Updated: Dec 10, 2019
Written by: Ty Schadt
UK is one win from bowl eligibility Kentucky bounced back in a big way last weekend, imposing its will on Vanderbilt and collecting a 38-14 victory. The Cats sit at 5-5, one win away from becoming bowl eligible. There’s a favorable matchup on the horizon with UT Martin coming to Lexington tomorrow, but let’s first look at the positives from last week’s win. After the first quarter, UK outscored Vandy 35-0. Many times this season, we have seen Kentucky play to the level of their competition, and it seemed that this game could have become the latest instance. But it wasn’t, which was encouraging to see. Kentucky was able to take control of the game by sustaining long drives. Lots of handoffs, pitches and options helped the Cats total 401 rushing yards. Freshman Christian Rodriguez Jr. had his best game of the season, carrying the ball 15 times for 129 yards and two touchdowns. Lynn Bowden scrambled for 110 yards and a score, and Kavosiey Smoke rushed for 95 yards. The offense really found its groove, and that’s partly due to Vanderbilt’s poor defense, but there’s something to be said about how Kentucky’s offense kept the pedal to the metal. After Vandy scored a defensive touchdown, UK found the endzone on five consecutive possessions. Bowden also passed for a career-high 104 yards. One of the biggest concerns about the jack-of-all-trades running Kentucky’s offense has been his inability to move the chains through the air. Even though UK didn’t need it to win this game, it was encouraging to see Bowden connect on 8/10 passes for 104 yards and a TD. At this point, it certainly seems that Coach Stoops and company are all in on him at QB1, and it’s hard to argue with that decision. The Vandy win was crucial for the Cats, but now the attention must turn to the 7-4 UT Martin Skyhawks, an FBS school amid its best season since 2016. The matchup with Kentucky is UT Martin’s last game of the season, and they will surely be looking to go out with a bang. What must Kentucky do to avoid a major upset? It will obviously help to limit offensive mistakes. Still, the biggest key might be replicating the offensive performance against Vanderbilt—not necessarily by scoring the same amount of points, but by creating the same amount of opportunities. If UK can get three players 15+ carries like last week, they ought to be able to sustain drives and easily control the game. Tune in tomorrow at 3:30 on SEC Network to see if the Cats can become bowl eligible for the third straight year.