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Kentucky’s Seniors Shine in Roller Coaster Win over Middle Tennessee State

Kentucky’s seniors saved their best for last.

Playing at Kroger Field for the final time, the Wildcat seniors made history.  Kentucky defeated Middle Tennessee State 34-23 to improve to 8-3, UK’s first eight-win season since 1984. It wasn’t the only record broken at Kroger Field.

Two defensive stars entered elite company.  Mike Edwards had 12 tackles, two for loss, to become just the second UK defensive back to record more than 300 career tackles.  Edwards started the game with a Pick Six on the first drive and a forced fumble on the second.  Josh Allen snapped UK’s career and single-season sack records after taking down Brent Stockstill twice.  In the process Allen also racked up a career-high 15 tackles.

It was special to see the records snapped, but the greatest moment happened when No. 4 took the field.  For the first time since he was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in August, Josh Paschal played in a football game.  After starting at outside linebacker, Paschal was just happy to be back on the field.

“It felt good just to wipe some dust off finally,” he told reporters. “I loved it.  Just to know everybody is supporting me and knows what I’ve been through.  They’ve been supporting me the whole time and lifting my spirits up when I’m feeling down.  It felt great.”

It was an incredible moment to see Paschal play in a gutsy win.  It was the high point of a game that featured a few ups and downs.

Show-Stopping Seniors

Edwards and Allen put up impressive numbers and made big plays at the most important moments.  Josh Allen’s sacks came on third and fourth downs that stopped MTSU’s comeback.  Darius West was just behind Allen and Edwards, finishing the game with eight tackles.

When Allen wasn’t sacking Stockstill, his teammates were.  Chris Westry and Adrian Middleton each recorded a sack in their final home game.

Kentucky’s offense does not feature quite as many seniors, but their impact was equally felt.  C.J. Conrad caught a team-high four receptions for 51 yards and an incredible touchdown in the back of the end zone that gave UK a 24-7 lead.  Out of the halftime locker room, Kentucky made a statement behind Bunchy Stallings.  The two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week paved the way for a Benny Snell touchdown to recapture momentum.

Even though the Seniors will not play another game at Kroger Field, their impact will be felt for quite some time.

They have just set such a great example for our younger players because of their work ethic,” said Stoops. “They have been leaders, they have been, they have had a great work ethic. They have been very unselfish and really about the team and far from perfect, but they have really, they really have great hearts and their minds are in the right place and they really want to lead and set a great example and set the precedent for the future.”

Gashed by Screens

Kentucky’s defense made some big plays, but gave up a tin of little ones.  Middle Tennessee attacked the edges with screens to consistently move the chains.  Tony Franklin’s offense limited UK to just four second half offensive possessions, thanks to a pair of 11-play touchdown drives.

Open field tackling used to be a strength.  It was not today.  Even though Westry had a nice sack, he had his fair share of missed tackles.  The Blue Raiders went after Davonte Robinson all afternoon in a variety of ways.  Edwards posted some excellent numbers, but as a unit, UK’s secondary probably played their worst game of the year.

Hello, Offensive Line

While outsiders argued the proper remedies to improve the offense, Eddie Gran and John Schlarman kicked the offensive line back into shape.  Limited to less than 100 yards in three straight games, today the offensive line paved the way to a 203-yard performance on the ground.  Physical at the point of contact, UK’s running backs averaged 5.1 yards per carry through exceptionally wide rushing lanes.

Bizarre Decision-Making

Eddie Gran called quite a game.  There were creative plays that got C.J. Conrad the ball and let Lynn Bowden run the read option.  Despite the many positives, two drives gave his critics plenty of ammunition.

With 3:22 to play in the first half and a 24-7 lead, Kentucky got the ball at their own nine-yard line.  Receiving the ball to start the second half, a long scoring drive could have been the dagger.  Instead of getting creative in the passing game, the Cats ran it twice and took the ball out of Terry Wilson’s hands with a screen pass on third and long.

That outcome was made exponentially worse when the punt went haywire. Pressure got to Max Duffy and he was lucky to kick it 20 yards.  Middle Tennessee only needed to go 19 yards to kick a field goal.

The decision-making became even more bizarre when Kentucky took a timeout to stop the clock with a minute to play.  They only called one downfield shot before going back to the run.  Choosing aggressiveness after opting to run out the clock did not make sense.

That drive was not as dire as the fourth quarter four-and-out.  The Cats tried to run out the clock with A.J. Rose instead of Benny Snell.  He was only inches short of the first down marker after a run on third and five.  With the ball on the 41 and an eight-point lead, Stoops decided to go for it with a quick quarterback sneak.  It failed.

The strange decision-making almost cost Kentucky the game.  Luckily, Josh Allen was prepared to bail out the offense with a fourth down sack on the following possession.

Let it Rip!

Terry Wilson brought some swagger with him to Kroger Field.  The Kentucky quarterback played with the confidence we’ve been looking for and boy, it was a sight to behold.  His best throw of the day looked like a sure-fire interception.  But Wilson set his feet, trusted his arm and his receiver.  The ball sailed just over the fingertips of three outstretched defenders and into C.J. Conrad’s hands.

It was this close to getting picked off.


