In a year full of heartache for the Kentucky football team, a physical rushing attack brought a few smiles back to Kroger Field on Saturday night as the Wildcats rolled over South Carolina 41-18 to send the seniors our in style.
After starting the year 2-2 with an upset win at Tennessee, Kentucky lost four of five games down the stretch, including a crushing 60-point loss at Alabama, leading to recent talk of potential staff changes and whether the Wildcats would even accept a Bowl Game invitation to close the year.
However, after jumping back into the win column, the now 4-6 Wildcats can finally hit the reset button as Mark Stoops and company will have some tough decisions to make as current players and recruits are sure to have a watchful eye on potential changes and bowl assignments.
On Saturday, Kentucky’s offense finally found a spark as the Big Blue Wall cleared the way for a potent rushing attach as seniors Terry Wilson and AJ Rose joined Chris Rodriguez in racking up 291 total rushing yards. Wilson was also 17-26 for 201 yards passing and senior tight end Justin Rigg finished with a career-high 72 receiving yards.
Rodriguez led the way with 139 yards and 14 carries with three touchdowns. Rose added 101 yards on 14 carries and entered Kentucky’s top 10 all-time in rushing yards, while surpassing more than 2,000 all purpose yards for his career.
Wilson, who scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter, also added his name to the record books as the first player in Kentucky history to have at least 3,000 career passing yards and 1,000 career rushing yards. He’s also the third player in Kentucky history to have at least 20 career passing touchdowns and 10 career rushing touchdowns behind Jared Lorenzen and Patrick Towles.
Despite having trouble containing South Carolina running back Kevin Harris (210 yards on 21 carries), the Kentucky defense ultimately came up big with three turnovers as linebacker Jordan Wright recovered two fumbles and Yusuf Corker added an interception.
There were a lot of game balls to go around in this one, from seniors Drake Jackson and Landon Young on the O-Line to Wilson, Rose and Riggs, who all played like seasoned veterans within a much improved offense.
But the entire Class of 2020 gets MVP honors in this one as the group redefined the Mark Stoops era and changed national perceptions about the Kentucky football program. With Saturday’s win, this class has won 29 games over a four-year span, including a 10-win season in 2018 and two bowl game victories. Ironically, each senior will have the option to return in 2021 as the NCAA has granted an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19.
If there was a single MVP in this one, it would most likely be Rodriguez who punished the Gamecocks’ defense and appeared to be back to full strength after missing back-to-back games due to team health protocols.
Kentucky now plays the waiting game as the NCAA has announced that 37 college football bowl games will be played this season. Early projections have the Cats playing in the Music City Bowl (Nashville) or the Liberty Bowl (Memphis) among others.
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