Rapid Reaction: Kentucky bowl eligible after thumping UT-Martin
Kentucky didn’t win any style points, but did win its sixth game of the year on Saturday in a sloppy 50-7 victory over FCS foe Tennessee-Martin to become bowl eligible. The Wildcats took the lead on the first play of the game from scrimmage and never relinquished it en route to a victory fueled by defense and a record-setting ground game.
The victory lacked aesthetic merit, taking place in a half-empty stadium in a steady drizzle, it guaranteed bowl eligibility for the Wildcats for the fourth consecutive season under coach Mark Stoops.
Kentucky broke a school record with 462 yards rushing. The school’s single-game rushing record, 446 yards against Tennessee Tech, has stood since 1951. That Kentucky team was coached by Bear Bryant.
On the game’s first play from scrimmage, UT-Martin center Austin Newsom snapped the ball over the head of Skyhawks QB John Bacchus. Bacchus picked up the ball and flung a desperation pass out of his own end zone, but it was ruled to be intentional grounding and thus a safety for UK.
After a three-and-out by UK, UT-Martin again got generous when Newsom launched another snap over the quarterback. While Bacchus lazily pursued the ball in the end zone, UK safety Yusuf Corker fell on it for a Wildcats touchdown, giving UK a 9-0 advantage just 2:08 into the game.
Less than two a half minutes later, UK struck again on a 63-yard TD run for back A.J. Rose, who surpassed 100 rushing yards in the game’s first half. Kentucky extended its advantage with two rushing touchdowns from Lynn Bowden in the second quarter, taking a 29-0 halftime advantage. Bowden also surpassed 100 yards rushing early in the third quarter, finishing with 129 rushing yards on 11 carries before making an early exit from the game.
Kentucky (6-5) continued to grind offensively, adding a 2-yard touchdown run from running back Chris Rodriguez with 14 seconds left in the third quarter. Freshmen Travis Tisdale and Tyler Markray added late rushing touchdowns as well.
UT-Martin entered the scoring column on a 6-yard run from senior running back Jaimmee Bowe with 11:07 to play, which trimmed Kentucky’s lead to 36-7. The loss dropped UT-Martin to 7-5 for the season.
Kentucky’s defense did its part to hold advantage over UT-Martin, holding the visitors to just three first downs and 10 total yards in the first half. Kentucky had amassed six sacks at intermission, and controlled the game from the outset, albeit with some help from offense stumbles by UT-Martin, which wound up with minus-17 yards rushing.
Kentucky’s fourth consecutive season with a bowl appearance will be one shy of the program’s best such mark, a run of five years from 2006 to 2010. The Wildcats will finish the season next week at home against a bowl-eligible Louisville squad, in a game that could help or hurt Kentucky in moving up or down the SEC’s bowl ladder.