Kentucky football: seniors finish with a win but now what

Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Kentucky football finished its regular season defeating South Carolina but now more questions loom.

In true Kentucky football fashion, they had visiting South Carolina right where they wanted them Saturday night after a spirited first half full of takeaways, scoring, and excitement.

Then the second half began.

They led 27-3 at the half only to let off the gas and nearly let the Gamecocks garner momentum. However, Christopher Rodriguez’s 79-yard touchdown run gave the 19 seniors a fitting win and sendoff on senior night.

Kentucky fans have seen this time and time again so let’s now dwell on that for now.

There were many good things to finish within a season that one never knew if there would be games from week to week. Yet the Wildcats managed to get all their regular-season games in without missing a single week.

That alone should be commended.

The Wildcats finished their all-SEC schedule with a 4-6 record. Easily 6-4 was attainable except for puzzling losses to Ole Miss and Missouri that were there for the taking.

Kentucky has now won four SEC games four of the past five years, something that hasn’t happened before. They also have had blowouts in the finale the last three years the past two against Louisville 56-10 and 45-13.

Still, against South Carolina (2-8), they rolled up 492 total yards to 402 for the Gamecocks. Rushing was nearly even with South Carolina getting the slight edge at 297-291. But senior Terry Wilson completed 17 of 26 passes for 201 yards and the defense camee up with three fumble recoveries and an interception that sealed the win.

Jordan Wright came away with two fumble recoveries and senior Kordell Looney one as well. Junior Yusuf Corker picked off one of Luke Doty‘s 25 pass attempts.

The win vaulted coach Mark Stoops ( 48-50) past Fran Curci (47-51-2) into second place in all-time wins at Kentucky. Only the great Bear Bryant (60-23-4) has more.

Christopher Rodriguez Jr. is the stud of this team

When Rodriguez is at his best there is no stopping the sophomore.

The dude is an absolute stud on the field and so much fun to watch. When he comes to the sideline he always seems to find his coaches and not a seat first.

He runs just like former Wildcat Benny Snell, who is now playing in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers. That hard-nosed, north to south running style that is a load to bring down runningback lights a fire under his teammates – yet usually with a smile.

While Kentucky would still not have likely beaten Florida or Alabama the past two weeks had Rodriguez been healthy just having him on the field changes the completion of the Wildcat offense.

In the eight games he played in 2020 he carried it 101 times, gaining 701 yards (6.9 yards per carry), and tallied nine touchdowns including long scores of 79 and 74 yards.

Despite having Lynn Bowden last year carry it much of the time Rodriquez did have 533 yards on 71 carries and six touchdowns.

The 2021 season has to run through Rodriguez.

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson just what will his legacy be?
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson just what will his legacy be? /

What is Terry Wilson’s legacy?

If there was your typical non-Covid 19 talk around the water cooler debate it would be just what is the legacy that Wilson will leave in Lexington.

Some say he was just an average quarterback. Some say we should have gone to Joey Gatewood or Beau Allen more this season as Wilson’s ability to complete passes downfield was non-existent. Then there are those who have been Touchdown Terry all the way.

In Wilson’s final game he was mistake-free without a turnover. Besides his passing, he carried 14 times for 46 yards and one touchdown.

He also completed three passes to fellow senior Justin Rigg who has a career night with 79 receiving yards.

Yet there were many instances where his in-game decisions seemed to make fans scratch their heads. As in many games and against South Carolina he seemed to lose sight of where the first down marker was.

But for all the bewildering plays there are the stats that won’t lie in his legacy on the Kentucky record books.  And had he not gotten hurt last year what could he have done more of and what did it do to his confidence.

Midway through the third quarter he scrambled up the middle and solidified himself as the 40th Kentucky player to rush for over 1,000 yards.

More pages in the Wildcat lore will note that Wilson is the first Kentucky player to ever have 3,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a career.

He also will finish as just the third Kentucky quarterback to throw for 20 touchdowns and rush for 10 or more. The others are Jarred Lorenzon and Tim Couch.

Now the looming questions

Offensive co-ordinator – What is the future of the coaching staff? The other debate is the future of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Week in and week out Gran’s play-calling comes into question. Is it his play selection or is the lack of players or is it the defensive-minded Stoops handcuffing him to open up the offense.

If they replace him is it just because they want to move in a different direction with the dynamic Allen and Gatewood under center or maybe disgruntled players?

Hire a special teams coach The woeful special teams have plagued this team all year and sure enough, it came up again against South Carolina.

For the second straight week, we were fake-punted out of our shoes. We muffed a kickoff and consistently all year let kickoff returners break free for big gains.

Go Bowling or not -There were some grumblings whether this team would accept a bowl bid being the length of this year and uncertainty with Gran. Players seem enthused to play after the South Carolina win at least the seniors getting one final opportunity. That should come more into focus later this week now that this regular season has come to a close.