With a less-than-usual attendance at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday for Kentucky’s third game of the season, the Wildcats put together an offensive explosion to defeat the New Mexico State Aggies, 62-42.
Though the weather very well could've played a factor in the low attendance, the poor play of Mark Stoops team during their first two outings wasn't exactly an attraction.
Saturday at Commonwealth started with an interception by Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker on just the third play of the game. Barker was injured, however, and did not return to action. Junior quarterback Stephen Johnson replaced the starter, seeing his first action of the season.
As the Aggies capitalized on the Barker interception with a touchdown, Johnson handed the ball off to Stanley “Boom” Williams two drives later for a 63-yard touchdown run and tied the game at seven.
After the Wildcat defense forced a punt on the next possession, return man Charles Walker muffed the ball and allowed the Aggies to recover. One play later, NMST was back in front by seven.
On the next drive, Kentucky initiated the shootout when Johnson connected with wide receiver C.J. Conrad for a 72-yard score that tied the game back up at 14.
Good things can happen when you get the ball to your tight end. Especially when it's CJ Conrad. pic.twitter.com/x2heKNFqh3— KSTV (@KSTV_Sports) September 17, 2016
However, it was just the next drive that the Aggies scored yet another touchdown.
Trailing 21-14, the Cats fumbled the ball back to NMST. Though, it was just one play later that Kentucky forced an interception. The turnover lead to another C.J. Conrad touchdown reception.
At 21-all, both teams exchanged touchdowns to again tie at 28. Then, the crowd saw three consecutive punts before watching the home team drive the ball 88 yards on nine plays for Benjamin Snell’s second touchdown run of the game. To close out the half, the Aggies tied the game at 35 with a touchdown.
To open the second half, the Wildcat defense forced the Aggies to punt just five plays into their first drive. Johnson and company then drove the ball 71 yards down the field and threw Conrad his third touchdown of the day, taking a 42-35 lead.
Kentucky’s defense then caught momentum, holding the Aggies to -3 yards on the following drive. Staying true to the run game, Snell pounded into the end zone for another touchdown, taking a 14-point lead.
With the teams exchanging yet another touchdown a piece, the lead was 55-42 after an Austin MacGinnis missed extra point. To cap off the shootout, Walker returned an Aggie punt 65 yards for a touchdown.
Though the defensive outing wasn’t their best of the year, the Wildcats finally added a game in the win column. Head coach Mark Stoops also got to see some of his reserves have career days, as Stephen Johnson completed 17-22 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Johnson also recorded a quarterback rating of 92.2 (out of 100).
Benjamin Snell, the freshman power back, also saw a heavy workload with veteran JoJo Kemp out. Snell rushed for 136 yards on just 17 carries, while also scoring four touchdowns. Boom Williams lead the team in rushing with 181 yards on 18 carries and a score.
Wide receiver C.J. Conrad accounted for a big day as well, catching five balls for 133 yards and three touchdowns. All of this was part of a historic day for Kentucky’s offense.
Kentucky had 381 rushing yards and 311 passing yards vs. New Mexico State. Research confirms it is the first 300/300 game in school history!— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 18, 2016
The Cats will look to carry on their offensive momentum next weekend as they battle SEC rival South Carolina. The Wildcats will kick off against the Gamecocks at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night.