Football Cats Fall at Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Kentucky rushed for the second-most yards in a game in school history, but it wasn’t enough as the Wildcats lost to Tennessee 49-36 on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
Kentucky (5-5, 4-4 SEC) had five players with at least 72 yards rushing apiece. Junior Boom Williams led the way with 127 yards on 16 carries, but he had plenty of help in the run game. Jojo Kemp (90 yards rushing), Benny Snell (79), Sihiem King (75) and Stephen Johnson (72) all had big efforts for Kentucky as well.

In all, the Wildcats racked up 635 yards of total offense in the game, the seventh-highest in school history. Kentucky also outgained Tennessee 635-598. But Tennessee took better advantage of its scoring opportunities to earn the victory.

Tennessee went three-and-out on its first possession of the game, but punter Trevor Daniel got off a 56-yard punt that Charles Walker muffed, setting Kentucky up on its own 15 yard line.

But that did not deter the Wildcats in any way. On its first play from scrimmage, the Wildcats turned to Johnson, who faked a handoff and scampered 75 yards to the Tennessee 10. On the next play, Williams rushed right and into the end zone, giving Kentucky a 7-0 lead.

Tennessee immediately answered Kentucky’s score with one of its own. Quarterback Josh Dobbs had a 41-yard rush, setting the Vols up deep in Kentucky territory. Then Dobbs hit Josh Smith with a 24-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 7-7.

After the teams exchanged punts, Kentucky assembled its second scoring drive of the game. Snell had a 27-yard rush that set the Wildcats up, but the drive stalled and Kentucky settled for a 37-yard field goal by Austin MacGinnis, making it 10-7 Kentucky.

But Tennessee had the answer once again, as the Vols drove 75 yards in just six plays with Dobbs finishing the drive with a one-yard touchdown run to give Tennessee its first lead, 14-10.

On its next drive, Kentucky turned to Snell, who drove the Wildcats down the field out of the Wildcat formation. Kentucky got inside the Tennessee five yard line, but was forced into a 25-yard field goal that MacGinnis made, cutting the lead to 14-13.

Tennessee had yet another answer, driving 79 yards in seven plays, culminating with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dobbs to tight end Ethan Wolf, lifting Tennessee to a 21-13 lead. That would be the halftime score.

Kentucky opened the second half with another scoring drive. The Wildcats covered 59 yards in eight plays, and MacGinnis connected again, this time from 33 yards out, cutting the Tennessee lead to 21-16.

But as they did all day, Tennessee had an answer, this time on a trick play. Dobbs handed off to running back John Kelly, who pitched it back to Dobbs. The Vols’ quarterback threw a deep ball, connecting with Josh Malone for a 51-yard touchdown, giving Tennessee a 28-16 lead.

On the next drive, Kentucky once again moved the ball into scoring territory. But on third-and-goal from the four yard line, Snell fumbled and Tennessee recovered, ending the Kentucky threat. 

After Tennessee extended its lead to 35-16, the Wildcats showed that they wouldn’t go away quietly. Senior running back Jojo Kemp ripped off a 71-yard touchdown run to cut into the lead. Kentucky’s two-point conversion attempt was no good, keeping the score at 35-22.

Tennessee (7-3, 4-3) would stretch the lead to 49-22, but Kentucky added a pair of late touchdown runs by King (24 yards) and Johnson (two yards).

Kentucky returns to action next Saturday against Austin Peay at Commonwealth Stadium. Kickoff for Kentucky’s home finale is set for 4:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.