Kentucky’s offense and defense were not on the same page, yet the offense still brought enough firepower to overpower Vanderbilt 38-35 in an emotional victory at Kroger Field.
Played two days after the team learned offensive line coach John Schlarman passed away, the Big Blue Wall honored their leader by opening up enormous holes, paving the way for the Wildcats to gain 308 yards on the ground, averaging 8.8 yards per carry. Kentucky’s offensive line was just as exceptional in pass coverage. Vanderbilt did not get one sack or hurry against quarterback Terry Wilson.
The cries for Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen were heard by Wilson. He responded with one of the best games of his career. He completed his first nine passes before ultimately finishing the day 13-for 15 for 110 yards and touchdown passes to Keaton Upshaw and Justin Rigg. In addition to Rigg’s touchdown, he also had a HUGE fourth quarter fumble recovery deep in UK territory.
Wilson used his wheels too. He turned the quarterback option-pitch play into a 32-yard score. After penalties put UK out of field goal range late in the first half, he made a miraculous escape on third and 26 to secure a first down. The Wildcats would kick a field goal four plays later. He finished the day with 83 yards on the ground.
Wearing Chris Oats’ No. 22, running back Chris Rodriguez led Kentucky in rushing, thanks to a 74-yard fourth quarter touchdown that put the game out of reach. Rodriguez surpassed 1,000 career rushing yards, totaling 149 on the day and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the Wildcats have seen better days. Similar to the Missouri game, Brad White’s crew could not get off the field on third down. When they did seemingly force stops in the red zone, the Commodores scored twice on fourth down. When push came to shove, Josh Paschal, Boogie Watson and J.J. Weaver secured a sack on third and 11 that ended Vanderbilt’s final threatening drive.
The Wildcats led by 17 when Mark Stoops brought in the reinforcements. It was fun to watch Beau Allen sling it, but it was costly on defense as the Commodores scored two garbage-time touchdowns to give us the final score.
Entering Saturday’s game Kentucky fans wanted to see how the offense would respond after almost a month of poor performances. The defense did not provide too much help, but the offense certainly went above and beyond to honor John Schlarman.