Stoops hopeful Vandy win will give team confidence down the stretch


Head coach Mark Stoops of the Kentucky Wildcats watches the Cats score a touchdown during the game against Vanderbilt University on Saturday, November 11, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. Kentucky won 44 to 21. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Jacob Heheman

In a season filled with close calls and a couple of devastating losses, the Cardiac Cats calmed Big Blue Nation’s nerves with a convincing victory in Nashville last weekend.

The Kentucky Wildcats throttled the Vanderbilt Commodores by a final score of 44-21. The win improved Kentucky’s record to 7-3, its first such start since 2007. The Cats will take that 7-3 record to Athens, Georgia, this weekend to take on a Georgia team who just suffered its first loss of the season to Auburn. 

Kentucky rebounded with its largest victory of the season after suffering a crushing loss to Ole Miss the week prior. Head coach Mark Stoops had no doubt his team would respond positively.

“It does not surprise me with the character of this football team,” Stoops said. “Hopefully we can continue to build on this and play our best football here down the home stretch.”

If Kentucky is going to upset Georgia this weekend, one of the keys to the game will be slowing down the Bulldogs’ dynamic rushing duo.

Senior Nick Chubb is Georgia’s leading rusher with 894 yards and senior Sony Michel is close behind with 731 rushing yards. Both players have 19 combined touchdowns this season.

Stoops said Chubb and Michel are monster backs and really high-quality players. Stoops is also impressed with Georgia’s physicality.

“They want to pound the football,” Stoops said. “They have a very talented young quarterback and very explosive outsides, so they always put that stress on you.” 

Looking to counter the Bulldogs’ explosive running backs is Benny Snell Jr.

Against Vanderbilt, Snell became the record holder for most rushing touchdowns at Kentucky in just his second year with the team, passing Moe Williams and Sonny Collins. Snell also made history by becoming the first Wildcat to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. 

Snell has rushed for at least 116 yards in his last three games, and Stoops said it is the little things that have made the difference.

“Some of the success in the past couple weeks had been going back to some of the details,” Stoops said. “Coach (Eddie) Gran has done a really good job with him.”

While Kentucky has been eliminated from SEC East contention, a win would put the Cats in a tie for second place with South Carolina, with Kentucky holding the tiebreaker after beating the Gamecocks in September. Kickoff against Georgia will be at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.