Stoops not surprised by Johnson’s toughness


Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops waves to fans during the Cat Walk prior to the game against Tennessee at Kroger Field on Saturday, October 28, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won 29 to 26. Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

Jacob Heheman

For just the second time in the last 33 matchups, Kentucky defeated the Tennessee Volunteers. When Tennessee receiver Jeff George caught a hail mary pass, he was tackled short of the goal line when the clock hit triple zeroes.

The win catapulted the Wildcats to a 6-2 overall record, clinching bowl eligibility with four games left in the regular season. The win was a big one for the Cats, and head coach Mark Stoops said beating Tennessee is part of reshaping Kentucky football. 

“You don’t just beat somebody twice in 33 years just because,” Stoops said. “You’re changing a culture.”

Despite being -4 in the turnover margin, Kentucky found a way to win thanks to its success in the running game. Running back Benny Snell rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Stephen Johnson ran for 84 yards including the game-winning score. 

Stoops was very pleased with Snell’s performance against the Volunteers.

“Benny played his best game by far,” Stoops said. “He was much more detailed and much more accurate in what he was doing, both in running the football and his protections.” 

Read: Benny Snell has a breakout game against Tennessee

With his team trailing 26-21 in the final minute, Johnson’s pass on first-and-10 from the 11-yard line went incomplete to C.J. Conrad. On second down, Johnson chose to run the ball himself and dove for the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning, touchdown.

Early in the third quarter, Johnson injured his left shoulder after a run for 34 yards and was forced to go to the locker room. Stoops was not surprised when he reentered the game.

“You just have to admire Stephen and his toughness and his determination,” Stoops said. “It doesn’t surprise any of us. I think he was kind of mad that he had to go in (the locker room).”

Read: Johnson has his biggest game yet against Tennessee

Johnson will not be available to practice Monday or Tuesday, but will be ready to play Saturday against Ole Miss. After seeing him Sunday, Stoops said Johnson was still banged up from the game.

“He was beat up pretty good,” Stoops said. “Normally once in a while, Stephen and some of the boys will, they’ll all go bowling.”

Stoops advised Johnson to skip the bowling trip this week.

“I looked at him and I was like ‘you better not bowl today.’”