endzone on a two-yard carry. The 14-play drive was the longest of the day for Kentucky. 

The Wildcat defense would record two consecutive three-and-outs to start the second quarter 

A 62-yard pass from Levis was caught by Robinson, setting up an eventual 15-yard touchdown grab for the wide receiver, extending UK’s lead to 28-7. 

Robinson and Ali torched the ULM secondary in the first half, collecting 125 and 112 receiving yards, respectively. The receiver duo became the first UK pair to record over 100 receiving yards each since Matt Roark and La’Rod King did so against Ole Miss on Nov. 5, 2011. 

Levis’ three touchdowns in the first half cancelled out any hope of a ULM upset.  

“I was nervous for sure. I know that I have the experience and it’s not my first time playing a college football game. But it was the first time starting for a new program, pretty high expectations and I knew a lot of people were waiting to see how the game goes,” said Levis. 

“After the first play, the nerves kind just went away but I think the nerves where a good thing. It was an indication of high expectations, and it means that I care a lot about the team and the outcome and how it goes. Things went pretty well and I’m glad the game went how it did.” 

The Penn State transfer would collect one more touchdown pass, connecting with tight end Brenden Bates for a four-yard score. The touchdown was the first of Bates’ career.  

Beau Allen would enter the game for Kentucky in the fourth quarter, completing four of seven passes for 52 yards. 

Sophomore running back Mike Drennen would put an exclamation point on the Wildcats performance, collecting the first touchdown of his career with a four-yard scramble to make it 45-10 Kentucky.  

ULM quarterback Rhett Rodriguez finished the game with nine completions on 17 attempts for 56 yards.  

No Warhawk running back accumulated more than 11 rushing yards, and the team finished with just 17 yards on 43 attempts.  

ULM’s 87 total yards is the fewest allowed by a Kentucky defense in a single game since 1988 

“Our guys played hard. We’ve got to quit with the penalties, and the same with (coach Coen) and the offensive staff. I thought it was nice,” Stoops said. 

Up next for the Wildcats is the first conference test of the season, as the Missouri Tigers will enter Kroger Field for a critical SEC East matchup. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. E.T and will air on SEC Network.