The Kentucky Wildcats slayed the dragon!
A year after taking a season-opening loss to the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in Lexington, Kentucky traveled down to Hattiesburg knocked off the Golden Eagles, 24-17, to open the 2017-18 campaign.
Stephen Johnson didn’t blow anyone away, but was consistent and solid, completing 11-of-20 passes for 176 yards with one touchdown and throwing zero interceptions. Johnson did what he had to do to keep Kentucky afloat, and that was good enough to pull out the victory on Saturday. Johnson’s biggest play of the afternoon came early in the second quarter. After Denzil Ware picked up a Keon Howard fumble at the USM 14 and Benny Snell ran twice for three yards each time, Johnson finished the job with an eight-yard touchdown on a quarterback draw to get the Wildcats on the board. He also found CJ Conrad for a 23-yard score midway through the second quarter. Conrad finished the day with three catches for 97 yards.
Speaking of Snell, Kentucky would have been on the board earlier in the first quarter, but he fumbled on the USM 3-yard line on UK’s second drive of the game. He finished with 67 yards on 20 carries in his first career game as Kentucky’s premier back.
On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Courtney Love led the way for the Wildcats with nine tackles. Denzil Ware picked up a Kwadra Griggs fumble forced by Darius West and took it to the house late in the third quarter, which ended up being a huge play for a Kentucky team that won by just one score.
Perhaps somewhat alarmingly, the Wildcats mustered just two sacks and one quarterback hit.
If nothing else, it was important for Kentucky to get the season started on the right foot, especially given how last year started against the exact same team. There are some things for the Wildcats to work on, but they have an opportunity to do that against Eastern Kentucky next week before opening SEC play against South Carolina.