It’s been beaten to a dead horse, but last night’s loss was one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of UK athletics.
After holding a 27-14 lead in the fourth quarter, many fans felt a field-storming was inevitable.
And then it wasn’t.
As easy as it is to dwell on the negatives, a lot of good (surprisingly) came from the devastating loss.
Here are five silver linings to focus on going forward:
Kentucky’s QB1 had one of the most impressive games of his career, putting the Wildcats in position to win throughout.
He finished the day 17/25 passing, 196 yards, three touchdowns, and zero turnovers. With Florida’s inability to defend the run, many thought this would be a heavy Benny Snell outing. Instead, we saw Johnson make throws all over the field and find unbelievable confidence in his arm.
Again, we’re talking about one of the best secondaries in the nation, and the senior quarterback carved them up like a Thanksgiving turkey.
When you watch the highlights of his three touchdown throws, especially the balls to Blake Bone and Juice Johnson, only an elite quarterback could put the balls where he did and put points on the board. Stephen Johnson is just that.
Johnson got demolished on a late hit, a play that drew an ejection for Gator linebacker Vosean Joseph. Most quarterbacks, especially scrawnier guys like Johnson, would sit out a few plays and possibly the remainder of the game.
Instead, Johnson came back on the following play and did his best to lead his team to victory, banged up and all.
Kentucky fans need to embrace his final nine games as a Wildcat, because Stephen Johnson is a special talent and a special leader.
We all know what Benny Snell can do, but we’ve been waiting for the emergence of another running back to carry a heavy load.
Last night, Siheim King became that guy.
King maintained five rushes for 64 yards, with a long of 30, showing off ridiculous shiftiness and finding success in even the smallest of gaps opened up by the offensive line.
What was most impressive, though, was the junior back’s patience in the backfield. To start his career at Kentucky, one of the biggest knocks on his game has been his tendency to rush things and force plays that just weren’t there. Yesterday, we saw an extremely mature back make mature runs.
Every time King touched the ball, he made something impressive happen with it. For a guy that was the subject of transfer rumors throughout the offseason, we’re lucky to have him contribute the way he is.
Special. Teams. King.
Early in the game, Moushey made this crushing hit on special teams:
– KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) September 24, 2017
Later in the game, Matt Panton punted a ball to the one-yard line, immediately downed in the air by Moushey.
Two impressive plays on special teams that put the Kentucky defense in great field position to make a stop.
And he’s not just a one-game wonder. The walk-on has balled out every game this year, including this hit against EKU:
– Chris Morris (@CMorrisPhD) September 10, 2017
For a team with a recent history of struggling on special teams, junior walk-on receiver Charles Moushey has been an absolute stud.
Out of the Wildcat at the start of the game, Bowden dropped back on a Randall Cobb-esque pass. When the Florida secondary closed in on the UK receivers, Bowden fake out two defenders, cut back across field, and found an open lane.
He was tripped up and stopped just short of the first down marker, but the elusiveness in the open field was everything we hoped for out of the freshman stud, and more.
Later in the game, Bowden received the ball on a double-reverse and tossed a 24-yard completion to Siheim King on the outside. We knew he was a quarterback in high school, and throws like that are certainly not out of his range, but to see it in action was a thing of beauty. It didn’t feel forced; it was a tight spiral with an easy opportunity for King to pull in the reception.
His stat-line of 1/1 passing for 24 yards, along with two rushes for 13 yards don’t jump off the page at you, but what he has done in extremely limited action has been beyond impressive.
We all expected Bowden to have a breakout game sooner or later, but I don’t know if fans realize just how good this kid is going to be.
As hard as it is to think of the positives, Kentucky had several in their loss to the Gators.