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Kentucky beats Vanderbilt: 5 things to know and postgame banter

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The Cats get back on track as the offense dominated and Terry Touchdown returned to form.

Vanderbilt v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Kentucky Wildcats beat the Vanderbilt Commodores Saturday afternoon by a score of 38-35.

Kentucky started the game with a moment of silence in memory of John Schlarman. Landon Young was wearing Schlarman’s No. 65. It was a solemn moment and a great tribute to an amazing man.

The Cats came out with a nice first drive, running it right down Vandy’s throat which ended in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Terry Wilson to Justin Rigg. Kentucky’s next drive was much of the same as Wilson ran 32 yards for the touchdown to make it 14-0.

Vandy came back with a 34-yard touchdown pass, but UK answered with another touchdown pass to the other tight end—Keaton Upshaw—for 21 yards.

After another strong drive by the Commodores, Kentucky drove down the field and kicked a field goal before half. Then after stopping the Commodore offense to start the second half, Kentucky drove down against and Chris Rodriguez scored his first touchdown of the day to make it 31-14.

Vandy came right back and scored again to make it 31-21. I’m not sure anyone expected this kind of shootout, but that’s what was happening. Kentucky answered once again with a huge 74-yard touchdown run making the score 38-21. Vandy scored once again to make it 38-28 and then drove in the final minute to make the final 38-35.

Next up, the Cats are scheduled to face the Alabama Crimson Tide, but rumor is they’re may be a scheduling shakeup. Don’t be surprised to see Kentucky take on the South Carolina Gamecocks next weekend in Lexington, or even have a second bye week.

Terry Touchdown is back

I know it was Vandy, but, man, Terry looked good today. It didn’t matter if he was running or throwing, Wilson made all the plays.

Sure, he throws a bad pass every now and then, and he had a fumble in the second half that Kentucky recovered, but today should remind everyone why he’s 15-6 as the starter for the Cats. His athleticism and explosiveness as a quarterback is few and far between.

I’d like to see Joey Gatewood get a fair shot—not against Georgia’s defense—but I think this solidifies that this is Wilson’s team. Gatewood and Beau Allen will have their time, but that time is not now.

Key starters were out

The Cats were down four starters today, but it didn’t end up making a difference. Punter Max Duffy, kicker Matt Ruffolo and offensive guard Kenneth Horsey were all out. Linebacker DeAndre Square also didn’t start but he eventually got in the game in the second half.

In their place were Collin Goodfellow, Chance Poore, Austin Dotson and Marquez Bembry. Goodfellow wasn’t really needed as the UK offense marched down the field possession after possession. Poore looked solid as the starting kicker and Dotson didn’t make any glaring mistakes. Bembry looked pretty good as the starting linebacker. While he’s no Square, he was still solid.

The offense opened it up

We knew the Cats would be able to run the ball, so a run-heavy approach was expected, but as mentioned above, Wilson threw the ball well, too.

Kentucky threw at least one long pass that resulted in a 15-yard pass interference call, and they also threw two touchdown passes to tight ends.

While the play-calling was conservative at times, they did open up the offense more than they have in recent weeks and that’s certainly a positive. For once, the issue wasn’t the offense, it was the defense. And that leads me to my next point.

Chris Rodriguez Dominates

There’s no doubt who the best back on this roster is, but Chris Rodriguez still served a reminder today why he’s not only the best option, he’s also establishing himself as one of the best backs the school has had under Mark Stoops.

Rodriguez went over the 1,000-yard mark for his career with 149 yards and two scores on just 13 carries, including a 74-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach. He’s now topped 100+ yards in five of his last 10 games.

As a redshirt sophomore, Rodriguez could theoretically leave for the NFL Draft following this season, but’s more likely he returns and continues to bolster his legacy with what hopes to be a huge 2021 season.

But the defense was poor

Oh, man, it was hard to watch that defense today. Kentucky’s strong suit all season was their weakness this game.

While Vandy’s offense has improved over the last few weeks, their big offensive showings were against the Ole Miss Rebels and Mississippi State Bulldogs—two really bad defenses. So, it wasn’t expected to see the Dores move the ball so easily on this defense, but it is what it is.

All around, it was a good performance and bounce back for Kentucky. I know they were playing with heavy hearts, but they seemed to use that as motivation more than anything.

Some things are bigger than football. A win for the Cats in loving memory of Coach John Schlarman. Remember to keep his family in your thoughts and prayers.

Go Cats!