Kentucky Football: Cats Top Austin Peay to Become Bowl Eligible

Kentucky Football: Cats Weather Slow Start, Cruise Against Austin Peay for Bowl-Eligible 6th Win on Senior Day

Nov 19, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats running back Benny Snell (26) runs the ball against Austin Peay Governors defensive back Trent Taylor (9) in the first half at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A win is a win, they say. Kentucky took a big punch from Austin Peay early, then rallied, took control, and ultimately cruised to the 49-13 win. But boy did it start ugly.

Kentucky, one game away from bowl eligibility, and on Senior Day at Commonwealth Stadium, played some uninspired football in the first quarter against Austin Peay. Spotting the Governors a 13-0 lead, where Austin Peay, losers of 26 straight games entering today, ran the ball right down Kentucky’s throat early. But adjustments were made early in the second quarter, namely inserting injured quarterback Stephen Johnson into the game, and the Cats regained their composure to score 21 straight in the second quarter to take command.

Austin Peay snatched the early momentum by driving the ball down Kentucky’s throat at will, first during a 15-play drive down to the Kentucky 12-yard line before the first of two first-half interceptions bailed out the Cats. Then after a holding call brought back a would-be 94-yard touchdown run by Boom Williams, the Cats punted to setup Austin Peay’s first score. The Governors put together a nine-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 17-yard touchdown run by Kentel Williams for a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Kentucky quarterback Luke Wright, making his first start for the injured Johnson, was intercepted by Gunnar Scholato, who returned the ball 25 yards for a touchdown. Austin Peay botched the PAT, for a shocking 13-0 lead with 14:51 to play in the second quarter.

Nov 19, 2016; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) runs the ball against the Austin Peay Governors in the first half at Commonwealth Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

That’s when the Cats finally went back to Johnson, who came into the game in relief, steadying the offense and leading a comeback victory for Kentucky. Upon entering the game, Johnson immediately threw a brilliant bomb to Jeff Badet, who again dropped a sure touchdown. Later, Blake Bone dropped a tougher catch from another strike thrown by Johnson. Despite the drops, the offense nevertheless looked buoyed by Johnson’s presence, who threw accurately, got positive yards with his legs, and handed the ball to Kentucky’s three-headed monster of Williams, Benny Snell and senior Jojo Kemp, who collectively would eventually take control of the game behind Kentucky’s offensive line.

After a Snell 30-yard touchdown run put Kentucky on the board, Johnson hit Garrett Johnson (40 yards) and C.J. Conrad (14 yards) on consecutive drives to give Kentucky a 21-13 lead with 0:59 left in the first half. The sigh of relief was audible thought the Commonwealth.

Kentucky took further control in the second half, pounding away with the 3rd ranked rushing attack in the SEC. The Cats opened the second half when Boom Williams capped a three-play, 38-yard drive with a 25-yard touchdown. The next two possessions were highlight reels, as Snell went 48 yards and Kemp scampered 40 yards, one-play possessions each, to give Kentucky a commanding 42-13 lead with 6:30 left in the third quarter. The senior found the end zone again early in the fourth quarter, Kemp diving for the score after a 7-yard run to give the Cats a 49-13 lead with 12:51 to play.

While the start was ugly, and to be blunt, the first quarter was easily the worst Kentucky has looked all season long, the Cats were impressive in their ability to rally. Led by Johnson, powered by the running game, the defense finally stiffened and Kentucky was able to cruise to the blowout victory that was an absolute must considering the level of competition. The Cats outgunned the Governors 410-284, including rushing for 281 yards on 35 carries, an average of a whopping 8 yards per carry. Johnson finished 5-9 for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Snell led the way with 152 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, for 10.9 yards per carry. Kemp scored twice as well, rushing 54 yards on 8 carries, while Williams gained 47 yards on 7 carries, with a TD.

Want your voice heard? Join the Wildcat Blue Nation team!

But the Cats will have to be better for a full 60 minutes next week when they take on an angry Louisville team coming off an embarrassing 36-10 pummeling at the hands of Houston.

This article originally appeared on