If I were to tell you second stringer Gunnar Hoak would have the first Kentucky passing touchdown of the season, someone not named Benny Snell had the first Kentucky rushing touchdown, and walk-on-turned scholar David Bouvier would be leading Kentucky in receiving yards and have the team’s first receiving score of the season, what would your response be?
Bouvier answered question No. 3 by saying, “Damn right I would”
Though, the popular answer to all three questions would probably be a ‘no way’ response.
All three of these sequences took place, however.
It was quite an eventful day in Lexington. Kentucky got off to a poor start offensively. The team turned the ball over three times in the first half, and two of those turnovers came from Terry Wilson.
Wilson knows he has to be better going forward.
“That was all on me. I can’t allow that to happen I just got to rely on my technique and relax.”
Wilson only had 33 yards passing and seven rushing in the first quarter, while Snell just had 10 yards on five carries.
The team needed a spark and got it from an unlikely hero.
A.J. Rose blazed ahead for a 55-yard touchdown run to give UK a 7-3 lead.
AJ Rose turns on the jets and takes it to the house. pic.twitter.com/JF1XCrCcVW— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 1, 2018
When asked about that run, Rose said, “I trusted myself, trusted my eyes, and my read.”
With the offense going early in the second quarter Kentucky’s defense struggled to hold up their end of the bargain. An undisciplined Chris Westry was ejected for targeting after delivering a big hit on a third-down play that would have gotten Kentucky off the field.
Instead, Tony Poljan led CMU down the field for an 80-yard touchdown drive capped off by a four-yard Kumehnnu Gwilly touchdown run.
Kentucky found themselves in a 17-7 hole following a Lynn Bowden fumble that CMU turned into a touchdown.
Then, Benny Snell finally broke free. A 52-yard score for Snell put Kentucky within three at 17-14.
Snell was pumped up after the game about the big run saying, “They closed in on me, I jumped, and they took each other out. I took it to the house. That’s the Benny Snell move”.
New year, same @benny_snell https://t.co/Tp3Vgl3Q6f pic.twitter.com/OaJVrEJJhu— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 1, 2018
After forcing CMU off the field, it looked like the Cats were ready to take control.
Not so fast, as Wilson threw a terrible interception right into the hands of CMU’s Gage Kreski. On the play, Wilson was injured, as Cats fans watched while holding their breath as he walked to the locker room.
Luckily, Kentucky held CMU to three, making it 20-14 with just 55 seconds on the clock.
Not to worry, however, as Gunnar Hoak came to the rescue. Hoak came in for the injured Wilson to lead an impressive 71-yard drive in under a minute to give the Cats the lead. Hoak went three for five with 48 yards on the drive.
Gunnar Hoak stands firm in the pocket and delivers the touchdown pass to David Bouvier. pic.twitter.com/3GpjQWEGt7— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 1, 2018
Head coach Mark Stoops was impressed with Hoak coming in at a tight moment and coming through.
“What a moment to come in there when we’re losing in the first half, and I think it was 55 seconds and drive us down and score a touchdown, said an awful lot about Gunnar and his character and his ability, and I was really proud for him.”
The Cats took a 21-20 lead into the halftime locker room.
The third quarter started off with multiple punts by both sides, but Kentucky finally broke through with Wilson back under center following two quiet second-half drives from Hoak.
Wilson would lead Kentucky to a quick four-play, 76-yard drive capped off by Snell’s second touchdown of the game.
Stoops loved the way Wilson returned to the game.
“Terry coming back in, settling down, playing much better in the second half. Good effort overall.”
Kentucky ‘s 28-20 lead would remain the score heading into the fourth quarter of play.
It did not take long, however, for Kentucky to score in the forth. Set up first and goal, Rose punched in his second score of the game on the very first play of the quarter, making it 35-20.
It was a huge day for the spring game MVP, who ran 104 yards and two scores against the Chippewas. His head coach was very proud of him.
“It was nice watching him, because you saw another gear in a big, strong guy that can run like that. So it was good to see.”
Kentucky’s defense continued to hold it’s own in the fourth shutting down all CMU in all phases. The defense was led by Josh Allen who had a double-digit tackle day and a sack.
Allen was happy with his performance.
“It was a great start. Could’ve had another sack, but a good start”.
Josh Allen gets held but still gets to the quarterback. pic.twitter.com/KRgmkZkobx— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) September 1, 2018
They got a shutout in the second half, and improved play from Wilson helped lead Kentucky to a 35-20 win.
Despite the victory, there’s plenty of questions for Kentucky to answer going forward.
The biggest, who’s the quarterback?
Thought we were past this? Maybe not...
After the game, Stoops admitted there will still be competition moving forward.
“Obviously we’ll worry about that next week. It’s a tough environment. And yeah, I anticipate that both guys will be ready to play. We’ll see where we’re at this week and get back to work, but yeah, both guys will be ready to go.”
A second question, what happened with the offense. Jitters? Poor play? Why the turnovers?
“There’s no excuse for that. We’ll get on it and get it corrected. We had one game like that last year where it seemed like -- we’re reckless or careless with the ball, and one particular game a year ago we were the same way, the ball was on the ground. So we’ll get it fixed, and we’ll move on.”
The final question was on if Benny Snell did indeed play ill.
“He woke up and wasn’t feeling great. And so they took him to the hospital and gave him a bag of fluids and checked him out and he came back and played pretty solid.”
Despite some mistakes, there was a lot to like in Kentucky’s opening week victory. The defense was stingy and allowed just one long touchdown drive. The running game got going despite a slow start. The special teams play, especially punter Max Duffy, was outstanding.
Safe to say it’s plenty to build on heading into preparation for Gators week.