The University of Kentucky Wildcat Football Team is 7-1 overall and 5-1 in the SEC. Head coach Mark Stoops and his team guaranteed the program’s first winning conference record since 1977. The Wildcats have a showdown next week with Georgia, the winner will be the SEC East champion. In every year since he arrived in Lexington, Coach Stoops has either maintained his win total from the year before or increased it. This is the team that the Big Blue Nation has been waiting for, one to exorcise the demons of nearly 40 years of what ifs, near misses and crushing defeats.
These resilient Wildcats didn’t make the game against Mizzou easy. The offense was stagnant most of the game. The Tigers led the Cats 14-3 with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Kentucky defense, with another stellar effort, forced a punt. A punt which UK’s Lynn Bowden, Jr. ran back 67 yards for a touchdown. A missed two point conversion left the score 14-9 with 5:18 on the clock. Another Mizzou punt led to a Terry Wilson INT and the UK defense forced another punt. Kentucky took over on its own 19 with 1:24 left on the clock. Wilson then marched the Cats down the field. With a pass interference penalty as time expired, Wilson and the offense had one untimed down from the Mizzou 2 yard line to win it. Wilson then found CJ Conrad in the endzone to give the Wildcats the 15-14 last second victory.
“That’s so Kentucky Football.” We’ve all heard it. We’ve probably all said it. We know that it means that no matter what, bad things will happen to Kentucky Football. The BBN has seen dozens of games over the years where the Cats have seemingly pulled defeat from the jaws of victory. The Cats have been blown out by SEC opponents. The Cats have lost close games. Kentucky has lost games after dousing the coach with Gatorade and pulling down the goalposts. We’ve seen Kentucky lose games in bizarre fashion, like leaving a receiver completely uncovered twice in the same game. The 2018 Kentucky Wildcat football team is putting those memories where they belong… in the past. This team is resilient. This team is tough.
Missouri had 8 possessions in the second half against Kentucky. Every single possession ended in a three and out for the Tiger offense. Every single one. To this point, 8 games into the season, the Kentucky defense hasn’t allowed more than 20 points in, including the overtime loss at Texas A&M. This defense, led by Josh Allen has been as stingy as any unit in Kentucky history and has been (the 1950 team also held their first 8 opponents to 20 points or less). The offense has struggled, but the defense has been solid from day one.
The talk leading up to the game was quarterback play. Despite a 6-1 record, a lot of Kentucky fans were vocal that Terry “Touchdown” Wilson needed to be replaced. Wilson had only thrown for 18 yards in the win over Vanderbilt. The offense, despite having SEC leading rusher Benny Snell, Jr., had become stagnant and unable to score. The defense, while stout, had been carrying the Cats. Many folks thought that a QB change had to be made. Coach Stoops agreed, guaranteeing that the top three QBs: Wilson, Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark would play. And despite Wilson looking good early on, the coaching staff made good on their promise with Clark rushing 2 yards for a first down in the first half and Hoak getting extending reps in the second half (3-8 for 27 yards). Moving forward, however, there shouldn’t be a question who QB1 should be.
Great players aren’t always great; they’re just great when they have to be. – John Facenda, NFL Films
Terry Wilson isn’t perfect, but a week after throwing for 18 yards he was much better. Wilson was 22-31 for 267 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. In comparison, Mizzou’s Drew Lock was 15-27 for 165 yards. Wilson out performed the best non Crimson Tide quarterback in the SEC, a surefire NFL draft pick. Yes, Terry threw an interception. And even on the game-winning drive, he took two head-scratching sacks. But, despite all his flaws, all of his mistakes, he led the Cats 81 yards in 1:24. On a drive when the Cats had to have a TD to win, Terry Touchdown delivered. If Wilson’s confidence was lagging after the last few weeks, it has to be through the roof after one of the greatest drives in UK Football history. Next week, the Cats will need him to be even sharper.
On Saturday, November 3, the Georgia Bulldogs will come to Kroger Field. The winner between the Cats and the Dawgs will win the SEC East title and head to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game (to play Alabama, but it’s not quite a lock). Can Kentucky win and punch their ticket for the program’s first SEC title game appearance? The Cats will be an underdog as they’ve been in just about every single SEC game. We know that the Kentucky defense will be ready. We know that Benny Snell has proven to be one of the best running backs in the SEC (despite his 19 rush, 67 yard performance vs Mizzou). We know that Lynn Bowden is a primetime player (13 catches for 166 yards on top of the punt return TD). And we know that Terry Wilson can make plays in high pressure situations.
Will the Cats win? I’m gonna savor this feeling and enjoy this Kentucky victory for a few more days. Although I do hear that Atlanta is nice in early December.