LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Stephen Johnson rushed for a touchdown and converted a big fourth-and-1 play late in the game leading to Austin MacGinnis’ 28-yard field goal, while the Wildcats’ defense stifled Vanderbilt to survive with a 20-13 victory on Saturday.
Needing a spark to slow Vanderbilt’s momentum after scoring 10 straight points, the Wildcats turned to their ground game with just under 8 minutes remaining and cashed in a third and final time on fourth down as Johnson stretched for 1 yard to the Commodores’ 19.
Kentucky didn’t take a chance on a final fourth-and-1 at the 10, and MacGinnis’ kick with 1:38 left provided a cushion that proved huge as Vanderbilt quickly drove to the 8 seeking at least a tie. But several passes by Vandy’s Kyle Shurmur were incomplete, including a fourth-down attempt that went off Kalija Lipscomb’s hands.
Kentucky (3-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) is now halfway toward its goal of a postseason berth. Vanderbilt (2-4, 0-3 SEC) fell short in its quest to give coach Derek Mason his first conference road win.
Benny Snell Jr. rushed 20 times for 94 yards and Jojo Kemp added a 4-yard TD run for the Wildcats. Kemp, Johnson and Stanley “Boom” Williams each ran for at least 54 yards as Kentucky gained 258 on 52 attempts.
Vanderbilt’s only TD came on Taurean Ferguson’s 22-yard fumble return early in the third quarter.
Ralph Webb rushed for 100 yards on 18 carries and Shurmur completed 17 of 29 passes for 141 yards but couldn’t get the completion he needed late in the game.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores seemed poised to overcome Kentucky behind Webb but stalled after getting within 17-13. They converted just 3 of 12 third-down opportunities and couldn’t slow the Wildcats’ ground game.
Kentucky: The Wildcats wobbled in the third period with two turnovers but outgained Vanderbilt 307-282. More importantly, they were 3-for-3 on fourth-and-1 and stopped the Commodores on their own fourth-and-1. Johnson offset a tough day throwing the ball (10 of 24, 49 yards, one interception) by running well and getting plenty of help from Kemp and Williams.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores hit the road for the fourth time in five games as they visit Georgia on Saturday.
Kentucky: The Wildcats have a bye before hosting Mississippi State on Oct. 22.