By Ricky Blair
Not since 2011 had the Kentucky football team walked off the field with a win over a conference foe; but this past Saturday the Wildcats put that shameful streak to rest with a 17-7 victory over the Vanderbilt Commodores.
While this game wasn’t nearly as exciting as the last SEC victory – a game in which receiver-turned-quarterback Matt Roark was carried off the field by teammates and fans after leading the Wildcats to their first triumph over the Tennessee Volunteers in 26 years — it was none-the-less important for this coaching staff and young team as they try to turn a corner for this football program.
The Wildcats’ offense scored a touchdown on its first possession when quarterback Patrick Towles hit receiver Ryan Timmons on a 20-yard pass across the middle. Timmons lost the ball, but it was ruled that he crossed the goal line before fumbling. It was a close call for the Wildcats, who struggled for most of the game to move the football and to put points on the board.
Kentucky finished the first quarter up 7-0, but it wasn’t long before Vanderbilt took advantage of a Towles miscue. Towles threw a slant pass that was intercepted at UK’s own 10-yard line by Commodore cornerback Darrius Sims, who then trotted into the endzone for a touchdown. The Vanderbilt score tied the game at seven apiece.
In response, the Wildcats added a 44-yard Austin MacGinnis field goal, followed by a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive just seconds before halftime, which was capped by a 1-yard Towles run.
While the offense struggled for most of the day, the defense shined during this victory. The defense was led by middle linebacker Josh Forrest, defensive end Bud Dupree, and cornerback J.D. Harmon, who each had five or more tackles.
The defense was also opportunistic, intercepting three passes in the game, which matches last year’s season total. Marcus McWilson, Ashley Lowery and A.J. Stamps each had a take away during the fourth quarter to preserve the win.
Regarding the win, UK coach Mark Stoops said, “It was a thing of beauty.”
While it wasn’t always pretty to watch for most of the fans, at this point any conference win is a beautiful thing.