Kentucky got a much-needed emotional victory at Kroger Field this afternoon following the passing of offensive line coach John Schlarman, as they took down Vanderbilt 38-35 to improve their record to 3-4 on the season.
After scoring just 13 points combined in the last two outings and struggling to move the ball with any rhythm, UK’s offense was really efficient throughout the whole ball game today.
Senior quarterback Terry Wilson was back after missing the matchup against Georgia with a hand injury, and had his way all game against the Commodores. He went 13/15 for 110 passing yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 83 yards and one touchdown on seven carries. The QB completed a pass to eight different receivers, including both TD’s going to tight ends (Rigg and Upshaw), something the UK offense has struggled to incorporate in the last few years.
Maybe the biggest individual performance, however, came from sophomore running back Chris Rodriguez. He rushed for a career-high 149 yards and added two touchdowns on 13 carries, including a career-long 74-yard run to put UK up 38-21 and practically finish off the ‘Dores.
Now, it was not all fine and dandy for the Cats in each phase today. Defensively, they struggled to get off the field at times, as Vanderbilt went 11/17 on 3rd down and completed two 4th and goal plays for touchdown. Vandy running back Keyon Henry-Brooks had his way at times, rushing for 121 yards on 29 carries. Quarterback Ken Seals was also decently effective, going 21/32 for 225 passing yards and two touchdowns, breaking UK’s streak of 142 passing attempts without giving up a TD. Also, this game was the first time Kentucky has been unable to hold Vanderbilt to 22 or less points in the last seven meetings.
With that said, the Cats were able to come up with a stop when it mattered most. Early on in the 4th quarter, Vanderbilt was just down 31-21 and looked to be driving again. On 3rd and 5 around midfield, linebackers Boogie Watson and J.J. Weaver combined for the first sack of the day for UK that led to a punt and eventually the 74-yard touchdown run by Rodriguez. Even then, Vanderbilt scored two more touchdowns and had an onside kick with just under 30 seconds to go with the possibility of getting the ball back with a chance at a win.
Nonetheless, with a victory today, UK Head Coach Mark Stoops now has the most home wins in school history (34), second-most SEC wins in school history (23) and has tied Fran Curci for the most career victories at UK (47). After an emotional end of the week following John Schlarman’s death, the Cats have to feel good honoring him with a win.