By KEITH PEEL
This Kentucky football team seems to love adversity. Take last Saturday for instance. The UK offense was struggling against Vanderbilt — a team that is winless in the SEC. The Kentucky defense was pitching a shutout except for two turnovers by the offense. It’s crunch time in the fourth quarter. The UK offense had just driven down the field on a 12-play, 80-yard drive to put the Cats ahead 14-7. All on the backs of Benny Snell and the offensive line.
Then with time running out and Vanderbilt attempting to put together a drive of its own for a game tying touchdown the UK defense was called on to step up to the adversity created by the poor play of the Kentucky offense earlier in the game.
And in what has come to characterize this team — in a big time situation with the season in the balance — UK outside linebacker Josh Allen came off the edge and sacked Vanderbilt quarterback Kyle Shurmer and stripped the ball loose with about a minute to play and Kentucky holding on to a 7 point lead.
That play once again showed what this Wildcat team is all about. Toughness and grit with a lot of confidence thrown in. Allen said after the game, “Big time players make big time plays in big time situations.” He said that’s the motto that he lives by. He and Benny Snell, Jr. must share the same motto because they both made big time plays with the game on the line.
Some may say, “Yes but the game should never have gotten to this point.” And they would be right — sort of. Because at the end of the day this is still Kentucky Football we are talking about. A Kentucky Football program that is still learning how to win — as the favorite or the underdog. Even when it doesn’t look pretty. Even when they turn what should have been a relatively easy win into a nail-biter of a win it is still that — a win. A win that moved them up to 12th in the nation, keeps them at the top in the SEC East and makes them bowl eligible.
In fact in past seasons UK would have lost this game. Look no further than last season when coming off of a bye week at 5-1 they laid an egg and got demolished by No. 19 Mississippi State 45-7. They were never even in the game.
Fast forward to this season. UK was 5-1 heading into this game off of a bye week. This time Kentucky was the ranked team and once again they came out and laid an egg — offensively. But as bad as the offense was they still were able to put up enough points to grind out a win and stay in the SEC East race. As bad as the offense was Benny Snell and the offensive line still made big time plays in big time situations. So did Josh Allen. So did Mike Edwards and Kash Daniel. So did Davonte Robinson and Quinton Bohanna.
You get the picture. It took a cast of thousands to win this game. From the fans in the stands to the multitude of coaches and players on the field. And that’s what UK Football is about right now. Team work and complete dedication to winning. Yes, some players get the headlines but all players get to share in the glory of being one of the best UK Football teams since 1977. And from their comments that seems to be the goal.
Here’s what Josh Allen had to say, “We wanted to be one of the best teams in the country,” Allen said. “Right now, we have a lot of short-term goals to get to the long-term goals so we’re going to keep winning and keep doing what we do.”
And that’s the name of the game. Keep winning. Don’t listen to the outside chatter about “ugly” games or not not being good enough or any of the rest of it. Just stay true to the game plan and keep putting in the work.
For a team that has a 6-1 record and is currently ranked No. 12 in the country it seems to be working.