AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke have balanced game against Arkansas


Kentucky Wildcats running back AJ Rose (10) breaks free from a tackle during the UK vs Arkansas football game on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 24-20. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

Kentucky Football running backs AJ Rose and Kavosiey Smoke come together like yin and yang.

Rose is the yin: He’s gets the most carries, and, at times, the shining attention. Then you have Smoke as the yang: He can be a dark horse and surprise others. They’ll each have their positives and negatives, but that’s how yin and yang come together.  

And that’s exactly how those backs came together in the Cats’ (3-3, 1-3 SEC) 24-20 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-4, 0-3 SEC) at Kroger Field on Saturday night. Just ask UK head coach Mark Stoops.

“I always remember the negative, because that’s what we just do. There was one [run] late that we could have been more patient and hit it, but we were backed up, so you can understand why he [Smoke] was thinking about just getting some yards,” Stoops said after the game. “But overall they [Rose and Smoke] did a really nice job. The backs were very unselfish, they blocked hard on the perimeter, they ran the ball hard.”

Rose found that balance, rushing for 90 yards on 16 carries – his second highest rushing total so far this season – while eluding defenders and breaking multiple tackles at a time. Saturday’s game was a bounce back game for him after rushing for a season-low 33 yards last week.

“We wanted to play for each other. That was a big emphasis. There was a couple runs I left out there, but that’s just part of the game,” Rose said. “We played all four quarters and that’s what we needed to do.”

Smoke ran for 45 yards on 11 carries in what was a bounce back day for him after rushing for a paltry seven rushing yards last week, which was due in part to a migraine headache. He hit a big 25-yard run in the fourth quarter that helped the Cats march downfield for a Lynn Bowden rushing touchdown.

Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said earlier in practice on Tuesday that he wanted to see “more patience” from his running backs. Gran mirrored Stoops’ thoughts on Rose and Smoke after the game.

“Kavosiey cut one play back, and I’ll have to go back and see it. But other than that, we were pretty patient, especially on the inside zone,” Gran said. “On third down, AJ had some really good hits.” 

Having some help doesn’t hurt either. UK’s offensive linemen helped pave the way for the duo, yielding just one penalty in the process. They were able to find a rhythm, even when right tackle Landon Young limped off the field in the third quarter. 

“We were really in sync. That was our game of football. To go out there and rush that many yards, that’s a huge accomplishment for us,” Young said. “We have the confidence to go into every other game and do it again.” 

The Cats aren’t the only ones who saw the duo’s capabilities. Razorbacks’ linebacker Bumper Pool acknowledged the challenge that two brought. 

Achieving that same balance could very well benefit the Cats when they face the No. 3 ranked Georgia Bulldogs at Sanford Stadium next Saturday afternoon.