LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s offense showed signs of becoming one-dimensional for the last two weeks and Saturday saw a full transition in a 20-13 win over Vanderbilt.
Stephen Johnson and the Wildcats posed no threat in the passing game, but behind a trio of running backs and a much-improved defense, the problem seemed less apparent than it would’ve after a loss.
Johnson was 10 of 24 for 49 yards with no touchdowns and 1 interception. That translates into 2.04 yards per attempt. The Wildcats completed just two passes in the second half.
“Stephen will settle down,” coach Mark Stoops said. “We all know that we need to throw the ball to win some football games as we move forward, and we will.”
The wind was swirling inside Commonwealth Stadium, but Johnson said it only affected him on one attempt. The Vanderbilt defense wasn’t that big of a factor, either, the junior said.
“I just missed a whole lot of open throws,” Johnson said.
Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran boiled it down to the same simple problem.
“Just be more accurate,” Gran said. “He got us some good first downs running with his legs. Don’t panic, get out there and do what we’ve seen you do. He’s got to continue to do that for us to not have this thing come down to the last second of the game.”
Johnson rushed for a season-high 55 yards and 1 touchdown. Freshman RB Benny Snell added 94, senior Jojo Kemp had 55 and junior Boom Williams had 54.
The ground game was working, but the passing game needs to develop to give Kentucky a chance against the meat of its schedule.
The offense has been in Johnson’s hands since Drew Barker went down on the first series against New Mexico State in Week 3. Initially given a 3- to 5-week window before Barker would be reassessed, Stoops said it’s not yet time to check on Barker’s health.
Johnson has led the Wildcats to wins in three of their last four, but 49 yards of passing in a game is only going to hold up for so long.