Terry Wilson is the future of Kentucky football.
Bold statement? Absolutely. Correct statement? Maybe. Given the way UK’s quarterback played in the Cats’ 56-10 drilling of Louisville at Cardinal Stadium in Saturday’s regular-season finale, plus the expected makeup of the team by the time 2019 rolls around? Probably.
The sophomore from Oklahoma completed 17 of 23 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception on Saturday. He ran the football 10 times for 79 yards and another score.
He found a wide, wide open Lynn Bowden in the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown. He hit Bowden over the middle with a 13-yard touchdown. And he found Josh Ali for a 32-yard fourth-quarter score. On the night, Wilson completed passes of 27, 32, 32, 27 and 32 yards. He also ripped off a 40-yard run.
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And afterward, Wilson posed with former UK All-American and former U of L coach Howard Schnellenberger to accept the award as the Governor’s Cup Most Valuable Player.
“Your best game as a Wildcat?,” a media member asked Wilson in the postgame press conference.
“Yes,” he said. “I think so.”
This was the Wilson we thought we would see after Kentucky’s 27-16 September victory at Florida snapped a 31-game losing streak to the Gators. Wilson completed 11 of 16 passes for 151 yards and two scores. He rushed for 105 yards and another touchdown. Afterward, I wrote Wilson was the difference-maker Kentucky needed.
I got ahead of myself. It was just Wilson’s second start of the season. For first-year Division I starting quarterbacks, the ups and downs are bound to come. And come they did. From late September through mid-October, Wilson struggled, especially in the 20-14 overtime loss at Texas A&M.
By the time UK visited Missouri on Oct. 27, head coach Mark Stoops made good on his promise to play multiple quarterbacks by inserting backup Gunnar Hoak for a trio of series. It was Wilson who returned in the end, however, directing that late scoring drive that produced a dramatic 15-14 victory.
From then on, you could see Wilson improve almost by the snap. Over UK’s final five games, the quarterback completed 93 of 131 passes for 1,047 yards and seven touchdowns with three interceptions. His completion percentage was 71 percentage.
“He got back to his self, like he was in the first couple of weeks (of the season),” Bowden said of Wilson on Saturday. “That’s the Terry I like to see.”
That’s the Terry Touchdown UK fans hope to see not only in the upcoming bowl game but in his junior season, as well. Think about it.
A Kentucky defense that finished the regular season seventh nationally in average points allowed will lose Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Jordan Jones, Derrick Baity, Darius West, Lonnie Johnson, Adrian Middleton, Chris Westry and Tymere Dubose. The offense will lose Dorian Baker, David Bouvier, George Asafo-Adjei, Bunchy Stallings and C.J. Conrad.
Benny Snell will be gone, as well. UK’s junior running back claims to have not yet made a final decision about the 2019 NFL Draft, but every indication points to the Cats’ offensive bell cow taking a crack at getting paid for his play.
That means Wilson and Bowden are likely to be the focal points of the Kentucky offense next season. As a sophomore, Bowden finished the regular season with 62 catches for 661 yards and five scores. But the wide receiver needs someone to get him the ball, and that would be Wilson.
As he showed Saturday, however, Wilson can do more than that. True, Louisville’s defense, much like the U of L program, is a white-hot mess. Still, Wilson carried out what he needed to do, running with abandon and throwing with accuracy.
Asked what he thought of Wilson’s play, Conrad replied, “Wow. He was slinging that thing. ... He’s just getting more and more confident. You saw that tonight.”
We should see it next season, as well. Terry Wilson’s junior season. You know, the future.