UK Football

QB Johnson ‘beat up pretty good’ but is expected to play vs. Ole Miss, Stoops says

Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) dropped back to pass the ball during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) dropped back to pass the ball during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. aslitz@herald-leader.com

Stephen Johnson’s left shoulder was throbbing, but the Kentucky quarterback didn’t let it stop him from scoring the game-winning touchdown on Saturday night.

He raced toward the end zone with 33 seconds to play, leaped over a Tennessee defender and landed directly on the same hurt shoulder for the score.

“I was going to try to get it at any cost,” Johnson said after the 29-26 victory, only the Cats’ second in 33 tries against the Volunteers.

So it probably should come as no surprise that the senior is planning to play in the next game against Ole Miss at Kroger Field on Saturday, Coach Mark Stoops said at his news conference on Monday.

“You just have to admire Stephen and his toughness and his determination,” Stoops said of Johnson, who will sit out of practice on at least Monday and Tuesday to heal up his non-throwing shoulder.

The UK coach went down to the training room of the practice facility on Sunday to check on the Cats’ wounded players and saw Johnson there getting treatment.

“He was beat up; he was beat up pretty good,” Stoops said of Johnson, who has thrown for 1,401 yards and nine touchdowns this season while running for 282 yards and three more scores.

Sometimes on their Sunday days off, Johnson and a couple of other players go bowling together and take the Stoops boys.

A similar trip was discussed this weekend, but Stoops thought better of it after seeing his signal caller.

“I looked at him and I was like, ‘You better not bowl today,’” Stoops said.

Kentucky’s coach was complimentary of his senior quarterback, who has become a key leader for his toughness and demeanor.

“He doesn’t have to be overly demonstrative or be too loud,” Stoops said of Johnson, who had a large ice pack on his shoulder and a sling on his arm after the victory.

“He can lead just the way he feels necessary and he does a very good job. Our team really responds well to him.”

The UK offense will be facing an Ole Miss defense that is last in the Southeastern Conference in total defense, allowing 467.5 yards per game. The Rebels are allowing a league-high 37.5 points per game, including 44.6 points on average against SEC foes.

Mississippi has allowed 260.5 yards per game on the ground, also at the basement of the conference, and opponents are running it 62.5 percent of the time against the Rebels.

Depth chart adjustments

A true freshman, Quinton Bohanna, has moved to the top of the depth chart at nose tackle for the Cats. He is now in front of seniors Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam.

Stoops was pleased with Bohanna’s performance against the Volunteers, saying he did “well in all phases.

“Very grateful that he’s here,’ Stoops said of Bohanna, who has 10 tackles through seven games. “I love his attitude. Our players like him. He’s got a great demeanor about him. He’s very focused. He’s on a mission, and I just like the way he handles business.”

▪ Junior cornerback Chris Westry, who has started every game of his UK career since he arrived on campus two seasons ago and leads the team in consecutive starts at 32 might not start on Saturday.

He was moved to the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind junior-college transfer Lonnie Johnson, who had three tackles and a big sack on Saturday.

“He’s doing some good things,” Stoops said of Johnson. “He really is. We don’t just say that when we talk about competition and earning your way. That’s not lip service. And that’s nothing against Chris; we need to get Chris playing well and playing better. It’s not that he’s played poorly; it’s just that Lonnie played well.”

Jordan Griffin, who is usually listed as the backup to Westry on the depth chart, was moved over to back up Derrick Baity.

▪ Drake Jackson was moved to the starting center spot, which he’s occupied each of the last two games. Senior Nick Haynes, who has been struggling to keep weight on while battling diabetes, is listed as the backup. Haynes would’ve been able to play if Jackson had a significant injury, Stoops said.

News and notes

Two Kentucky players were named SEC Players of the Week at their positions by the league office on Monday for their work in the Cats’ win over Tennessee.

Linebacker Jordan Jones, who had 13 tackles, including two tackles for loss and a sack, was named co-Defensive Player of the Week. “I think he’ll get better as the year goes on here,” Stoops said of Jones, who returned two weeks ago after missing four games with a shoulder injury.

Sophomore Benny Snell was named the SEC’s co-Offensive Player of the Week after running for a season-high 180 yards and three touchdowns.

“Benny played his best game by far,” Stoops said. “He was much more detailed and much more accurate in what he was doing, both in running the football and his protections.”

▪ Junior Josh Allen was named a semifinalist on Monday for the Butkus Award that goes to the nation’s top linebacker. He is one of 15 semifinalists for the honor and one of five players from the SEC.

▪ The Kentucky game at Vanderbilt on Nov. 11 will be played at 4 p.m. (EST) and shown on the SEC Network, the league office announced Monday. It is the Cats’ fourth game this season in that time slot. The others were against Mississippi State, Southern Miss and Eastern Michigan.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

Next game

Mississippi at Kentucky

4 p.m. Saturday (SEC)

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments