LEXINGTON, Ky. — It was ugly, but it was a win.
Kentucky held on to beat Vanderbilt 20-13 on Saturday despite a one-dimensional offensive attack and 2 costly turnovers. Quarterback Stephen Johnson struggled but the Wildcats defense did not. The end result is one of the only positives Kentucky can draw from this one.
Here’s how it played out.
Despite struggling the whole day, Johnson stretched the ball out on fourth-and-1 with a little more than 3 minutes left. The junior college transfer rushed for more yards than he passed for, and no rushing attempt was bigger than the fourth-down play.
Vanderbilt took over with 1:38 left, getting into the red zone, but its final pass flew out of reach and Kentucky held on for the win.
The Wildcats could’ve put the game away in the third quarter, but the turnovers and failing to recover a muffed punt put the Commodores back in contention.
How can the Wildcats improve in the passing game?
Johnson struggled to get anything going in the air for the third game in a row, and all pressure to move the ball is on the shoulders of the running back corps. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran’s game plan is limited with the absence of a passing game.
Another question: What’s the update on Drew Barker?
The defense has definitely improved.
The performances against South Carolina and Alabama weren’t mirages. Kentucky’s defense held RB Ralph Webb and Vanderbilt to 282 yards of offense. The Commodores offense isn’t any good, but the Wildcats needed a shutdown performance as points were hard to come by for either offense.
Johnson through the air: 10-for-24, 49 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception.
Vanderbilt could key in on the run but Kentucky still managed to get the win.
What it means
The performance might not suggest it, but the result indicates that bowl hopes are still alive. Kentucky and coach Mark Stoops had to have this one. It wasn’t pretty, but they got it.