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Kentucky Football: Takeaways from Win #6

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The Cats are bowl bound after beating Austin Peay.

NCAA Football: Vanderbilt at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Posnanski likes to tell the story of a Royals game back in the late 2000’s when, with two outs, a flyball was hit between a pair of Royals outfielders. The two converged to where the ball would land, looked at each other, turned, and headed to the dugout. The ball fell to the ground for a “hit”. For the first 25 minutes of today’s game it appeared to all the world that the Kentucky Wildcats came out to the field, looked at their Austin Peay counterparts, and started their preparation for Louisville and a bowl game. Fortunately they realized in time that they had to actually play the game first, and Win Number 6 is now secured in fact and not just in theory.

Here are my observations from the game:


Hats off to Austin Peay

The Governors haven’t won a game since the Carter Administration 2014 but they played hard, played well, and controlled the game for the majority of the first half. On offense they moved the ball in big chunks on the ground and on defense they got an opportunistic score. If not for a couple of interceptions they may have had north of 20 points in the first half. They also missed the extra point on the pick-6, best summed up by MITCat in the gamethread:

Whew.

For a moment, I thought we were gonna be down 14. THAT would have been embarrassing.

"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct." - Niels Bohr

Posted by MITCat on Nov 19, 2016 | 5:15 PM

Stephen Johnson is a Force Multiplier

UK started the game with Luke Wright at QB trying to give Johnson’s knee a little extra rest going into the Louisville game. It was a good plan, but the offense sputtered and had trouble moving the ball outside of a 94-yard TD run by Boom Williams that was nullified by a holding penalty. When Wright threw a pick-6 on the first play of the second quarter, Stoops broke the emergency glass and put Johnson in the game.

The difference was stark. Aside from yet another dropped pass on a deep ball, Johnson led the offense to three straight touchdowns in the last 7 minutes of the quarter and a 21-13 halftime lead. For all his foibles, there is no question about Johnson’s importance to the offense. Even the Wildcat had more success when he was in the game.

The Defense still has trouble against the run

Will wrote earlier this week that the apparent defensive improvement in October wasn’t quite as wonderful as it first appeared and the first half of tonight’s contest drove that point home.

Austin Peay consistently moved the ball down the field through the unconventional and gimmicky strategy of running down the middle. Occasionally they mixed things up by going to the far left or far right - which is totally unsporting if you ask me - but the Wildcat defense had trouble stopping whomever had the ball no matter where they went.

At one point I think I saw Will Healy jump into the game and pick up a first down. They did pick off JaVaughn Craig twice to stop drives, so that was nice.

The defense improved in the second half thanks to (gasp) some halftime adjustments to stop over-pursuit of the ball and ultimately they held AP to just 7 points and a meaningless (missed) field goal attempt at the end of the game.

Still, this was not what fans wanted to see going into a game against a dual-threat QB who loves to run and is looking to recapture some Heisman-hype after his team got destroyed by Houston earlier this week.

Jojo Kemp and the other Seniors finally get to experience a 13th game

Mojo Jojo is arguably the face of the Mark Stoops Wildcats through their first four years (actually, I don’t think there’s any arguing to be had, but I’ll err on the side of caution). He and his fellow seniors are getting a well-deserved reward for being the first group of players to buy into Stoops’ vision for what Football at Kentucky can be.

There’s a poignancy to the clinching victory coming on Senior Day for a group of players who have come up just-so-short each of the last two seasons and have had to deal with all the things that come with playing football at UK.

For the underclassman the bowl bid is a great reward, but the real prize is going to be the extra weeks of practice that comes with it. Kentucky will return a lot of players next year and these next few weeks are going to be important not just for finishing this season on a high note, but in getting a head start on 2017.