Kentucky overcomes Austin Peay 49-13, becomes bowl eligible
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Nothing about Kentucky's quest toward respectability was easy, and the win that finally put the Wildcats back in the postseason for the first time in six years required overcoming initial adversity.
The Wildcats had regrouped by halftime and now look forward to the feeling of playing in December for a change.
Stephen Johnson came off the bench to throw two second-quarter touchdown passes, Benny Snell and Jojo Kemp each ran for two scores and Kentucky rallied past Austin Peay 49-13 on Saturday to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.
Drama preceded the Wildcats' postseason-clinching victory with the pregame announcement that little-used sophomore Luke Wright would start at quarterback instead of Johnson because of a knee injury that wasn't previously disclosed. In-game anxiety followed as Kentucky trailed the FCS Governors 13-0 early in the second quarter and led to the ''emergency'' use of Johnson – who looked healthy enough to guide his team into a 21-13 lead by halftime.
Snell's 30-yard TD run got Kentucky (6-5) going before Johnson's scoring passes of 14 yards to C.J. Conrad and 40 to Garrett Johnson. The Wildcats never looked back as Boom Williams ran for a 25-yard TD, Snell scored from 48 and Kemp from 40 and 7 yards en route to scoring 49 unanswered points.
''It's a happy locker room,'' said Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, who added, ''they stayed the course, never flinched and it's never easy. We've just got to continue to push forward.''
Snell carried 14 times for 152 yards to set a school single-season record for a freshman (1,006) and give Kentucky its first-ever 1,000-yard rushing duo with Williams (1,072).
Kente Williams' 17-yard TD run and Gun Scholato's 25-yard interception return of Wright for a score got Austin Peay (0-11) ahead. The Governors couldn't stop Johnson or Kentucky after that and finished winless for the second consecutive season and with their 27th straight loss dating back to 2014.
Austin Peay: The Governors drove deep into Kentucky territory on their two initial drives with Williams' TD capping a 69-yard march on their second possession. But Javaughn Craig was intercepted twice in the first half, with the second leading to Kentucky's first TD. Austin Peay didn't cross midfield until the fourth quarter and was outgained 410-284.
Kentucky: Holding penalties wiped out two early touchdowns that could have eased initial anxiety over Austin Peay's fast start. Interceptions by Chris Westry and Mike Edwards saved them, the second of which led to their first TD. But Johnson's entry made the biggest difference in settling down an offense that struggled without him. Johnson completed 5 of 9 passes for 101 yards.
Austin Peay: Season over.
Kentucky: The Wildcats visit third-ranked (for now) Louisville (No. 6 CFP), aiming to end a five-game losing streak against their in-state rival and hand the Cardinals their second consecutive loss.
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