Technically Bill Ransdell’s reign (a 17-12 win in Neyland Stadium in 1984) as the last quarterback to lead Kentucky football to a win over Tennessee ended in 2011 when the Wildcats defeated the Volunteers 10-7. We all remember the heroic effort that wide receiver (yes, a WR) turned quarterback Matt Roark turned in on that November afternoon. Officially, Ransdell’s reign ended Saturday night at Kroger Field when quarterback Stephen Johnson scampered and hurdled his way to pay dirt for the last of his 84 yards rushing to propel Kentucky to another three-point victory over the Big Orange, this one by a final of 29-26.
Talk about coming full circle, Stephen Johnson’s evening ended a full 180 degrees from the way it began. Kentucky won the toss and elected to take the football, as they often do. On the game’s first play a botched exchange between Johnson and Benny Snell put the ball on the ground and the Vols in business.
The quick turnaround gave the Vols offensively challenged squad a golden opportunity to nip their offensive touchdowns drought in the bud. Although they had to immediately take the field in a less than desirable situation, the Kentucky defense was able to hold Tennessee to a field goal.
The Cats first turnover was merely a sign of things to come, the fumblitis epidemic was highly contagious and ran rampant throughout the entire team. Kentucky had four fumbles (all in their own territory) on the night and lost every last one of them. The defense has to be commended because they held Tennessee to nine points off of those miscues and that kept them in position to win it at the end.
— Vinny Hardy (@VinnyHardy) October 29, 2017
Tennessee’s search for an offensive touchdown did come to an end in Lexington, they found the end zone twice. Opportunities were there for more with Kentucky committing so many turnovers. Tennessee’s running backs were running extremely hard. It was pretty evident that they hadn’t quit on even though there are plenty of issues surrounding Butch Jones and his status.
Even though Kentucky gave up a lot plays on defense they registered seven sacks and tallied 12 tackles for loss. They were last in the SEC in the TFL department and doubled their output in one evening.
Benny Snell ran to daylight to the tune of 27 carries for 180 yards and three touchdowns. Things had been just a hair off for most of the season for him and the offensive line. It was good to see them have a big day.
Stephen Johnson and his will to win are again the big hero. It came down to the final drive and Kentucky had to have a touchdown. They got that touchdown. Tavin Richardson did former Minnesota Vikings reciever Cris Carter proud with some outstanding footwork along the sideline. Johnson directed the offense down the field after sustaining an injury to his non-throwing shoulder that had him in a sling after the game.
After Johnson’s heroics, there were still some tense moments. Tennessee got the ball with 33 seconds left and quickly found themselves facing at fourth down and 24. They promptly picked up 25 yards to keep the drive alive. On the ensuing play, Tennessee quarterback Jared Guarantano ran to midfield with two seconds left which set up Hail Mary time. The pass was completed, and shades of the Bluegrass Miracle flooded everyone’s minds but the Cats made the game saving tackle and moved to 6-2.
Bowl eligibility is wrapped up in October and now Kentucky can go about the business of enhancing the bowl that they will be going to. Their next chance to do that will be this coming Saturday versus Ole Miss at Kroger Field.