Jen Smith on UK Football

After late struggles, Kentucky QB has healed up in time for Music City Bowl

Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) looks for a open receiver against the Louisville Cardinals during the Governor's Cup at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, November 25, 2017. Louisville defeated Kentucky 44-17.
Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) looks for a open receiver against the Louisville Cardinals during the Governor's Cup at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., on Saturday, November 25, 2017. Louisville defeated Kentucky 44-17. Michael Reaves

It’s no secret that Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson did not end the season playing as well as he started it. At the midway point of the season, the senior was connecting on 63.9 percent of his passes for 1,238 yards and nine touchdowns.

In the past six games — while battling through injuries — Johnson has thrown just one touchdown and is completing just 56.8 percent of his passes.

The time off between the Louisville loss and the bowl game was big for Johnson, Mark Stoops said.

“It’s been good for Stephen and many of our players to hit the reset button,” the coach said. “Toward the end of the season, he was beat up. … He took a pretty good beating throughout the season. But he’s very resilient. He’s tough.”

He’s also finally healthy.

“Had a chance to rest up for a couple weeks, get back in the weight room, gain some weight. He’s looked very good here.”

Johnson will be difficult to defend, Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald said.

“You just got to pop on the tape, see the problems he created for the SEC,” the Northwestern coach said of UK’s senior signal caller. “He’s athletic. Dual threat. … He makes great decisions. It’s going to be a challenge, there’s no doubt about that.”

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