Kentucky pulls away in second half to beat New Mexico St.
Kentucky running back Stanley Boom Williams, right, is brought down by New Mexico State defensive lineman Kourtland Busby in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Lexington, Ky. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Benjamin Snell Jr. ran for four touchdowns and Stephen Johnson added three TD passes to lead Kentucky to a 62-42 win over New Mexico State on Saturday.
The victory didn't come easily — it was 35-all at halftime — for Kentucky (1-2), which lost its first two games to open the season for the first time in 20 years. Kentucky outscored New Mexico State 27-7 in the second half to avoid its third straight loss.
Kentucky starting quarterback Drew Barker injured his right leg after throwing an interception on the first series and didn't return. After a shaky start, Johnson settled down in Barker's absence to steer the Wildcats in front of 49,669 fans, the smallest in coach Mark Stoops' four-year tenure.
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Johnson was 17-of-22 passing for 310 yards, and added 51 yards rushing. Snell, a third-string freshman, finished with 136 yards and tied a school record for most rushing touchdowns. Stanley Boom Williams added 181 yards rushing on 18 carries and a touchdown.
New Mexico State's (1-2) Tyler Rogers was 16 of 33 for 246 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
KENTUCKY: Stoops, a former defensive coordinator at Florida State, became more involved in his team's defensive game plan last week after the Wildcats gave up 1,084 yards in the first two games. But the problems continued for Kentucky, which surrendered 500 yards to the Aggies. On the flip side, the Wildcats finished with a season-high 692 yards of offense.
NEW MEXICO STATE: The Aggies, coming off a 32-31 victory over New Mexico, fell to 0-20 against SEC opponents. Coach Doug Martin, a former Kentucky quarterback and graduate assistant, is now 0-2 against his former team.
Kentucky: The Wildcats return to conference play and hosts South Carolina on Saturday.
New Mexico State: The Aggies open their Sun Belt schedule at Troy on Saturday in the conference opener for both teams.