Kentucky running backs run wild vs. Charlotte before rivalry game next week
Though snow in Lexington is not uncommon, it very rarely falls while there is still football to be played. As flakes peppered the Commonwealth Stadium turf, the Kentucky Wildcats put on a rushing clinic en route to a 58-10 victory over Charlotte, by far their largest victory of the season.
Mark Stoops finally made the call many Wildcats fans had been asking for for a few weeks now, giving redshirt freshman Drew Barker his first start at quarterback. Though he did not pass for a touchdown and acquired only 129 yards through the air, Barker demonstrated an ability to manage the offense and make good decisions for easy throws rather than trying to force big plays.
He got a lot of help from a laundry list of Kentucky running backs, and the team ended up with 415 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground, easily its most prolific running day yet.
Junior Jojo Kemp had a career-best 165 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 carries, while Stanley “Boom” Williams continued to add to his impressive sophomore season with 140 yards and 2 scores of his own. Williams is now within spitting distance of the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. Reserve freshman running back Sihiem King got in on the action as well as the scoring margin widened, contributing 91 yards on just 5 carries, including a 62-yard scamper for his first career touchdown.
On the defensive side, the Wildcats were able to render Charlotte quarterback Brooks Barden ineffective. The quarterback completed just 11 of 25 passes for just 87 yards and 2 interceptions. He did have a 3-yard touchdown pass to Zach Bumgarner for the final score of the game, but that was against Kentucky’s reserves on defense and a relaxed coverage scheme. Freshman cornerback Mike Edwards recorded one of the picks, returning his first career interception for a touchdown.
With starter Austin MacGinnis out of the game, backup kicker Miles Butler filled in and made all 10 of his kicks, including three field goals and seven extra points. The 5-foot-9 freshman also boomed a career-long 46-yard field goal in the second quarter.
The win puts Stoops and the ‘Cats within one game of their first bowl season since 2010. What puts more pressure on Kentucky to win the regular-season finale is the fact that the final test is against none other than Bobby Petrino and the Louisville Cardinals.
The in-state rivalry always sees an increased level of intensity from both sides, and this year should be no different. Louisville, like Kentucky, has experienced a year full of ups and downs, and both teams would love nothing more than to end the regular season on the very high note that comes with taking down their arch-rival.
The Charlotte game served as a high-speed practice of sorts for Stoops and his team to work out the kinks before the most important game of the season. Barker was able to get his feet under him at the quarterback position, and the running attack proved to be deeper than first imagined.