By LARRY VAUGHT
Maybe it’s time to start believing — and thanking the football Gods.
Missouri had looked awful but scored late in the first half to cut Kentucky’s lead to 21-7 Saturday. Then the Tigers had a first down inside UK’s 10-yard line to open the second half. But UK held, the Tigers missed a 24-yard field goal and Kentucky put together a scoring drive ended by a 13-yard screen pass to Boom Williams to stretch the lead back to 28-7.
Kentucky went on to win 35-21 and is now 5-3 — and 4-2 in the SEC Eastern Division.
The Cats again relied on a punishing ground — once reason they had four 80-yard scoring drives — led by Benny Snell (192 yards, 2 touchdowns on 38 carries) and Boom Williams (182 yards, 1 touchdown on 19 attempts) along with some big early catches by Jeff Badet (3 catches, 104 yards, 1 touchdown).
How good is Snell? Well, he didn’t get a touch the first two games but after eight games has now moved past Randall Cobb for the most rushing touchdowns by a freshman with eight. And you might remember that Cobb was pretty good — and still is.
Kentucky had 582 total yards of offense, the most it has had against an SEC team since piling up 597 yards against Vanderbilt in 2006. It had two backs rush for over 175 yards against a SEC team for the first time ever.
Kentucky had 59 rushes for 377 yards, an average of 6.4 yards per play. It had the ball almost 40 minutes thanks to the dominating performance of the UK offensive line from start to finish.
Even though it had just seven points in the first quarter, Kentucky amassed 187 total yards and the defense shut down Missouri’s so-called high powered offense time after time. That set the tone for the game.
Assuming UK can beat winless Austin Peay, the Cats are now assured of being at least bowl eligible with six wins.
But there is a lot more at stake. If the Cats could beat Georgia in Commonwealth Stadium next Saturday night, they would be 5-2 in SEC play going to Tennessee. Win that game also and UK could become Eastern Division champion and play in the SEC title game.
Okay. Time to slow down. But after an 0-2 start, let’s dream a little bit and congratulate Mark Stoops for salvaging a season that seemed lost compared to the two previous years when UK blew seasons that seemed set for at least bowl bids.