Weather conditions freeze UK’s offense against Vanderbilt


Lynn Bowden Jr. attempts to break a tackle during the game Vanderbilt on Saturday, October 20, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

It was a cold, windy night at Kroger Field for the 54,269 fans watching Kentucky take on Vanderbilt, and the weather conditions affected Kentucky’s offense as much as it affected the fans.

Up to 50 mile-per-hour gusts and near freezing temperatures prohibited Kentucky’s offense from having much success, specifically in the passing game. Terry Wilson only attempted nine passes, completing three of them, all of which were to Lynn Bowden for 18 yards.

Out of the offense’s 62 plays run, the Wildcats ran the ball 53 times. 

“When it’s (wind) going like that, there’s really nothing else you could do,” Terry Wilson said after the game, who finished with a season-low pass-completion percentage, pass attempts and passing yards. “We just let Benny (Snell) do what he does and work.” 

Snell carried the ball 32 times against the Commodores, which is the third time in his career he’s had over 30 carries in a game, the first this season. Snell turned those 32 carries into 169 yards and a touchdown.

Snell was the go-to guy on both of UK’s touchdown drives. UK’s first touchdown drive was an 11-play, 48-yard drive and Snell accounted for 39 of those yards on eight carries.

Kentucky’s second touchdown drive didn’t come until the fourth quarter, with the Wildcats still tied with Vanderbilt with 13:43 remaining. On the 12-play, 80-yard drive, Snell was given the ball 10 times and he gained 74 yards on those carries, including the go-ahead touchdown from seven yards out. 

“That’s Benny Snell football, if its 20 carries, 30 carries plus, I’m going to make it happen,” Snell said. “That’s what I want, I want the ball in my hands.” 

With the wind the way it was, it made sense to give Snell the ball so many times, but that was the game plan long before the Wildcats showed up to the stadium

“We ran the ball 53 times, we felt like going into it, it needed to a 50 (carry) night, at least plus, maybe even get it into the 60s” offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. 

Aside from Snell leading the two touchdown drives, the offense struggled. The Wildcats only accumulated 170 drives on the other 10 drives while three of those drives ended after three plays.

Kentucky also coughed up the ball on its first two possessions, the first of which set up Vanderbilt for its only touchdown of the game.

This is the first time Kentucky has given up a fumble since playing Florida in early September, and the second time this season the Wildcats have given up multiple fumbles in a game. 

Coming into the game, Kentucky only given up two turnovers in the last four games, but the tough conditions influenced the Wildcats to revert back to old habits. 

“If we don’t have a ball thrown behind the line of scrimmage, we don’t put a ball on the ground on that first drive, it’s a different football game, I really believe that,” Gran said. “There’s no excuses for that, we can’t do that anymore.”

The wind also affected the kicking game, as Miles Butler missed his only field goal attempt of the night from 39 yards out. The howling wind was at his back, but the kick still came up short off to the left.

After the game, head coach Mark Stoops said he was prepared to let freshman Chance Poore kick the field goal if Vanderbilt had stopped the fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

Even with all the mistakes, the defense and weather limited Vanderbilt to seven points thanks to two fourth quarter turnovers, which was enough to secure the close win.

As Kentucky puts this game behind them, they know the offense needs to improve as tough SEC opponents lie ahead, but first and foremost, they’ll take the win.

“Never going to apologize for a victory, certainly there are things we need to do better, we always do that,” Stoops said. “Win or lose, we’re going to go back to work, look at ourselves, look at things we can do better.”