The Kentucky Wildcats played their most complete game to date as they beat South Carolina on both sides of the ball, the first time they've done so all season.
Eddie Gran may have found a formula that works with his two best players and a quarterback that can manage the game effectively Mark Stoops may have flipped a switch on the defense and turned it into a unit that is more like we all expected from him from the start.
There are good feelings all around as Kentucky notched its third win in a row against a SEC team not named Vanderbilt. And Mark Stoops, for the first time at Kentucky, won a game in which he was down at halftime. Now, a bowl game is back into the picture. All is not lost.
Boom Williams averaged 8.2 yards per carry and ran for 123 yards and broke for a long touchdown run. This is the second week in a row Boom has eclipsed the 100-yard mark. For the first time in his career at Kentucky, I finally feel like he is being used correctly. He carried the ball 15 time, which is still a little low to me, but he is getting the rock, and he is making things happen. He is without question Kentucky's best player on offense, and he is being treated as such.
And how about Benny Snell? If Boom is your ace pitcher, Benny is your All-Star closer. The true freshman took over the fourth quarter and ran the ball South Carolina's throat, carrying multiple grown men with him along the way. He carried the ball 16 times for 73 yards and a touchdown.
Defense is the Gamecocks calling card, and I thought Eddie Gran called the perfect game on offense. He didn't as Stephen Johnson to do too much, but Johnson managed the game well and is now 2-0 as the main option at that position. His quarterback draw run to get the ‘Cats close to the end zone is just a glimpse of what he can do with his legs.
Finally, the offensive line play has improved dramatically. Johnson has more time, and the run blocking has been sensational for two weeks in a row. Landon Young deserves to be singled out for his play. After getting beat and giving up a sack early, Young played fantastic football as a true freshman left tackle.
The Gamecock offense and quarterback were as bad as advertised. Coming into the game, they were statistically ranked near the bottom of the barrel in every offensive category, and they looked the part.
But I'm not taking anything away from the defense. I don't care how bad the opposing offense was; I never expected to only give up 10 points to a SEC team this season. This defense played with an intensity they have been missing all season.
Denzil Ware, Jordan Jones, Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards, and Chris Westry all played almost to their peak. Matt Elam also made some plays that we have not seen him make in a Kentucky defense.
It's obvious Mark Stoops has completely taken the defense under his wing. He was as intense on the sidelines as his players were on the field. He was coaching for his job, and they were playing full tilt for him. I'm not sure what DJ Eliot's role is at this point, but it's diminished.
The Ugly portion of this post has nothing to do with the play on the field. If you are connected to social media or if you were in Lexington yesterday, then you probably were aware of the nasty rumors going around about Mark Stoops.
I'm not going to re-hash the rumors here and spread them further because there is no merit to them and this isn't TMZ. But I want to address the ugliness that surrounded Stoops and the program because of it.
There are people out there that want Mark Stoops out no matter what and it is obvious they are trying to do it by any means possible, even lying about his personal life. I have been highly critical of him and his entire coaching staff this season, but that is what happens when a football team plays poorly. But at no point did I or any responsible person in the media call out his personal life. That's not how it works. I'm critical when I need to be, and I throw praise when it needs to be thrown.
I want Mark Stoops to work here. I don't want to have to go after another coach and re-start the process of program building all over again. Last night we saw an improved team across the board, and Mark Stoops deserves as much credit for that as blame for what we all saw the first two weeks of football.
After the game was over and the win was secure, the camera caught Stoops look at Eddie Gran. The two coaches gave each other a passionate high-five and embraced. The players rallied around Stoops. Clearly, this week has taken a toll on all of them, and that victory was as sweet as any they have had in four years at Kentucky.
Now let's move past the rumor spreading business and get back to supporting this football team and the coaches.