The Kentucky Wildcats held on to defeat the Missouri Tigers with a score of 35-28 on Saturday. After completely dominating the first half, the Cats went into the break with only a seven point lead. The second half was very much a back-and-forth affair, and plenty of drama down the stretch before the Wildcats’ defense sealed the win.
Chris Rodriguez led the Kentucky offense with 206 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. Wandale Robinson had 73 yards rushing to go with a team-leading 101 receiving yards.
While Kentucky’s defense was not as impressive as we are used to seeing, the Wildcats did enough to get the win. The Cats are 2-0 and 1-0 to start SEC play. There is a lot of potential there, but just how far can the Wildcats go?
Here is what you need to know from tonight’s win.
Chris Rodriguez has it all
I know he has been compared to Benny Snell in the past. And while I do not feel that comparison is fair to Rodriguez, he is showing signs of a guy that can take over a game.
Against Missouri, Rodriguez excelled running the football and showed some potential in the open field as a receiver as well. If he can continue to stretch himself into a threat in the passing game, it will be difficult to ever take him out of the game. That is, of course, if he can stop fumbling at the goal line.
Rodriguez had 206 yards on 27 carries for 3 touchdowns on the ground to go with a touchdown catch. And especially now that he has a passing game to keep the opposing defense honest, this could be a special year for Rodriguez.
It was not perfect. There were turnovers and a few three-and-outs. But man, this offense is more fun to watch than anything we have seen since Andre Woodson was taking snaps. With over 500 yards of offense, there were shots downfield, screen passes that actually worked, and Will Levis continues to impress despite a less glowing stat sheet than a week ago.
The running game is still there, as we saw today. And while Missouri does not have the best defense in the SEC, this was not an FCS opponent. And I do realize that scoring slowed down in the second half, but the Wildcats were a fumble away from putting the Tigers to sleep in the second quarter. With Wandale Robinson out there stretching the field and Rodriguez running downhill, this should be a fun season.
Since Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington, the staple of Kentucky football has been the defense. In fact, the best seasons we have seen in decades have come recently in the form of an overwhelming defense and “just enough” offense.
Now that the offense seems to have an extra gear, you would expect Kentucky to steamroll some teams, and they may. But the pass rush was suspect to say the least (ZERO tackles for loss through three quarters), everyone seemed to struggle to make tackles, the secondary was not as strong as we are used to seeing (dropped a huge interception in the fourth quarter), and for the first time in a few seasons the offense may grade out higher than the defense when this film is studied. Hopefully this weekend was a wake-up call for Brad White and his staff.
An interception here, a fumble there. A blocked field goal, some untimely penalties. Several of these things are to be expected early in the season, but they all showed up in tonight’s SEC opener. It is tough to win games when you make that many big mistakes. The Wildcats have looked strong to start the season, but if they want to be special they have to clean up some of these mistakes.