Saturday’s game against Austin Peay was a microcosm of the 2016 season. It wasn’t pretty as an unexpected struggle surfaced due to self-inflicted adversity.
Let’s take a look:
QB Stephen Johnson did not start the game. Luke Wright got the call after the starter did not practice all week due to an injury but was available in case of an emergency. An Austin Peay pick 6 put the Governors up 13-0 which forced Mark Stoops to break the emergency glass for Stephen Johnson. Johnson did what Johnson does; provide a calming yet motivation presence in the UK offensive huddle and win football games.
Kentucky didn’t scratch the scoreboard until Benny Snell busted through the Austin Peay defense for a 30-yard touchdown run. The next score was a rare Stephen Johnson to CJ Conrad connection for six points followed by a pretty post route touchdown pass to Garrett Johnson.
The second half went to script: Boom Williams 25-yard touchdown run, Benny Snell 48-yard score, JoJo Kemp 40 and 7-yard scores.
By the Numbers
-Total: 49 plays, 410 yards
-Benny Snell: 14 carries, 152 yards, 2 TD’s, 10.9 yards per carry.
-JoJo Kemp: 8 carries, 54 yards, 2 TD’s, 6.8 yards per.
-Boom Williams: 7 carries, 47 yards, 1 TD, 6.7 yards per. Had a 94 yard –TD run nullified due to penalty.
-Stephen Johnson: 5-9, 101 yards, 2 TD’s, 232 QB efficiency rating.
-Garrett Johnson 3 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD
-CJ Conrad: 1 catch, 14 yards, 1 TD
Calling the Wildcat’s first quarter performance porous would be much too kind of a description. Missed tackles carried over from the Tennessee loss and was joined by an apparent lack of focus. There’s no way to sugarcoat the obvious; Austin Peay dominated the Cats in the 1st quarter. The Governors sustained drives, scored on a 17-yard TD run, and moved the chains at will.
By the Numbers
-Total: 71 plays, 284 yards
-Jordan Jones: 8 total tackles, 1 QB sack, 2 tackles for loss
-Marcus McClinton: 7 tackles
-Marcus Walker: 7 tackles
-Blake McClain: 7 tackles
–Kash Daniel: 7 tackles
Austin Peay’s punting was a point of interest going into the game. I felt that Kentucky had a chance for a return based of the same statistical formula that was presented against New Mexico State. Unbeknownst to me; AP punter Devin Stuart was not even as advertised by averaging just 28.7 yards per. Thus, no opportunity for a return-score surfaced.
Grant McKinniss’ wasn’t much better: 3 punts, 38.7 yards per. Coverage teams were again led by true freshman Kash Daniel.
PIC BY UK ATHLETICS
What does all this mean?
-The Wildcats became bowl eligible with a 49-13 win. UK hasn’t been to a bowl since 2010. Saturday’s win was a significant program milestone. This is especially of note given an 0-2 start and losing its starting quarterback in week 3.
-2016 is the 12th time in Commonwealth Stadium history that the Wildcats won at least five home games.
-Let’s be honest; the game’s outcome was never in question. Kentucky was superiorly talented which was obvious once Stephen Johnson and its running game resurfaced.
-A sluggish start was not just particular to the Cats. Chattanooga led Alabama 3-0 after the 1st quarter.
-Down 13-0; Kentucky went on a 49-0 run scoring on 7 consecutive possessions.
-5 of UK’s touchdowns were of 25-yards or more.
-The Wildcats have two, 1000-yard rushers for the first time in program history. Benny Snell’s 152 yards propelled the true freshman to over the 1,000-yard mark where he joined Boom Williams in the prestigious club.
-Snell averaged 10.9 yards per carry, the best average for a Wildcat with at least 14 carries since Mark Higgs averaged 13.7 per attempt vs. Ole Miss in 1987. He has 1,006 yards for the season, breaking Moe Williams’ freshman record (928 yards in 1993) and becoming the first freshman in school history to top 1,000 yards.
–Boom Williams now has 2,413 career rushing yards, seventh on the UK career list.
-Kentucky has scored at least 35 points six times this season, the most since the 2007 team did it in nine games.
-Cats were penalized 10 times for 85 yards. High number of penalties were an indication of a lack of focus.
–UK’s 2,666 rushing yards are the most since 1976 (2,960).
–Stephen Johnson is a leader and winner. The BBN witnessed the extent that the team depends on both its offensive and defensive leader for the second week in a row. Jordan Jones missed the vast majority of the Tennessee game and it showed, badly. Stephen Johnson’s early absence was equally as noticable.
-14 seniors signed with Kentucky based on nothing but a promise. This group has experienced highs, lows, and far worse. From a 2-10 freshman season to back-to-back near misses, winning a 6th game was a reward to JoJo Kemp and company as well to the BBN that went against the grain to stick by this team through good and bad.
While Kentucky players and coaches were happy with a win; to a person they all communicated that there is one game remaining on the schedule. That one game will be against Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. We’ll discuss next Saturday’s game in length in the upcoming days. But, I’m going to let this achievement sink in for a night. Kentucky is going to a bowl game.