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Kentucky Football

Kentucky Offense Gets Right Against Vanderbilt

November 14, 2020
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Kentucky came into the day desperate for some offensive success, and that’s just what they found against a struggling Vanderbilt team. Terry Wilson had a phenomenal day, the lone mistake coming on a 4th quarter fumble that was recovered by Justin Rigg for the Wildcats. Wilson threw for 110 yards, going 13 of 15 and throwing two touchdowns, both to tight ends. On his feet, Wilson picked up 83 yards on seven carries and another touchdown. The offensive success was not limited to just Wilson, as Chris Rodriguez rattled off 149 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. DeMarcus Harris, Josh Ali, and Keaton Upshaw all had multiple receptions with Harris leading the way with 33 yards on four catches. All three quarterbacks got snaps in the game and they spread the ball around as ten players registered a catch. 

While the offense had the game they needed, the defense struggled to contain a Vanderbilt offense that has been nothing short of dismal this year. The defense registered just one sack and three quarterback hits as pressure was hard to come by. Tackling was questionable as well, allowing the Commodores, who came in averaging less than two touchdowns a game, to score 35 points today. The Commodores racked up over 200 yards in the air and Keyon Henry-Brooks alone added 121 rush yards despite leaving the game early in the fourth quarter. 

 

First Quarter

Kentucky received the ball first and immediately found success. After opening the game taking a delay of game in honor of John Schlarman, Kentucky went to the ground game with AJ Rose gaining 11 yards on the first play. On the next play, Wilson went to the air, connecting with Josh Ali for a seven yard gain. The Cats settled into a rhythm, working down the field with a balanced attack of rushing and passing. Chris Rodriguez and AJ Rose shared the carries, but on the 15-yard line on 2nd and five, Wilson threw to the end zone, hitting Justin Rigg in stride for the touchdown. The Cats took a 7-0 lead after Chance Poore made the extra point.

Vanderbilt started poorly, trying to signal for a fair catch after fielding the ball. The play was ruled dead at the one-yard line, but the Commodores were then called for a false start to back them up another half yard. In the shadow of their end zone, they found enough yards on the next three plays to move the chains. The Commodores rushed on five straight plays before a three-yard completion brought up 4th down and Vanderbilt punted to the Cats.

Kentucky fed off the success of their first drive as Wilson immediately went to the air, hitting Demarcus Harris for 10 yards to open the drive. Kavosiey Smoke came in then at running back, but on 4th and one at midfield, it was Chris Rodriguez who came in to get the conversion, topping 1,000 career yards in the process. A deep pass from Wilson drew a pass interference call on the Commodores, moving the Cats to the Vanderbilt 32 yard line. Wilson kept the ball on a misdirection, finding running room up the right sideline, where he went the full 32 yards to reach the end zone. The Wildcats took a 14-0 lead still in the first quarter.

Vanderbilt came out needing something to stay in the game, and they leaned on Keyon Henry-Brooks to find it. The Vanderbilt running back kept finding just enough yards to keep the drive alive, but from the 34 yard line, the Commodores went deep. Seals connected with Pierce who had beaten the coverage in the end zone for a touchdown, bringing the score to 14-7.

Second Quarter

Chris Rodriguez started hot, picking up 10 yards on the first play of the drive, and then going for another 27 yards three plays later thanks to a huge hole opened up by the offensive line. Another three plays later, Wilson found a tight end in the end zone once again, this time connecting with Keaton Upshaw for a 21-yard score. The drive once again featured balance, including four running plays and three passing plays. 

Vanderbilt started on their own 22 yard line and put together a 17 play drive that took 6:44 off the clock. The drive featured a lot of Henry-Brooks with just enough passing sprinkled in to keep Kentucky honest, but the defense was unable to put together enough stops to get the ball back. Vanderbilt’s backup quarterback, Mike Wright, threw a two-yard touchdown pass on 4th and goal to bring the score to 21-14. 

With 3:34 left in the half, Kentucky took the ball back. Smoke started the drive off for the Cats with a 15 yard gain before Wilson went back to the air. The fourth play of the drive was a pass attempt from Wilson to Rose. The ball was underthrown, bringing up Wilson’s first incompletion of the day. The Cats started going backward, racking up 25 yards in penalties on two plays to bring up 2nd and 35. Wilson’s pass to Smoke picked up nine yards, bringing up 3rd and 26. The play broke down, and Wilson took off to avoid a sack. He outran the defense for a gain of 27 yards, converting the 3rd down and putting Kentucky right back in scoring position at Vanderbilt’s 19 yard line. With the clock running out the Cats were able to advance another nine yards before Chance Poore came out for the 28-yard field goal with three seconds left in the half. The Wildcats went to the locker room with a 24-14 lead after the field goal try was good.

