They were booed on the way to the locker room at halftime. The offense struggled again, there were empty seats, and the secondary was gashed for nearly 300 yards.
But thanks to a strong second half, the Wildcats pulled away from Central Michigan for a 27-13 win at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday.
"They say there's no such thing as an ugly win," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "Well, we just had another not-so-pretty win."
Kentucky (2-0) fell behind 13-3 early in the second quarter and trailed by a touchdown at halftime. But the defense shut Central Michigan (1-1) out the rest of the way, and the offense came to life in the second half.
The Wildcats managed just 94 yards of offense in the first half, but had 250 after the break.
"I knew the team that came out last week wasn't us," offensive coordinator Randy Sanders said. "I don't think the team that came out in the first half is necessarily us. Hopefully we're a little bit more like the team that came out in the second half."
Freshman running back Josh Clemons broke an 87-yard touchdown run, the longest ever for a UK freshman, to give Kentucky its first lead of the game. Clemons had only two carries in the first half before playing the majority of the second half. He finished with 126 yards on 14 carries.
The Wildcats didn't look back from after his touchdown. Junior quarterback Morgan Newton rolled right on fourth down for a one-yard touchdown run with 5:35 to go to give UK its final margin of victory.
Newton, who ran for negative yards in the first half, helped power the offense with his legs in the second half. He finished with 43 rushing yards. Even though Newton completed just 2-of-6 passes after halftime, the Kentucky offense took off.
"When it's blocked right, Morgan is a good runner," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "We have to run Morgan Newton this year to be successful."
Newton struggled on some of his intermediate routes and finished just 9-of-18 for 114 yards, but completed a 46-yard pass to junior wide receiver LaRod King to set up Kentucky's second field goal.
That was a step forward from last week, when Newton failed to complete half his passes and finished with three interceptions.
"Last week we probably played the worst game we could play offensively," Newton said. "This week we probably played the second worst game we could play offensively. But we made things happen and we're 2-0."
Other than one interception from Newton, the offense played without any major mistakes. There were no penalties on the offense, and the defense held Central Michigan's tailbacks to 83 yards on 31 carries.
The Chippewas actually outgained Kentucky 383-344, the strong showing in the second half helped Kentucky avoid the upset. It was an improvement over last week, Newton said, but it still might not be good enough going forward.
"I feel better than if we were 1-1 or 0-2," Newton said. "But I know as well as anyone, if we come out and play like we did in our first game and in the first half of this game, I don't know how long we're going to be unblemished."
Senior right tackle Billy Joe Murphy and junior center Matt Smith did not play. Sophomore wide receiver Brian Adams did not play.
Senior linebacker Winston Guy tweaked his hamstring and junior safety Martavius Neloms suffered a stinger. There were no serious injuries in the game.