Rodriguez, Cats Rush Past Vanderbilt

Rodriguez, Cats Rush Past Vanderbilt

by Tim Letcher

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Chris Rodriguez Jr. carried 13 times for a career-high 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns as Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 38-35 on Saturday at Kroger Field.

Kentucky (3-4, 3-4 SEC) rushed for 308 yards as a team in the game, the second-highest total for the Cats this season. Kentucky’s 458 yards of total offense also marked the second-highest in a game in 2020. UK’s season highs came against Ole Miss in the second game of the season.

Quarterback Terry Wilson had a solid game for the Cats on Saturday. Wilson connected on 13 of his 15 passes, including nine of his first nine, for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Wilson also rushed for 83 yards on seven carries, including a touchdown.

Defensively, Jamin Davis led Kentucky in tackles again this week, notching 13 in Saturday’s win. Yusuf Corker and Marquez Bembry each had nine tackles for the Cats.

In honor of John Schlarman, Kentucky’s offensive line coach who died earlier in the week, the Wildcats left an open spot on the offensive line and ultimately took a delay of game penalty on the game’s first play. After the penalty, which Vanderbilt declined, UK sent senior offensive tackle Landon Young onto the field, wearing jersey number 65, which Schlarman wore as a UK player.

After honoring their coach, the Wildcat offense marched down the field, covering 75 yards in nine plays. The drive ended when Wilson hit Justin Rigg over the middle with a 15-yard touchdown, the first of Rigg’s career, to give the Cats an early lead. Chance Poore added the extra point and Kentucky led 7-0 with 10:15 to play in the first quarter.

Vanderbilt was forced to punt at the conclusion of its first possession, with Kentucky taking over at its own 32 yard line. From there, the Cats needed just six plays to cover 68 yards and extend the lead. It was Wilson scrambling down the right sideline for a 32-yard touchdown rush. Poore added the PAT and Kentucky led 14-0 with 3:48 left in the first. That would be the score after one quarter.

At the beginning of the second quarter, Vanderbilt cut into the UK lead. The Commodores covered 74 yards in just eight plays, culminating with a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ken Seals to Chris Pierce. And when Wes Farley added the PAT, the UK lead was 14-7 with 14:30 to play in the half.

The Wildcats answered on the ensuing drive. Boosted by a 27-yard rush from Rodriguez, the Cats drove into Vandy territory and scored when Wilson connected with Keaton Upshaw for a 21-yard touchdown pass over the middle. Poore added another PAT and the Cats extended the lead to 21-7 with 10:28 left in the half. The drive covered 79 yards in seven plays.

On Vanderbilt’s next drive, the Commodores drove deep into Kentucky territory. Then, on a fourth-and-goal from the two yard line, Vandy’s Mike Wright connected with Ben Bresnahan with a short touchdown pass. The drive took 17 plays and covered 78 yards and it cut the UK lead to 21-14 with 3:40 to play in the half.

Just before the half, Kentucky drove into Vandy territory and with three seconds left in the half, Poore made a 28-yard field goal to give the Cats a 24-14 lead at the half. It was Poore’s first made field goal of the season on his first attempt.

In the second half, Vanderbilt was forced to punt on its first possession and Josh Ali caught the punt on the run and returned it 39 yards to the Vandy 26 yard line.

From there, Kentucky needed just six plays to get into the end zone again. Rodriguez took direct snaps on the last two plays of the drive, the latter of which was a three-yard touchdown run. Poore added another PAT and the Cats’ lead was 31-14 with 10:34 to go in the third. At that point, Kentucky had scored on all five of its drives in the game.

Vanderbilt answered with another long, sustained drive. The Commodores would get inside the UK one, but would lose a yard on the third-down play. Then on fourth-and-goal from the two, Wright scrambled around right end for the score. Pierson Cooke added the PAT to cut the UK lead to 31-21 with 2:53 left in the third quarter. It was a 15-play, 75-yard drive that took 7:41 off the clock.

The Cats punted for the first time on their next possession but Vanderbilt was unable to do anything with the possession and punted it back to the Cats, who took the ball at their own nine.

On the ensuing drive, Rodriguez broke loose for a touchdown run that covered 74 yards, a career long, extending the lead. Poore’s PAT was good, giving UK a 38-21 lead with 9:14 to play.

Vanderbilt added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including one with 30 seconds remaining, to complete the scoring.

Kentucky returns to action next week, visiting top-ranked Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.


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