Big Blue Wall paves way to emotional win over Vandy


Shane Shackleford

By Shane Shackleford, Sports Columnist

On an emotional day at Kroger Field on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats paid tribute to their late offensive line coach John Schlarman the best way they knew how by dominating the Vanderbilt Commodores at the line of scrimmage in a 38-35 victory.

After a moment of silence for Schlarman, the Kentucky offense took a delay of game, leaving Schlarman’s left guard position open.  Senior left tackle Landon Young paid tribute to his position coach’s memory by wearing his number 65 in the contest.

The Cats (3-4) had success through the air and on the ground.  The Cats offensive line, which has 115 starts together, dominated the line of scrimmage, blowing open holes in the rushing game and allowing quarterback Terry Wilson to use his arm and legs to pick up chunks of yardage against the Vanderbilt defense (0-6).

Wilson had perhaps his best game of the season, passing for 110 yards and rushing for 83 more yards after missing the last game against Georgia due to injury.  For the game, Kentucky had 458 yards of total offense.

The UK running game had a nice afternoon, rushing for 308.  Sophomore back Chris Rodriguez led the team with 149 yards, 74 of which on a long touchdown run that iced the win for the Cats.

But the day was about honoring the memory of Schlarman, the architect of the “Big Blue Wall”.  The Cats offensive line did that the best way they knew how; pave the way for the team to achieve victory.

Up next for UK is a trip to Tuscaloosa next Saturday to face the nation’s number one team Alabama.  Game time is set for 4 pm and televised on the SEC Network.

Below are the game notes, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Kentucky Football Postgame Notes

Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt

Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020

Kroger Field – Lexington, Ky.

FINAL SCORE: Kentucky 38, Vanderbilt 35

Team Records and Series Information

  • Kentucky is 3-4 and Vanderbilt is 0-6.

  • Kentucky leads the series 47-42-4 and has won five in a row.

    • It’s the longest win streak vs. VU since winning six in a row from 1976-81.

    • UK has won four games in a row vs. VU in Lexington, longest home win streak vs. the Commodores since four in a row from 1984-90.

  • Next for Kentucky: the Wildcats play at Alabama on Saturday at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. CST in Tuscaloosa) and it will be televised on the SEC Network.

    • Note that the SEC can change each week’s schedule until Monday at 9 p.m.

Team Notes

·         The team honored assistant coach John Schlarman, who died Thursday, by wearing a black sticker on their helmets with the initials “JS” in white letters.

  • Senior offensive tackle Landon Young wore jersey number 65, Schlarman’s number at UK.

  • On the first offensive play, UK took a delay of game penalty, graciously declined by Vanderbilt, as Young took the field wearing Schlarman’s jersey.

·         Coach Mark Stoops posted his 47th win today, tying Fran Curci for second place in UK history.

·         This was Coach Stoops’ 34th home win, breaking the school record of 33 by Paul “Bear” Bryant.

·         This was Coach Stoops’ 23rd SEC win, moving into sole possession of second place in UK history. Curci has the mark with 25 league wins.

·         Since 2016, UK is 14-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer.

·         Kentucky scored on its first five offensive possessions, extending into the third quarter.

·         Kentucky had 458 yards of total offense, averaging 8.3 per offensive play.

    • That’s the highest average vs. an SEC opponent since averaging 8.7 yards per play vs. Vanderbilt in 2010.

  • Kentucky had 308 rushing yards today, averaging 8.8 per attempt, and did not lose yardage on any rushing play.

  • Kentucky has had a 100-yard rusher vs. Vanderbilt for four straight seasons, first time that has happened since 1981-84.

  • UK had three players (Jamin Davis, Marquez Bembry and Yusuf Corker) with at least 10 tackles, first time vs. a Football Bowl Series opponent since 2014 at LSU.

  • UK scored 38 points against Vanderbilt in both 2019 and ’20, first time to tally that many in consecutive seasons vs. an SEC opponent since against VU in 2005 and ’06.

