Kentucky won its season opener, although coach Mark Stoops repeatedly said he was "aggravated" by his squad's performance in front of its home crowd.
The Wildcats (1-0) will have a chance to improve when they host Eastern Kentucky (0-1) on Saturday afternoon in Lexington, Ky.
Despite beating Ball State 44-14 — a margin that appeared wider due to a 30-yard touchdown run by Ray Davis with six seconds left — Stoops expressed displeasure with his side in its showing against the Cardinals.
The Wildcats trailed 7-3 after the first quarter.
"I don't want to dwell on the negative, but that feels what's coming out of my mouth right now," Stoops said after the win. "(I'm) very aggravated at a lot of things. ... Offensively, it was hard to get in rhythm.
"I still think we have a good football team. We just have a lot to work on."
In a highly anticipated debut, transfer quarterback Devin Leary completed 18 of 31 passes for 241 yards and one touchdown, with one interception.
"Devin will improve a great deal. You could see the talent he has there," Stoops said of the former NC State standout.
Competing at the FCS level, Eastern Kentucky was routed 66-13 in neighboring Ohio as Cincinnati — one of the Big 12's new members — got seven touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) from quarterback Emory Jones in coach Scott Satterfield's Cincinnati debut.
"We're a young team this year — we've got six seniors," said coach Walt Wells of his Colonels, who compete in the new United Athletic Conference. "Inexperience is something that says a lot about our football team, but we are experienced at the quarterback position."
That signal-caller is Parker McKinney, who decided to return for his senior season after a spectacular 2022 in which he threw for 3,956 yards and 33 TDs, with eight interceptions.
Against the Bearcats, McKinney threw for 177 yards and a TD, with two picks.
Eastern Kentucky has dropped all five games against the Wildcats since 1978. The teams last met in 2017 — a 27-16 win for the Southeastern Conference school.
—Field Level Media