Rodriguez Goes from Goat to Hero in Same Game
On Saturday night at Kroger Field, Chris Rodriguez Jr. had an eventful game. At various points in the night Rodriguez was the hero. At other times, he was a goat.
Luckily for Rodriguez and the Cats, the hero plays won out as Kentucky beat Missouri 35-28 to open SEC play with a win for the first time since 2018.
Things started very well for Rodriguez. On UK’s first drive of the game, he had five rushing yards, then caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Will Levis to get the Cats on the board.
On UK’s second drive, Rodriguez rushed for 16 yards, including a two-yard score, as the Cats took a 14-0 advantage in the first quarter.
Rodriguez had 26 yards rushing on three carries as the Cats extended the lead in the second quarter. It was Levis taking it in to give UK a 21-7 lead.
With Kentucky leading 21-7 and threatening to score just before the half, Rodriguez had his goat moment. And it’s definitely something he would like to have a chance to do over.
Rodriguez appeared to be going into the end zone for a score that would have given the Cats a 21-point advantage just before the half. Instead, he fumbled near the goal line and Missouri recovered in the end zone for a touchback.
The Tigers would take the ensuing possession, with under two minutes left in the half, and turn it into seven points. Missouri took the momentum of trailing by just seven instead of 21 into the halftime break.
UK head coach Mark Stoops was not happy with Rodriguez and the fumble at the time.
“Why take them off the hook? If they weren’t going to stop it, why stop? And we drove it straight down the field and we should have, you know, killed clock,” Stoops said. “And, again, had a great chance to ice it — you know, not ice it, but get a big lead there.”
The UK coach knows that his team cannot make those kinds of mistakes moving forward.
“You know, we can’t fumble the football. There’s no excuse for that,” Stoops said. “And we got a chance to really put a fork in them. You know what I mean? And you can’t do it.”
Rodriguez immediately redeemed himself in the second half. After a Jacquez Jones interception gave the Cats the ball in Missouri territory, Rodriguez rumbled for 31 yards to the MU three. Then, he punched it in, his third touchdown of the game, to extend the lead to two scores.
But when the Cats needed Rodriguez, in the second half, the bruising back was at his best. Rodriguez rushed for 45 yards in the third quarter, then 59 more in the fourth. In the process, he set career highs for rushing attempts (27) and rushing yards (206) in a game.
Stoops knows how important Rodriguez is to the UK offensive attack.
“He had, what, 206 yards? Yeah, I guess he got that fixed,” Stoops said. “I mean, those are the type of kids we have in our program. You know, they understand. It’s not about any of us in — you know, any individual. You know, it’s for the greater cause. And, you know, he understands that. Hey, we lean on him. We need him.”
And as the season moves on, it will be beneficial to the Cats if Rodriguez plays the hero much more often then he plays the goat.