Trevathan sensed the team wasn’t focused in the opening quarter.
“We weren’t really talking this game,” Trevathan said. “I think guys got in their head that we have to just go out there and not talk about it. I sensed a little negativity, but we pulled it together.”
It was the defense set the tone and carried the Cats when the offense struggled to produce a rhythm. Ricky Lumpkin liked the way the defensive unit pulled together and made a statement following two weeks of uncertainty.
“It’s the first time we’ve put 60 minutes together against a team in a long time,” he said. “It showed what we could do if we just came out and played together, like we know how to up front.”
Kentucky’s defensive unit limited the guests to just 172 yards and avoided a repeat of the first two weeks. In the first two games, Kentucky surrendered an average of 300 yards per game against Louisville and Western Kentucky, respectively. The biggest issue was stopping the run, an area of concern that received a boost against the Zips. Kentucky gave up just 67 yards rushing, including 32 in the first two quarters.
“(The) defense did an unbelievable job of making the (other) team go backward,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. “(We) didn’t create turnovers like we have been doing, but we didn’t give up big plays (and) didn’t give up yardage.”
In addition, Kentucky pressured Akron quarterback Patrick Nicely and had five sacks for a loss of 42 yards. It was the first time the Wildcats had pressured the quarterback “on a consistent basis.”
“It wasn’t here or there,” Lumpkin said.”Getting pressure on the quarterback really helped us a lot tonight.”
Kentucky defensive coordinator Steve Brown wanted to make sure the defensive unit “played for 60 minutes and played consistently.”
“They bought into what we were trying to sell them,” Brown said. “We got a win and that’s our number one goal is to get victories. It was just a really good team effort.”
Lumpkin hopes the Cats can build on the performance heading into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener at Florida.
“It’s time for the SEC season to start,” Lumpkin said. “It’s going to be big boys on big boys and it’s time to play some real football. We can’t let up and we can’t have any mental mistakes or anything like that.”