Third Quarter

Vanderbilt received the ball to start the second half, but the Kentucky defense came to play and forced a quick three-and-out. Vanderbilt had to punt from their own 31-yard line, giving Kentucky great field position after Josh Ali escaped tacklers for a huge return of 39 yards, starting Kentucky’s drive on the Vanderbilt 26 yard line. The Cats made quick work of the drive, leaning mostly on AJ Rose at running back but bringing in Chris Rodriguez for a 3rd and one conversion. Rodriguez stayed in the game to score on the next play on a three-yard run. The Cats extended their lead to 31-14.

Vanderbilt got the ball back with 10:34 on the clock in the third quarter and once again leaned on Henry-Brooks with Ken Seals’ passing game complementing the run game. The Commodores put together another lengthy drive, this one lasting 15 plays and 7:41 before Vanderbilt made it to the end zone. Kentucky looked to have a stop, holding the Commodores just shy of the goal line until 4th down, when Mike Wright ran it in. It was once again a 10-point game, this time 31-21.

Kentucky leaned on Chris Rodriguez on the ensuing drive, but they couldn’t find enough to keep it alive. An incompletion from Wilson intended for Bryce Oliver on 3rd and five brought up a punt, with Colin Goodfellow booting it 41 yards in place of an unavailable Max Duffy.

Vanderbilt had time for one play before the end of the quarter, with Henry-Brooks picking up nine yards to open their drive.

 

Fourth Quarter

Vanderbilt once again found success on offense thanks to a combination of Ken Seals at quarterback and Henry-Brooks at running back. This drive featured a heavier dose of passing as Henry-Brooks appeared to be possibly dealing with an injury, but he stayed in the game. The Cats had trouble slowing Vanderbilt down, allowing them to advance to UK’s 40 yard line before shoring up and killing the drive. On 3rd and 11, the Cats defense finally got to the quarterback with Boogie Watson and Josh Paschal registering the sack to force the Commodores to punt. 

Kentucky started on their own nine yard line. Wilson kept the ball and ran for a gain of 11 yards on the first play. He fumbled on the play, but Justin Rigg came in to recover and keep possession of the ball for the Wildcats. Chris Rodriguez picked up four yards on the next play before finding a hole up the middle on 2nd and six. He found space to run and took off for a 74-yard touchdown, outrunning the Commodore defense to reach the end zone. Poore’s extra point gave Kentucky a 38-21 lead.

Vanderbilt came back out minus Henry-Brooks who went to the locker room with an injury and had trouble finding anything. Rocko Griffin couldn’t find space to run on the ground, and two incompletions from Seals brought up a Commodore punt. 

Kentucky’s offense came back out with 8:20 to play with Beau Allen at quarterback. Allen wasn’t shy about slinging it, passing on five of six plays. After a one-yard rush by Jutahn McClain, Allen connected on back to pack passes for gains of 14 and 20 yards before throwing two incompletions. The first of the incompletions would have been a huge gain to an open Isaiah Epps, but the ball was underthrown. After a gain of six yards on 3rd and 15, the Cats punted.

Vanderbilt’s offense came back in with 5:41 remaining. The first pass of the drive was deflected by MJ Devonshire, but the Commodores recovered and drove 80 yards down the field for the touchdown. Mitchell Pryor was the one to get into the end zone after a pass interference penalty on the much smaller Devonshire in the end zone gave Vanderbilt the ball on the two yard line. The Commodore touchdown brought the score to 38-28.

Joey Gatewood came in at quarterback for the Wildcats but didn’t get a chance to throw as Jutahn McClain took all three carries. The third down play ended with some extra-curricular activity that resulted in offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties followed by a delay of game before the Cats could punt. Backups in seemed to result in some late sloppiness as the Wildcats were forced into a three-and-out.

Vanderbilt came back in with purpose, driving down the field in just 59 seconds. The drive relied almost entirely on Seals’ arm and ending with a passing touchdown that brought the Commodores within three points. 

Vanderbilt attempted the onside kick but Kentucky fielded the ball and knelt to run the clock out.

 

The Wildcats will travel to Tuscaloosa next week to face #1 Alabama.

 

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Kentucky Offense Gets Right Against Vanderbilt

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