The Kentucky Wildcats picked up their third victory of the 2020 season Saturday as they defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores 38-35 in an unexpected track meet. UK picked up the win while playing with a heavy heart as they honored offensive line coach John Schlarman who died Thursday after a two-year fight with cancer. 

Here’s a recap of all the action:

FIRST QUARTER 

Kentucky would start the day on offense after Vanderbilt won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. After taking a delay penalty that was declined by the Commodores to honor Schlarman, the Wildcats offense went to work.

A.J. Rose took the first play from scrimmage 11 yards for a first down and two plays later ran for 15 yards to move UK into Vanderbilt territory. Kentucky would move inside the Commodores 25 yard-line after Terry Wilson connected with DeMarcus Harris for seven yards and then ran twice for a combined 10 yards. A few plays later, the Wildcats would find the end zone as Wilson delivered a 15-yard touchdown pass to Justin Rigg, putting the Wildcats up 7-0 early.

Vanderbilt’s opening possession would start at their own one-yard line after kick-returner Elijah Hamilton signaled for a fair-catch at the one-yard line after a Chance Poore kickoff nearly went out of bounds. The Dores’ would use their run game to get out of their own end zone as Keyon Henry-Brooks ran on each of the first five plays of the drive for a combined 18 yards. However, the drive would stall as a Ken Seals third-down pass was completed to Cam Johnson was stopped two yards short of the marker forcing a punt.

UK’s ensuing possession would begin at their own 32-yard line where on first down, Wilson connected with Harris for 10-yards and a first down. Four plays later, the Wildcats would roll the dice as on fourth down and one from the Vandy 49-yard line, they opted to go for it and used a two-run Chris Rodriguez run to convert. After a pass interference penalty on Vanderbilt’s Hamilton, the Cats hit pay dirt as Wilson bounced to the outside for a 32-yard touchdown run, putting UK in front 14-0.

The Commodores’ next drive would begin from their own 26-yard line. They’d quickly move across midfield as Seals ran for eight yards and Henry-Brooks picked up a combined 14 yards on four carries. The quarter would come to a close with Vanderbilt facing a third down and seven from the UK 49-yard line.

Score After First Quarter: Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt, 0 

SECOND QUARTER

On the first play of the second quarter, Vanderbilt caught a break as Jamar “Boogie” Watson was called for a face mask penalty on a third down play that saw UK stop. Vandy short of the first. Vanderbilt would cash in on the next play as Seals connected with Chris Pierce Jr. for a 34-yard touchdown pass to cut the Kentucky lead to 14-7.

Looking to answer back, Kentucky opened its first drive of the second quarter with a 10-yard Rodriguez run for a first down. Three plays later, Rodriguez would explode for 27-yards as he set up a UK first down at the Vanderbilt 34-yard line. On the next play, Wilson found Isaiah Epps for eight-yards marking Epps’ first catch since 2018 after he missed all of 2019 and much of the 2020 season with multiple injuries. Two plays later, UK again found the end zone as Wilson hit Keaton Upshaw for a 21-yard touchdown strike to extend the lead to 21-7.

Vanderbilt would again use their run game to move the chains on their next drive as a six-yard Henry-Brooks on second and short gave the Dores’ a quick first down. On third and 11 three plays later, Vanderbilt found a way to move the chains as Seals hit Ben Bresnahan for 12-yards to their own 47-yard line. Vandy would promptly move the ball downfield as Seals hit Amir Abdur-Rahman for 20-yards to the UK 30. Later in the drive, Vandy would move to the UK two-yard line where they faced a fourth and goal. Derek Mason elected to roll the dice, which would payoff as Mike Wright checked in at quarterback and hit Bresnahan for a touchdown pass to cut the Kentucky lead back to seven at 21-14. 

Kentucky would open their ensuing possession with field position as Zach Johnson returned the Vanderbilt kickoff 33-yards to the 45-yard line. On the first play of the drive, UK moved to the Vanderbilt 40-yard line as Kavosiey Smoke ran for 15-yards and would move to the Vandy 30 after a Wilson pass to Josh Ali and Rose run combined for 10 yards. Two plays later, the Wildcats would be backed up as Smoke and Rigg were called for a chop block and then on the play after were moved back to their own side of the field after Austin Dotson was called for holding. UK would not let this stop the drive as on third and 26, Wilson escaped a sack and ran for 27-yards to pick up a first down at the Vanderbilt 19-yard line with 34 seconds left in the half. With three seconds left in the half, Kentucky was forced to settle for a Poore 28-yard field goal as they took a 24-14 lead into the halftime locker room.

