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Wildcats edge Commodores

Kentucky holds off Vanderbilt in the final seconds for a 20-13 win.

Running back JoJo Kemp (centered) diving into the end zone for Kentucky’s first touchdown.
Courier-Journal (USA Today)

Saturday night’s game was everything we expected- a grinding, defensive and run heavy battle between two SEC teams, both in need of a win. As rumored by multiple sources, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was coaching for his job. He may have indeed succeeded, as the Wildcats came out on top with the win, defeating the Commodores 20-13.

Kentucky received the ball first to start the game and didn't waste any time moving the chains. Other than two passes by quarterback Stephen Johnson that accumulated 14 yards, running backs Stanley "Boom" Williams and veteran JoJo Kemp accounted for the rest of the drive: five carries for 61 yards.

Williams ran the ball just twice for 35 yards, while Kemp carried the ball three times for 26 yards and scored the game’s first touchdown on a 4-yard run.

Vanderbilt’s first possession received the same treatment as Alabama & South Carolina on their first possessions (a swarming defense) as the Commodores were first to punt after running just four plays. They returned the favor to the Wildcats, however, as Kentucky was forced to go three and out. Vandy then capitalized with a field goal on their next drive, making the score 7-3 Kentucky.

Though the Kentucky defense was forced their second consecutive three and out, they recovered a fumble by Vanderbilt’s punt returner at the Vanderbilt 47.

The Wildcats then began their drive, with Johnson & work horse Benny Snell Jr. stealing the show. Snell carried the rock five times for 23 yards, while Johnson had his best drive of the game. The UK QB totaled 24 yards of passing and rushing combined, including a 3-yard rushing touchdown to cap off the 13-play, 47-yard drive.

Kentucky then added a field goal later in the second quarter, taking a 17-3 lead. Vanderbilt had a 49-yard chance to cut the Wildcat lead to 11, but missed left on the field goal try.

To start the second half, Kentucky showed Vanderbilt a strong defensive performance forcing a punt after five plays. Kentucky however fumbled on their first play of the half and Vanderbilt returned the fumble recovery for a touchdown, cutting Kentucky’s lead to 7.

To start the fourth quarter, the Wildcat defense then made a reluctant goal-line stop and held Vanderbilt to a field goal.

Leading 17-13, the Wildcats managed a field goal of their own to bring their lead to seven. Then, with 1:38 left in the game, Vanderbilt took the ball down field 59-yards in threat to tie the game with a touchdown.

Kentucky’s defense, however, made another goal line stop to force Vanderbilt to turn the ball over on downs with just two seconds left. Following a kneel down by Johnson, time expired and Kentucky won the game.

Leading the Wildcats in rushing was Snell with 20 carries for 94 yards. Kemp & Johnson each had a rushing touchdown. Kentucky also out-gained Vanderbilt on the ground 258-141.

With their second SEC win of the season, Kentucky moves to 2-2 in SEC play and 3-3 overall. This week the team will have their bye, as they prepare for Mississippi State on October 22nd.