Terry’s composed performance was evident on the stat sheet.  He completed 10-of-14 passes for 124 yards to earn a 167.6 quarterback rating.  Wilson also ran for 27 yards and only took one sack.

The Final Benny and the Jets?

Mark Stoops didn’t sound too confident that Snell would be back for another game at Kroger Field.  Benny kept it light when he was asked about the subject.

“Maybe after the bowl game I’ll go home, talk to my Snell Yeah company, my family will be there.  We’ll all sit down, have some coffee and talk about it.  I don’t know yet,” said Snell.

Kentucky’s Seniors walked off Kroger Field for the final time with more SEC wins than any other group in program history.  The playmakers rewrote record books and changed the trajectory of the Kentucky football program.  After a victory over Middle Tennessee State, they can add an exclamation point to an excellent season with a win at Louisville.

As Josh Allen said earlier this week, “It’s only right to go out with a bang.”


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

7 Comments for Kentucky’s Seniors Shine in Roller Coaster Win over Middle Tennessee State

  1. michaelb
    6:06 pm November 17, 2018 Permalink

    How come their screen passes work like dope boy magic & ours are always pedestrian at best. Gran, follow their o coordinator on twitter please.

    • mashburnfan1
      12:38 am November 18, 2018 Permalink

      UTEP, one of the worst teams in college football scored 32 on MTSU last week at MTSU. Gran, with way more talent could not put up that many and had help as the D gave him the ball once at the 50. Just look at the numbers, Gran has prevented this team from being even more special and it is a shame.
      Tenn gives up 47 to UF, 38 to UGA, 58 to Bama, 50 to Mizzou, 24 to Auburn, 27 to USC and even 14 to Charlotte…Gran gets 7.
      Mizzou gives up 37 to Purdue, 43 to UGA, 37 to USC, 33 to Memphis, 38 to UF, 33 to Vandy and Gran gets 9.
      Vandy gives up 27 to Tenn State, 37 to USC, 41 to UGA, 37 to UF, 31 to Ark, 33 to Mizzou and Gran gets 14.
      Texas A&M gives up 17 to Ark, 10 to UL Monroe, 7 to Northwestern State, 28 to MSU and Auburn, 20 to UAB and Gran gets 7 with an OT.
      The OC for MTSU kept our D confused and off balance most of the game and put up more yards vs our D than Gran could vs their D {who has better players on both sides of the ball?}
      STOOPS just look at these numbers and get rid of the guy please. Hire the MTSU guy, he has creativity. Hire anyone, but Gran has to go. 8-3 in spite of Gran and would be 10-1 without him.

    • BluKudzu
      9:22 am November 18, 2018 Permalink

      I am not going to dump on anybody following senior day.

      Doing so is Bush league, dude, we are not talking about the smoldering cinders of the dumpster fire that is Louisville. We have won 8 with an excellent chance at 9.

      Those young men came here and changed the direction of our program. I am thankful for them and the 8 wins we have this year.

      I am thrilled we are not going into the last game, trying to get to 6 wins, for an appearance for the Belk Bowl or whatever bottom bowl that is out there.

      Love these guys, Thank you for this season, and any future success we will have due to your efforts since you have been here.

      Go Cats.

    • makeitstop
      10:36 am November 18, 2018 Permalink

      Mashburnfan, in the words of Huey Long, Nick would like you to stop “bothering him with facts, his mind’s made up.” Personally, I’d like to buy Terry Wilson stock for what it’s worth and sell it for Nick thinks it’s worth. I watched UT v UM yesterday and had serious QB envy. Our D earned their chops shutting Drew Lock down, THAT kid is a real QB, but I’d gladly take the kid at MTSU in a straight trade for Wilson and throw in Gran, after the last 6 games. I pray we play better against UofL.

  2. michaelb
    6:17 pm November 17, 2018 Permalink

    Nick can you take calls on the last football podcast ?

  3. ukkatzfan
    1:38 am November 18, 2018 Permalink

    Roller coaster ? Smh

  4. kampus korner
    11:47 am November 18, 2018 Permalink

    Bizarre decision making? Seriously? You jump on Gran for “not being more creative” when UK was on their own 9 yard line with only 3:22 to play in the first half with UK leading 24-7? I’ve not been a fan of several decisions made by Gran or Stoops this year, but they made the clearly correct calls you chastise them for making.

    First, UK has not shown any ability to be “creative” on offense all year. On the contrary, UK’s offense has been worfullly inept since the second half of the South Carolina. Second, of UK’s 24 first half points, the defense scored one touchdown and put the offense within easy reach of scoring the second touchdown. Third, trying to be “creative” on your own 9 yard line when you haven’t ever been before with a young quarterback who has struggled for a good part of the season is an unnecessary high risk decision. A misplayed “creative” play could lead to a MTSU toucdown. Then, the score is 24-14. Most smart coaches would make conservative play calls that deep in their own territory to try and maintain as much of their lead as possible.

    UK coaches also made the right call to call a time out with a minute to go. In your criticism of the coaches as regards this call you failed to point out that UK was on their own 34 yard line at the time. UK called a long pass then facing 2nd and 10 opted to run the clock out and preserve their 14 point lead. UK was getting the ball to start the second half. Given all the relevant factors referenced above, the UK coaches, at least in these two instances, made the right calls.