Player Notes

·         UK’s game captain was senior offensive tackle Landon Young.   See note above for more on Young.

·         Senior quarterback Terry Wilson completed 13 of 15 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

  • He completed 86.7 percent, second-best single game completion percentage in school history (min. 10 completions).

  • He also rushed seven times for 83 yards, including a 32-yard TD run and a 27-yard scramble on 3rd-and-26 late in the first half that set up a field goal.

  • This was the third game of his career with at least two passing TDs and one rushing TD.

  • UK scored on six (five TDs, one field goal) of the seven possessions he played.

  • On the seven possessions he played, UK averaged 9.1 yards per play.

  • Now has 925 career rushing yards, most for any UK quarterback with at least 1,700 career passing yards.

·         Sophomore running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. rushed 13 times for a career-high 149 yards and a career-high-tying two touchdowns.

  • TDs included a three-yard run in the third quarter and a career-long 74-yard jaunt in the fourth quarter. The 74-yarder is longest by a UK player vs. Vanderbilt since Derrick Locke’s 83-yarder in 2010.

  • He averaged 11.5 yards per attempt, best for a UK rusher against an SEC opponent (min. 10 carries) since Randall Cobb averaged 17 yards (10 for 170) vs. Vanderbilt in 2010.

  • It is his third 100-yard game of the season and fifth of his career.

  • He has two 100-yard games vs. Vanderbilt, also 129 yards last season.

  • Now has 1,138 career rushing yards, the 39th player in school history to reach 1,000 career yards.

  • He wore uniform number 22 today in honor of teammate Chris Oats, who is dealing with a serious medical condition.

·         True freshman quarterback Beau Allen saw his first varsity action.  He completed 3 of 5 passes for 40 yards.

·         Senior running back A.J. Rose gained 49 yards on only seven carries, averaging 7.0 yards per attempt.

  • Rose now has 1,596 career rushing yards, needs 13 to tie Steve Campassi for 18th place in school history.

·         Redshirt freshman wide receiver DeMarcus Harris tied his career high with four catches and had a career-best 33 yards.

·         Senior wide receiver Josh Ali caught three passes for 15 yards.

  • He also returned two punts for 38 yards, including a career-long 39-yard return in the third quarter that set up a short touchdown drive.

·         Senior tight end Justin Rigg caught a 15-yard touchdown pass on UK’s first offensive possession, his first career TD reception. (It is his second career TD after a fumble recovery for a score last season.)

·         Sophomore tight end Keaton Upshaw had a 21-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, his second of the season and third of his career.

·         Playing his first game since 2018, junior wide receiver Isaiah Epps caught one pass for eight yards.

·         Junior linebacker Jamin Davis had a career-high 15 tackles, his fifth consecutive game with double-figure stops.

  • He also had a one-yard tackle for loss. It is his second-straight game to set a career best, as he had 13 stops vs. Georgia.

  • The last Wildcat with five-consecutive double-figure tackle games was Danny Trevathan, who had nine straight in 2010.

·         Making his first collegiate start, junior linebacker Marquez Bembry had a career-high 10 tackles.

·         Junior safety Yusuf Corker had 10 tackles, the third double-figure game of his career.

·         Senior linebacker Boogie Watson had two tackles and shared a quarterback sack with Josh Paschal.

  • Watson has 17 career sacks, nearing Jeremy Jarmon’s 17.5 sacks for fifth place in school history.

·         Sophomore Chance Poore saw his first action this season as a placekicker. He enjoyed a perfect day, making a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the first half, along with all five extra points.

·         Seeing his first collegiate action, senior punter Colin Goodfellow did a fine job, punting three times for a 46.3-yard average, and there were no return yards.

·         First-time starters were junior offensive guard Austin Dotson and junior linebacker Marquez Bembry.

