Kentucky Football: Wildcat defense stands tall while Rose is MVP in Gator Bowl win

Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
Kentucky Wildcats. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /
1 of 6

Kentucky football defense and Rose shine in Gator Bowl win.

Kentucky Football capped off the 2020 season riding its defense and Asim Rose to a 23-21 victory over the No. 23 North Carolina State in a game that became ugly at times. Flags were plentiful, and many will probably remember this game not at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl but as the “Unsportsmanlike Bowl.”

The score wasn’t reflective of the outcome of the game, Kentucky appeared to be in the driver’s seat for the entire game but as usual, couldn’t seem to put away the Wolfpack.

However, with the win, Kentucky represented the Southeastern Conference well in handing the ACC its fifth 2020 bowl loss in as many tries. It also was the Wildcats’ third straight bowl victory and are 11-9 all-time.

With the defense picking off quarterback Bailey Hoffman three times it was pretty evident early on that offensively Kentucky would lean on the running game and clock management.

The Wildcats came out of the gate with a drive that lasted nearly nine minutes ending with a 25-yard field goal from Matt Ruffolo. The running game proved extremely effective early on, Kentucky was able to rush the ball at will against a gassed Wolfpack defense.

Kentucky rushers were able to eat up 281 yards on the ground, with A.J. Rose racking up 148 yards, Chris Rodriguez Jr with 84 yards and both Kentucky touchdowns, and Kavosiey Smoke running for 45. Rose was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Stoops was pleased with the offensive effort and for Rose’s big game.

"“It was really big. I was really happy for him and proud of A.J.He’s been there, he’s been consistent. Really happy for him, really proud of him. He’s been here for a long time, he’s helped us win a lot of games. He just always worried about his game and himself and I’m happy he went out that way.”"

It was a strong night for the special teams as well with Ruffalo was perfect on all three field-goal attempts and punter Max Duffy showed his nifty punting as well pinning NC State deep multiple times.