The Kentucky Wildcats earned a much-needed victory over the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday. The 62-42 final score was in question in the first half as the Aggies went toe-to-toe with the ‘Cats on offense.
Tied at 35 at the half, Kentucky was able to pull away thanks to some nifty running on offense, Stephen Johnson's ability to control the game, and Derrick Baity coming up with a huge interception in the end-zone as the Aggies were threatening to again cut the lead. After that, it was all gravy.
But that doesn't take away from the sense of alarm we should have in regards to the defense.
With that, let's Clint Eastwood this game.
The entire offense looked light years better than it has since the first half against Southern Mississippi.
Drew Barker started the game with an interception and then went out with what we are being told is a back injury. He was carted off the field and never returned. JUCO transfer Stephen Johnson entered the game and looked a little shaky at first. His initial two passes were way off, but with a steady dose of Boom Williams and true freshman Benny Snell out of the backfield, Johnson was able to settle down and make some plays with his arm and feet.
Johnson looked poised and confident. The entire team fed off of that. He was an efficient 17/22 for 310 yards through the air and threw all three of his touchdowns to tight end CJ Conrad.
Boom and Benny, the Killer B's, combined for 317 yards and five touchdowns. Boom ran the ball with quick efficiency while Benny went right up the gut, charging over Aggie defenders. I loved what I saw from that one-two punch. What does that mean for Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton going forward? I still think Jojo will be featured in Wildcat packages and goal line situations. He was injured so he needs to get healthy first. Horton may have just lost his roster spot to Snell.
It was refreshing to see the coaches utilize the talent on offense correctly. Fans have been howling to see more Boom and more Conrad, and they were finally rewarded. Funny how things go when the ball gets to your best players.
Was the lack of this due to Barker not being able to control the game, the opposing talent on defense, or simple game planning by the coaches? I think we will have more answers on Saturday when the ‘Cats take on South Carolina. But for now, let's be happy about what we saw on offense.
The defense is still an issue. The unit gave up 500 yards and allowed 42 points to an offense that hasn't scored like that since last season in a loss to UTEP. This is troubling since Mark Stoops has taken control over the defense.
The second half wasn't as bad. The Aggies only scored seven, and the players looked to be flying around the football more and picked up their level of play. For the first time all season, they decided to not hang their heads and give in to defeat.
Stoops will have another week to get things right on defense before taking on South Carolina, a team that has trouble moving the football. They are averaging 197 passing yards per game and 90.7 rushing yards.
The crowd was ugly. And I'm not talking about looks; I'm talking about numbers. I'm not going to preach to people; I get it. The weather looked terrible and fans wanted to send a message of displeasure over how the team had performed thus far.
The game against the Gamecocks is extremely important. They're not a good football team even though they have a 2-1 record. This is the chance for Kentucky to get back to realizing their goal of a bowl game, however daunting that looks.
Because at 2-2, the ‘Cats can still realistically achieve their goal. But at 1-3, that goal is all but dead and gone.
It is my sincere hope that the fans return for this conference game. Now at least the team looks like it will be more fun to watch if Johnson is again running the team at QB.