The Big Blue Nation’s greatest demand for the 2017 Kentucky football team was met, almost immediately.
On the seventh offensive play of the game, Stephen Johnson kept the ball in the run-pass-option and found a wide open C.J. Conrad in the middle of the field. A connection Kentucky fans have yearned for all offseason netted 57 yards for the Wildcats.
“Me and Stephen worked extremely hard at it,” Conrad said after the game. “You could tell that it paid off tonight. Hopefully we can keep it going, but it was definitely exciting.”
Conrad and Johnson heard the fans’ concerns about the play all offseason. Certain they had remedied the problem, they were prepared to talk about it after the game.
“We joked about it on the sideline that you guys were going to ask us (about it) the first question,” Conrad laughed.
The play was a bright spot, but only for a moment. Conrad stepped out of bounds at the five yard-line. The following play, Benny Snell fumbled the ball and cost Kentucky seven points and an early lead.
Conrad’s made big plays before; last year he took a pass down the right sideline against New Mexico State for a 60-yard score. After the game he admitted he thought he’d get caught. Tonight he thought he’d get caught, so he did.
“I need to have more confidence in myself because apparently if I didn’t turn back, I probably would have scored,” Conrad said. “He wasn’t as close as I thought and I slowed myself down. I honestly thought I got in; I didn’t realize I stepped out.”
His strength coach told him after the game to quit looking over his shoulder. “I worked with you all summer. You’re fast. You’re good.”
Conrad was Kentucky’s top offensive performer on the day. He caught three passes for 97 yards and a touchdown. Conrad was at the top of his game. The rest of his team wasn’t, but that’s okay, because they left with a win.
“There’s no better feeling than to have a win when you don’t play your best.”