LEXINGTON, Ky. — Will Levis threw for career highs of 367 yards and four touchdowns in his Kentucky debut, including two to fellow transfer Wan'Dale Robinson, and the Wildcats overcame an early hole to blow out Louisiana Monroe 45-10 in Saturday's season opener.
Playing on a sunny afternoon before its biggest crowd in nearly two years following a season of COVID-19-related attendance restrictions, the Wildcats shrugged off a 7-0 deficit after a turnover to overwhelm the rebuilding Warhawks. Unveiling a new pro set offense with former Penn State quarterback Levis behind center, Kentucky piled up 341 of its 554 yards by halftime alone to lead 28-7 and only allowed the Warhawks past midfield twice besides after the giveaway.
The offensive numbers thoroughly demonstrated Levis' grasp of new coordinator Liam Coen's up-tempo scheme that ULM couldn't stop. After his first pass went off Josh Ali's fingertips to ULM's Jabari Johnson, the junior quickly regrouped to deliver the flashy plays Kentucky lacked last season.
Levis hit Robinson, a Kentucky native and Nebraska transfer, with TD passes of 33 and 15 yards around a 58-yard scoring pass to Ali. He hit Brendan Bates with a 4-yard TD early in the fourth quarter to finish 18 of 26 passing for 367 yards.
Robinson caught five passes for 125 yards while Ali grabbed five for 136. Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushed 19 times for 125 yards with a 2-yard TD.
ULM managed just 87 yards in Terry Bowden's coaching debut and lost its 12th consecutive game dating back to 2019. Rhett Rodriguez completed 9 of 17 passes for 56 yards.
ULM: Bowden and the Warhawks must wait two more weeks for a chance to snap their drought. The Sun Belt Conference school did well in converting Johnson's interception off a tipped pass into an early touchdown by converting two third-and-long plays. But they were otherwise overmatched and earned their points after taking over in Kentucky territory.
Kentucky: The Wildcats began as their own worst enemy with Levis' tipped interception followed by defensive penalties and mistakes that led to ULM's first touchdown. Those setbacks were quickly forgotten as Levis showed his big arm on deep passes to Ali and Robinson, who showed speed and physicality in his debut. The defense quickly shifted to shutdown mode, recording 14 tackles for loss with six sacks.
ULM hosts FCS Jackson State, coached by Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, on Sept. 18.
Kentucky begins SEC play next Saturday against Missouri.