What did we learn about Kentucky’s quarterback situation in game one? Be thankful they’ve got a good running game.
The Cats played both Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak in their 35-20 season-opening win over Central Michigan, but afterwards, Mark Stoops said he didn’t know who would start next week at Florida.
“I don’t know,” Stoops said on who will start in The Swamp. “I anticipate both guys will be ready to play. We’ll see where we’re at this week, get back to work. Both guys will be ready to go.”
Wilson started and finished the game, but it was hardly the debut he’d hoped for. He had a disastrous first half, completing only six passes for 38 yards and two interceptions. After the second pick, Wilson took a hard hit and had to go to the locker room, clearing the way for Gunnar Hoak, who stepped in and led Kentucky on a six-play, 71-yard touchdown drive to put the Cats up 21-20 going into the half.
After two quarters of disarray, including four turnovers, Hoak’s touchdown drive looked like the solution to the Cats’ woes; however, even though he started the second half, Wilson eventually went back in.
“Terry was ready to play at the start of the second half,” Stoops said, “But Gunnar deserved the opportunity to go back and play for what he did at the end of the first half. And I’m glad, in a way — obviously because we don’t want anybody to get hurt — but to be forced into that situation, see how Gunnar responded and the way he played, says a lot about him.”
“Now you’ve got to do the same thing with Terry. You’ve got to get him back in and let him get acclimated to the speed of the game and get some positive energy going for the season. So, it worked out very good.”
The uncertainty at quarterback will dominate the headlines, but thankfully, Kentucky’s got a rushing attack to make up for it. Benny Snell, AJ Rose, and Sihiem King combined for 261 yards — 299 if you add Terry’s 38 yards on the ground — and four touchdowns, proving that the Cats will live and die by the ground game this season. Benny was battling a virus but still managed to get 125 yards and two touchdowns off 20 carries, putting him on pace to break Sonny Collins’ all-time rushing yards record.
AJ Rose also looked impressive, eclipsing the 100-yard mark before Benny with 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns, adding another weapon to Kentucky’s rushing attack.
“When he broke off that long one in the first half, it was nice watching him because you saw another gear,” Stoops said of Rose. “Big strong guy who can run like that, it was good to see.”
Benny and AJ led Kentucky past Central Michigan, but, with Florida and other SEC opponents on the horizon, the Cats need to find their passing game. Clearly, Stoops isn’t throwing the towel in on Wilson and was rewarded with a much smoother second half. Stoops attributed some of Wilson’s struggles early on to nerves, but vowed to make it easier on him moving forward.
“We can do a better job. We put a little bit of pressure on him. A lot of those plays are reads and we’ll look into that, try to put him in a situation to make him comfortable and get him started.”
For now, prepare yourself for at least another week of Terry vs. Gunnar.