KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The stat sheet given to Kentucky coach Mark Stoops before he sat down for his postgame press conference had a number and result that didn’t match up.
The first thing listed on the page under Kentucky’s name was its rushing numbers: Boom Williams 127 yards, Jojo Kemp 90, Benny Snell 79, Sihiem King 75, Stephen Johnson 72.
Kentucky ran for 443 yards and managed to lose by double digits: 49-36. A flustered Stoops said he’d never seen anything like it.
“No,” Stoops said. “Nope. Not real happy with the other side having some rush yards as well.”
The Volunteers countered the Wildcats’ other worldly rushing effort with 376 yards on the ground of their own. Tennessee finished a yard shy of 600 to Kentucky’s 635.
But the game felt out of reach for much of the second half, and a 14-0 Kentucky surge in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter was the only thing that kept it from being a blowout.
The difference in the scoreboard not seen in the yardage numbers happened inside the 20-yard line. Kentucky’s first five red zone drives ended in just 16 points — a touchdown, three field goals and a fumble on the 4-yard line.
“We had a lot of quality runs, obviously, when you rush for that many yards,” Stoops said. “The difference was in the red zone. They capped it off with touchdowns, we capped it off with some field goals.”
Kentucky’s offense didn’t have the same running success with a condensed field in front of it. Tennessee bet on the run and Stephen Johnson and the Kentucky pass game never posed much of a threat to make it think otherwise. The quarterback was 12-for-29 for 192 yards and no scores.
“My windows are going to be smaller and there’s not a lot of time for me to be slow with my feet,” Johnson said on what he sees in the red zone.
Kentucky and Tennessee finished with seven scores a piece, but all of Tennessee’s finished in the checkerboard.
The Wildcats defense did its offense no favors. Thirty-six points should be enough to pick up a win, but offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said there’s no excuse for scoring three and not seven.
“Not in this league,” Gran said. “Not now, not ever.”