Good news UK wins and scores 62; bad news still gives up 42

By LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON — After going six quarters with no offense, Kentucky found just what it needed — quarterback Stephen Johnson, tight end C.J. Conrad and a consistent running game against a porous New Mexico State defense.

Kentucky’s 692 yards of total offense was its most since getting 801 against Louisville in 1998. And the Wildcats scored 62 points after getting just one touchdown in the last six quarters.

Johnson came on when starter Drew Barker hurt his leg in the first quarter and went 17-for-22 passing for 310 yards and three scores. Conrad came into game with 16 catches for 154 yards and one TD but had five catches for 133 yards and three touchdowns Saturday.

Freshman running back Benny Snell had 17 carries for 137 yards and four scores in his first extensive action. Boom Williams had 181 yards on 18 carries for a score. Overall, UK rushed for 381 yards and averaged 9.2 yards per play on offense.

“That was great,” Snell said after tying a single-game record for most touchdowns. “I just tried to do what I could do to help us.”

Now the bad news. Yes, Kentucky won. But New Mexico State scored 42 points and led for the first 29 minutes before UK took control. New Mexico State had not scored 42 points against a Power 5 conference team since a 42-29 win over Kansas in 1988.

The Aggies did not score in the fourth period thanks to an end zone interception by Derrick Baity when New Mexico State could have cut the lead to 55-49. But New Mexico State still had 500 total yards in a game where Kentucky coach Mark Stoops took over the defense after it had been shredded the last six quarters.

“It wasn’t good,” Stoops said about the defense. “It was combination of things. I talked all week about having a higher football IQ. We didn’t do that.”

It started with a 35-yard scoring pass from New Mexico State on its first possession when UK again blew a coverage. It included a three-play, 75-yard scoring drive in the final minute of the first half to tie the game 35-35.

Stoops said UK “flat blew it” on the first TD pass.

“That can’t happen,” he said. “They got some aggravating yards. They were doing some things that we got fixed at halftime. We have a lot to get fixed, but we will. We have some things to get ironed out. It’s getting confusing to them (UK players) even though we are trying to make it simple.”

That’s not good when coaches think they have made something simpler yet it has only confused players more.

At least on offense that was not a problem this game even when Barker and receiver Dorian Baker both went out after the first series with injuries, starting left tackle Cole Mosier did not play because of an injury and backup running back JoJo Kemp was out with an injury. Stoops said Barker hurt his back on the first or second play and was taken to the hospital for tests but the coach did not have any results back.

Johnson said he was not “expecting to play but was preparing to play” when he got the call to take over.

“I just had to calm down and do what I was coached to do,” he said.

“Stephen calmed down and made good decisions,” Stoops said. “Early is was rough. But he has lot of poise that we need right now. He really made good decisions on when to pull the ball down and run.”

Stoops and his players were just happy to win after blowing a 35-10 lead against Southern Mississippi and losing and then being shellacked at Florida.

“A victory is a victory,” Stoops said. “There is nothing fun about it when you are losing like that. It was tough. We always get back to work win or lose. It is hard. There is no doubt about it (when you lose).”

Williams agreed and said the team needed a win and the offense needed to show it could score points.

“This will help our confidence to have gone out and put up 62 points. This is what we needed,” Williams said.

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  1. I think tonight’s game is the most encouraging performance by a UK football team in a year, since they beat South Carolina on the road last season.

    On the positive side, we saw an offense that can be potent, and I think UK found its QB, and found the RB it needs to compliment Boom. This QB was able to find and use the tight end, and the execution of the slip screens was very effective all through the game. Snell ran as hard as any UK back I can remember in recent years, and the radio comparison to George Adams during the game seems appropriate to me.

    The defense remains a major worry, but I think the defense improved over the course of the game after its embarrassing first quarter. Only 7 points in the second half, and except for the quarter ending score it allowed in the second quarter, the second quarter was marked by back to back 3 and outs.

    I hope to see this team build on this performance over the next week and get the SEC win over USC next Saturday night.

  2. I, for one, am proud of the CATs victory today. Not because they apparently were the last ones standing at the end of this shoot-out. I was proud of the way they responded when the other team would not give up. Just keep pounding! That’s the way you win game. Even the defense kicked it up a notch in the third quarter. Good going cats. That’s how you build pride; that’s how you build a winning determination.

    That said…… My gosh, the defense looked absolutely lost in the first half. Good for them for keeping on plugging until they sort of got it right in the second half. But it makes me wonder if these defensive coaches know anything about their players at all. Or, do they just go in and lecture without worrying about did anything stick.. Not that the defense got it perfect in the second half, but the defensive secondary did get it kicked up a notch. Our defensive line needs help… Badly. They got pushed around all afternoon. But hey… it’s a start! Good game. Let’s build on it. You have another chance at getting it right when SC comes to town. It won’t be as easy as NMS.

    Great game for Johnson picking up the baton from Barker. I think he has made a statement. Good play calling from the OC. He stayed within Johnson’s capabilities and didn’t push a bad position.

    Like I said, I’m proud of this win. Now build on it. You don’t have a lot of time but it’s a start!!