Vanderbilt Football Postgame Notes

  • Henry-Brooks’ 29 rushing attempts and 121 yards were career highs.

  • Vandy’s 10 third-down conversions marked the first time since Nov. 11, 2017, against Kentucky that the Commodores totaled at least 10 conversions.

  • Wright became the first Vanderbilt quarterback to rush for a touchdown since Kyle Shurmur did so Nov. 11, 2017, against Kentucky.

  • Pierce is the first Vandy receiver to make a touchdown catch in three straight games since Kalija Lipscomb did so during the final game of 2017 and the first two contests is 2018.

  • Vanderbilt dressed 58 scholarship players during Saturday’s contest.

  • Kentucky now leads the all-time series 47-42-4 and has won five in a row against the Commodores.

  • Vandy last won at Kentucky in 2012.

  • Attendance on Saturday was announced as 12,000


    As I sat here in the sticks and thought I was really bored and felt like writing, a thought came to me.

    “Coach Shack, why don’t you do a top ten list of the things you saw in the SEC this week?”  And yes, I talk to myself in the third person like Rickey Henderson did.  But I digress.

    I had been doing five quick takes on Facebook after each Kentucky game, so I think I am going to expand out and briefly touch upon the moments of the week and expand a touch on them.

    So here goes, the inaugural Top Ten Takes from the week that was in SEC football.

    1. A Powerful Moment in Lexington- Whether you are a Kentucky football fan or not, you had to be moved by Kentucky lining up and leaving open on the offensive line the left guard spot occupied by late UK alum and offensive line coach John Schlarman and taking a moment of silence and delay of game call in his honor.  Then All-SEC lineman Landon Young trots on the field wearing Schlarman’s number 65.  Add that to running back Chris Rodriguez wearing Chris Oats’ number 22 and you have something special that goes way beyond football.

    2. Respect for Derek Mason- When UK coach Mark Stoops told Mason of the opening gesture, Mason immediately said he would decline the penalty.  Mason later spoke of his respect for UK football and Schlarman’s family.  That is respect and a pure gentleman.  We get so tied into records and who is on the hot seat (yours truly included), but the college football world needs more men like Derek Mason.  He has my respect.

    3. Did you know that in 2020 Vanderbilt only admitted 9% of students looking to enroll there and tuition is over 80,000 a semester?  I’ll say it again, Vandy is the toughest Power Five coaching gig in America.

    4. Kyle Trask should be the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy over Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.  There, I said it.  What Trask is doing in the nation’s toughest conference is mind-boggling.  Through six games, the Florida quarterback is 125-182 for 1,813 yards and 22 touchdowns.  He’s thrown at least four scores in his last five games.  He has my vote.

    5. Speaking of offense, if you stayed up to watch the South Carolina / Ole Miss game, you were treated to a video game experience.  Consider the following stats:

    • 58 combined first downs.

    • 111 combined points (Ole Miss won 59-42.)

    • 1,356 combined yards of offense.

    • Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral’s stat line:  28-32, 513 yards, 4 touchdowns.

    • South Carolina running back Kevin Harris’ stat line:  25 carries, 243 yards, 5 touchdowns.

    • Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore’s stat line:  13 receptions, 225 yards, 2 touchdowns.

    1. South Carolina and Ole Miss play zero defense.  Refer to the stats above for evidence.

    2. Florida outscored Arkansas 63-35 on Saturday too..  Do you remember when the SEC was considered a defensive conference built primarily on running the football?  Good times.

    3. Combined points from the three SEC games:  272 for an average of 90.6 per game and 45.3 per team.

    4. The SEC is now the Big 12 conference on steroids.  Unbelievable.  The enjoyable part though is each team is doing it in different ways.  Teams like Kentucky and South Carolina are scoring with a run-based approach. Florida and Ole Miss are finding huge success through the air. Vanderbilt and Arkansas are taking a balanced approach.

    5. Rest easy coach Schlarman.  Thank you for your leadership and example for all of us.