Offensive Explosion Leads Kentucky Past New Mexico State
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Benjamin Snell Jr. ran for four touchdowns and Stephen Johnson added three TD passes to lead Kentucky to a 62-42 win over New Mexico State on Saturday.
The victory didn't come easily - it was 35-all at halftime - for Kentucky (1-2), which lost its first two games to open the season for the first time in 20 years. Kentucky outscored New Mexico State 27-7 in the second half to avoid its third straight loss.
"It feels great and it feels phenomenal," Johnson said. "At this level and in the Southeastern Conference, every game is a big game."
Kentucky starting quarterback Drew Barker injured his right leg after throwing an interception on the first series and didn't return. After a shaky start, Johnson settled down in Barker's absence to steer the Wildcats in front of 49,669 fans, the smallest in coach Mark Stoops' four-year tenure.
Johnson was 17-of-22 passing for 310 yards, and added 51 yards rushing. Snell, a third-string freshman, finished with 136 yards and tied a school record for rushing touchdowns. Stanley Boom Williams added 181 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.
Stoops lauded the play of Johnson, who relieved Barker and led Kentucky to its only touchdown in a 45-7 loss at Florida last Saturday.
"It was good to see Stephen come in and play like that," Stoops said. "To see him play like he did was really good. I thought he calmed down and made some good decisions -- early on it was a little rough. He settled in and he has a lot of poise."
Stoops wasn't surprised by Snell's performance and said Snell has competed at a high level since he arrived on campus this fall.
"He plays much more mature than a true freshman," Stoops said. "That's really good to see."
New Mexico State's (1-2) Tyler Rogers was 16 of 33 for 246 yards passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.