Halftime Score: Kentucky 24, Vanderbilt, 14

THIRD QUARTER

Vanderbilt’s drive to open the second half would be short lived as Kentucky’s defense forced them three and out.

Ali would return the Commodores punt 39-yards to the Vanderbilt 26-yard line setting up the Wildcats on the edge of the red zone. They’d quickly move inside the 20 after a three-yard Rose run was followed by a nine-yard Wilson pass to Harris. Later in the drive, Kentucky would find the end zone as Rodriguez punched in a three-yard touchdown run to put UK ahead 31-14.

The Commodores offense would generate some momentum on their ensuing possession as Seals hit Abdur-Rahman for 11-yards, which was followed by three straight Henry-Brooks runs, moving the Dores’ to their own 47-yard line. Vandy would promptly move into UK territory as Seals hit Bresnahan for 22-yards to the UK 33-yard line. Later in the drive, Vanderbilt would move inside the UK 10-yard line after Seals hit Abdur-Rahman for 10-yards on a third down play. On fourth and goal from the two, Mason again rolled the dice and had his decision pay off as Wright escaped the pocket for a two-yard touchdown run to cut the UK lead to 31-21.

Kentucky would use Rodriguez to kickoff their next drive as he picked up a combined 17 yards carrying on each of the first four plays of the drive. The Cats would pick up just one down on the drive; however, as Colin Goodfellow replacing an inactive Max Duffy was forced to punt. His punt traveled 41-yards to the Vanderbilt 17-yard line.

With one second left in the quarter, Henry-Brooks picked up nine-yards on a first down run setting up the Dores’ with a second and one from their own 26-yard line.

Score After Third Quarter: Kentucky 31, Vanderbilt, 21 

FOURTH QUARTER

Set up just a yard away from a first down, Henry-Brooks picked up two-yards on third and one for a first down. Henry-Brooks would move the Dores’ near midfield on the next play as he picked up 20-yards to the Vanderbilt 48-yard line. Vanderbilt would soon cross midfield but not get much further as on third down, Watson and Josh Paschal teamed up for a sack forcing a Dores’ punt with 10:51 to play.

UK’s ensuing possession would begin at their own nine-yard line following the punt. On the first play of the drive, disaster was averted as Wilson fumbled after an 11-yard run, but Rigg was able to recover at the bottom of a pile consisting mostly of gold Vanderbilt jerseys. Two plays later, Rodriguez wearing Chris Oats‘ No. 22 made the play of the day as he broke free for a 74-yard touchdown run to push Kentucky’s lead to 38-21 with 9:14 left in the game.

Kentucky’s defense would force a three and out on Vanderbilt’s ensuing drive forcing another Commodores punt. Up 17 points with 8:20 to play, UK decided to rest Wilson and allow true freshman Beau Allen to make his collegiate debut. Allen’s first career pass would be completed for 14-yards to fellow true freshman Michael Drennan II which was followed by a 20-yard completion to Upshaw to move UK to the Vanderbilt 43-yard line. The drive would fizzle out; however, after two straight incompletions and a short pass to Bryce Oliver, the Cats would be forced to punt back to Vanderbilt with 5:41 to play. 

Looking to cut the gap, Seals hit Bresnahan for 14-yards and Craig for seven to generate momentum on Vanderbilt’s ensuing possession. Vanderbilt would quickly move into the red zone and after a pass interference against M.J. Devonshire, were set up with first and goal from the two-yard line. There, Mitchell Pryor punched in a two-yard touchdown run to cut the UK lead to 38-28 with 3:13 to play.

Looking to put the game away, Joey Gatewood entered the game at quarterback. The drive would go almost nowhere as the Cats went three and out after three Jutahn Mcclain runs combined for just six yards punting back to Vanderbilt with 1:29 to play. 

Vanderbilt would again drive down the field on their ensuing possession as they liked to pull within one score. Seals completions to Johnson, Pryor, Abdur-Rahman helped move the Dores’ to the UK seven-yard line. There, Seals found Johnson in the end zone for a seven-yard score to pull Vanderbilt within three at 38-35 with 30 seconds to play.

Out of timeouts, Vanderbilt attempted an onsides kick in a last ditch effort to complete a 17-point comeback but Ali was able to recover for Kentucky clinching a 38-35 win.

Final Score: Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt, 35

MVP: Terry Wilson 

In his return to action, Terry Wilson was terrific for the Wildcats Saturday as he completed 13-15 of his passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns while adding 83 yards and a score on seven rushing attempts. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Chris Rodriguez

It was a career-day for UK running back Chris Rodriguez as he ran for a career-high 149 yards on just 13 carries, which included a career-long 74-yard touchdown run.

PHOTO: UK ATHLETICS

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