Angry after the loss to Texas A&M, most expected Kentucky to come out firing following the bye week. Instead of rested, the Cats were rusty. Thanks to the defense and Benny Snell’s heroics, No. 14 Kentucky escaped with a 14-7 win over Vanderbilt.
No one could ever describe the win as pretty, but a win is a win. “I’m never going to apologize for a victory,” Mark Stoops said after the game. “I can’t apologize for being 6-1.”
Kentucky’s sixth win of the season is significant. The Cats are bowl eligible for the third straight season, something that’s only happened two other times in school history. The win also moves Kentucky into a tie with Georgia and Florida (6-1, 4-1 in the SEC) at the top of the SEC East standings. Here’s how they got there…
Goal Line Stand
Kentucky’s defense was stuck behind the eight-ball for most of the night. It started with two early UK turnovers, one of which turned int a Vanderbilt touchdown. After that, the Commodores got nothing from the UK defense.
Searching for a go-ahead second half score, Vanderbilt had a third and one inside the ten. The first attempt was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage. Instead of kicking a field goal with high winds swirling, Vandy opted to go for it on fourth down. With a heavily-wrapped injured hand, Kash Daniel fired through the middle of the offensive line to force a fumble that was recovered by Quinton Bohanna.
Josh Allen’s third down tackle for loss and Daniel’s fourth down strip gave Kentucky momentum they desperately needed. Benny Snell ran with that momentum.
Benny’s Beast Mode
Benny had been bottled up for most of the game. The goal line stand gave him enough fuel to unleash a game-winning drive.
Kentucky needed 80 yards for a go-ahead score. After ten carries Benny had 74 more rushing yards and a game-winning touchdown. They were 74 angry yards, punctuated by stiff-arms and powerful lowered shoulders. Snell was a man possessed, unstoppable until he reached the end zone.
Snell finished the day with 169 yards rushing on 32 carries (5.3 ypc). Benny is now third all-time in scoring and second in career 100-yard rushing games.
The Worst Wind
Some of the game’s ugliness can be attributed to unconventional weather. In the first half 50 mph wind gusts blew through Kroger Field. At one point, the goalposts looked like they were going to tip over. The wild wind made two of the team’s shaky aspects look even worse.
In the kicking game, Miles Butler made a lot of the Big Blue Nation Chance Poore fans. Thirty-nine yards away from giving the Cats a lead, the ball fell short and wide right. The wind probably did not help, but you can’t give it all the credit.
In the passing game, Terry Wilson did not look much different tonight than he did two weeks ago at Texas A&M. Terry used his legs to get 91 yards, but he could not use his arm to move the ball down the field. Wilson completed only 3-of-9 passes for 18 yards, including a touchdown on a back-shoulder fade to Lynn Bowden. One deep ball to Dorian Baker could’ve been a score, but the ball didn’t make it far enough. Maybe the wind knocked it down, but the wind can’t get credit for all of the incompletions.
The Worst Penalties
Two of the worst penalties in the history of American football cost Kentucky at least ten points. Lynn Bowden took the opening kick of the second half 90 yards for a score, one that was erased on a questionable holding call by Tavin Richardson. It only looked more questionable when the referee’s flag didn’t come out until Bowden was well past Richardson.
Every bad call ever pales in comparison to the injustice served to Derrick Baity. A Kyle Shurmur pass was criminally under-thrown. The ball gently soared through the air into Baity’s hands. As he ran away, the official threw his flag. Where the official saw a hold, I don’t know. If you don’t take my word for it, take Jacob Tamme’s.
Thanks, Davonte Robinson
The highly-touted Lexington native has been stuck behind veterans throughout his career. Tonight he showed us that he’s tired of playing second fiddle.
Robinson’s name was called early and often. He had seven tackles, one for loss and a crucial pass break up. Even though Kentucky will lose a lot in the secondary after this season, Robinson’s future is bright.
All of the Sacks
Josh Allen and Boogie Watson are making a case as the best pass-rushing combo in college football. After tonight Boogie now has at least one sack in the last four games. Watson also had a tackle for loss.
It’s hard to accurately describe the kind of football Josh Allen is playing right now. Watching Allen tee-off on third downs is a treat one must savor, because few people can do the things he can on a football field.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time games.”
He’s exactly right. Allen’s eight tackles were his least impressive stat of the night. One of his two tackles for loss came on a third and one. His only pass break up came on a third down. He had two sacks, including a strip sack that ended the game. Allen saves his best for when it matters most. Enjoy it while you can.
The Vanderbilt game was supposed to be fun. It was supposed to help this team build momentum. Terry Wilson was supposed to regain his confidence before a road test against the high-flying Missouri Tigers. None of that happened.
Kentucky almost won at Kyle Field without an offensive snap over the 50 yard-line. Kentucky won its fourth SEC game by completing only three passes for 18 yards.
Since the second half against South Carolina, Kentucky’s offense has not looked the same. It lacks explosion with a quarterback who lacks confidence. They were supposed to find solutions to fix the offensive problems during the bye week. Instead, we are only left with more questions, questions that must be addressed immediately.