Kentucky’s season-opener at Kroger Field was nearly a catastrophe, but Stephen Johnson was there to save the day and propel UK to their second victory of the season.
The Cats’ sluggish start on both sides of the ball was compounded by two big calls: one by the officials and one by the Kentucky coaching staff.
Lynn Bowden knocked an opponent off his block on a Stephen Johnson scramble, but upon further review, Bowden was ejected for targeting, a call best described as “controversial.” The call by the UK staff might have been even worse. Stephen Johnson was 7-for-9 when he was replaced on the third drive of the game by Drew Barker. In two drives with Barker at the helm, the Cats went three-and-out twice, he was sacked twice and completed just 1-of-2 passes for 5 yards.
When Johnson returned, the game changed.
Kentucky immediately marched down the field. The five-play, 75-yard drive took just 58 seconds and ended with a 23-yard touchdown to C.J. Conrad, just before the end of the first half. In the third quarter, Benny Snell and Blake Bone helped Johnson and Co. put the Colonels away. Bone’s 43-yard reception led to Snell’s 25-yard go-ahead touchdown.
Bone finished with a career-high 93 yards on 3 catches, Snell averaged 5.4 yards per carry (103 total yards) but Johnson deserves more credit than he will receive. Kentucky’s QB1 completed 68 percent of his passes for 224 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 48 yards and the 21-yard score that put Kentucky up eight late in the fourth quarter.
Mike Edwards put the dagger through the Colonels’ heart. His interception with 4:13 remaining put the game out of reach for good.
The win may have been ugly, but the alternative would’ve been a catastrophe. For the ninth time in 13 tries, Stephen Johnson proved he will do whatever it takes to ensure Kentucky will leave the field with a win.