Cats Get A Road Win
On Saturday Kentucky hit the road for the first time in 2023. Although, it was a short drive of only three hours to Nashville. In a change from previous games, Mark Stoops’ club started strong but failed once again to put a full four quarters together. At the end of the day a win is a win and let’s break it down as Kentucky beats Vanderbilt 45-28.
Finally A Fast Start
In our game preview, we talked about how the Wildcats have had trouble getting out of the blocks. However, on Saturday they put it all together. At least for the first 25 minutes. On their first offensive possession, UK went 72 yards in eight plays. Ju’than McClain took it the final 36 and it was 7-0 five minutes into the game.
On the ensuing possession, Trevin Wallace forced AJ Swann into a bad pass. Maxwell Hairston picked it off going 29 yards and the Cats were up two scores. A two-yard Ray Davis ran Kentucky up 21 and things were looking good.
Unfortunately faster than Lee Corso can say “Not so fast my friends” the Cats fell apart at the end of the half. Jacob Borcila’s 41-yard field goal got Vandy on the board. Following a three-and-out a bad punt by Wilson Berry gave the Commodores great field position. Aided by two penalties on Hairston, Vandy hit pay dirt on a seven-yard Sedrick Alexander run and all of a sudden it was 24-10 at the break.
In their three previous games, the Cats played much better in the second stanza. Against Vandy, they did the opposite but were lucky. Two punts and an interception only led to three points. Finally, UK got some positive things going.
A D’Eryk Jackson interception and subsequent lateral to Andru Phillips set the Cats up deep in Vandy territory. Davis took it in for his second score and Kentucky led by 18. In his return to Nashville Davis ran for 78 yards and two scores. Not quite the huge numbers he put up last week or in the Commodores’ upset win in Lexington last year.
Devin Leary hit Dane Key with a 22-yard touchdown and suddenly it was 38-13. Unfortunately, the sophomore receiver received an unsportsmanlike penalty for tapping the Vandy defender on the head. Time and time again Kentucky does something positive then a negative happens right after.
Following a Vanderbilt score, Hairston picked off Swann again getting his second pick-six of the day. In the process, he put himself in exclusive company at Kentucky.
Maxwell Hairston is the first Kentucky player in school history to have 2 interception return touchdowns in one game
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) September 23, 2023
In addition, Hairston became the first SEC player since 2015 to have two interception returns for a score. A Vandy score at garbage time rounded things out as Kentucky beat Vanderbilt 45-28.
With the win, Kentucky moves to 4-0 for a third straight year and 1-0 in the SEC. Stoops goes to 8-3 all-time against Vanderbilt. Next week they return home to host Florida in a noon kick-off. The Wildcats are looking for a third straight win against the Gators for the first time since the 1950s.
On the other side of the ball Vanderbilt drops their third straight and is 2-3 overall and 0-1 in league play. They host Missouri next week.
While there’s a lot to like with a 4-0 start there are still plenty of things Stoops can work on in practice. As we mentioned earlier the team hasn’t put together a consistent four quarters yet. With the schedule only getting harder from here on out inconsistency won’t cut it.
Looking for positives from the game it’s the most points Kentucky’s scored in a road conference game since 2005 when they beat Vandy 48-43. In addition, we’ve talked about the sophomore slump with Key and Barion Brown. On Saturday they both had much better games. Playing only two miles from where he grew up Brown led the Cats with four receptions for 105 yards. Key also had four catches for 58 yards and a score. However, he did have the penalty after his score.
On the other side of the ball, Brad White’s defense held Swann to 189 yards passing. They also had three interceptions including two for touchdowns for the first time since the Tennessee game in 2020.
Thanks for checking out our recap as Kentucky beats Vanderbilt 45-28. We’ll be back soon with a preview of the big one against the Gators.