  3. It was a good win and great to see the offense finally come alive and show some consistency. Johnson, Snell, Conrad, Williams all played great and we might have found our version of Lamar Jackson but still only one game. Barker is something else and I won’t be surprised if no back damage. The defense could not look any more impotent than they did especially in the first half. With a few exceptions, we still have no pass rush, outside contain, or stops at the line of scrimmage. Isn’t it confidence building that Stoops wanted to take over more of the defense. The 2 biggest busts to date are Mt. Elam and Blake Bone with Westry thinking about contending for honorable mention. I think I would still take Doug Martin for my HC/OC. I loved his play calling, but he just didn’t have the horses on defense.

    1. Careful Mike. The OC played it right. His play calling stayed within Johnson’s capabilities at the QB position. We still don’t know I Johnson has a full quiver of arrows yet. Still, Johnson made a real statement and his experience showed. But you’re right about the defense. My word.

  4. Stoops can say anything he wants to but Johnson saved his bacon this afternoon.

    1. Ditto for Conrad, Williams, and Snell. Most gratifying part of the game for me is that we held onto the ball and didn’t show our previous “drop” history. I still don’t see us going bowling with this defense though.

      1. Mike, good comments and I am with you on bowling. Can improve but I can’t see six wins in any scenario

  5. Good win for the Cats. The defense still is not stopping anybody from scoring at will, even with Stoops running the show, but they did improve in the second half. Snell is a real god looking back, not sure why we have not seen more of him before now. Johnson proved he should be No. 1. If UK don’t start him against Carolina Sat. they are nuts.

  6. Ahh, well UK in the w column. I am more concerned about the team in Louisville. Crap what a rout against fla. St..

    1. Grant, if I had a vote, I would vote Louisville No. 1 this week

  7. Hopefully Stoops will stick with Johnson. The defense is as bad the bad news bears of baseball . Just keep plugging and see what happens.

  8. Don’t know if you people were watching the same game I was but I saw a team that after making their halftime adjustments hold their opponent to just seven points in the second half. I can understand people like this ‘Mike’ character continuing with his agenda and maybe the Pupster, Mike’s disciple, following along but the rest of you must have seen the vast improvment made after the halftime adjustments. Then again .maybe not.

    1. Didn’t hear much out of you Knob after the Southern Miss melt down and the debacle at Florida. Where were you? Thought maybe you had baled on em. Have you been in hiding? Now, after a win, you are suddenly timely with your words of wisdom. I call it like I see it. Mike, like him or not, does too. If you are proud of the job Stoops has done to date you are a glutton for punishment hoss. He has a long way to go Knob. His defense still gave up 42 points against NMS, and he can’t blame it on DJ this time. The UK defense can’t play like that against SEC teams and win many games, sorry. Thank the Lord for Stephen Johnson, Boom, Conrad, and Snell.

      1. Knob, did you see all the empty seats in CWS last night? Was that just a bunch of sore losers that stayed home swayed by Mike and the Pup? It might just be because of the product Stoops has put on the field leading up to NMS on 9/17.

        1. We were there Pupster! Were you? The fans in the seats were football folks ! They knew the game and knew what it takes to mold a bunch of homesick teenagers into a team reauired to compete in a tough conference. Unlike yourself and this Mike whatever we have not a single bandwagon fan in the group. Most of us have played the game at some level, usually far below SEC standards but we understand the game and its intricacies. All you and your buddy can do is play internet warrior and bitch.

          1. Well pin a rose on you nose hot shot!!! Been around the game all my life friend. UK football fans have waited long enough for winning football, it’s long overdue. That is my main and only point! Apparently you are just getting started. I have no agenda. All I want to see is UK winning consistently on the grid iron before I kick the bucket, that’s all. UK priced me out of the market for tickets years ago. It is not worth the investment in time and treasure to go watch the football team lose to Tennessee for a quarter of a century, and Florida for 30 straight.years. and get pushed around by OVC schools, and Conf. USA squads. Besides, who are you to start calling people on this forum out for merely expressing an opinion. Opinions are like noses, everybody has one. Get over yourself.

  9. Gained some hope with yesterday’s performance. The D had some major breakdowns but appeared to correct that in the 3rd quarter. It was wonderful to see the other team defend the read option for a change. Tried to keep an eye on Johnson and liked what I saw when he was on the sideline.. calm and steady. And Snell???? Man that kid has some gumption. Reminds me of Pinner.
    Most of all… liked their presence on the field. I’m happy for these young men. Clear up the defensive brain cramps and play with some heart, we should take care of business with USC on Saturday.

    1. I’m with you Norm..

  10. Guy’s give credit were it’s due. A win is a win the defense made good adjustment and made the most of it Still got 8 games to play. I haven’t give up yet!! Stay positive!

    1. Haven’t given up on them either Cats

  11. Norm , you take wins when you get them no doubt, but this was meant to be a scheduled win from its scheduling inception. A Patsy. I personally don’t put to much stock in these kind of victories. Conference wins is what I focus on. Let’s face it. This is a team they should beat and the opponent rolled up yards and points on what we know is supposed to be an Sec caliber team. But we all know they’re not an Sec caliber team , they just play one on tv. I don’t take away many positives beating a team your supposed to and barely stopping them.

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