Lexington, Ky. — A.J. Rose and Benny Snell Jr. each rushed for two touchdowns, Gunnar Hoak came off the bench to throw the go-ahead TD pass and Kentucky overcame four first-half turnovers to beat Central Michigan 35-20 in its season opener on Saturday.
For a while the upset-minded Chippewas seemed poised to make the Wildcats their third Power Five victim in as many seasons by scoring all their points off takeaways and building a 17-7, second quarter lead. Kentucky rallied with two TDs over the final four minutes of the half, including Hoak’s 24-yard scoring pass to David Bouvier for a 21-20 edge with 14 seconds remaining.
Kentucky shut out CMU from there, limiting the Chippewas to 97 second-half yards while outgaining them 427-255 overall to improve to 7-0 in the series.
“Says a lot about our team to come back and win by 15,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
Rose rushed for TDs of 55 and 4 yards on the way to 125 yards on 20 carries and his first career 100-yard game. Snell had TD runs of 52 and 11 yards to finish 104 yards rushing on eight attempts. Hoak completed 4 of 9 passes for 50 yards while temporarily relieving injured starter Terry Wilson (11 of 18 passing for 78 yards, two interceptions).
The Chippewas did everything necessary to position themselves for the upset by converting four turnovers into 20 points. Trouble was, that effort came before halftime and their reworked defense couldn’t stop Kentucky when it had to. Sophomore Tony Poljan completed 17 of 27 passes for 137 yards and Kumehnnu Gwilly rushed for a 4-yard TD.
The Wildcats’ flat offensive start resulted in costly first-half turnovers that almost handed another Power Five upset to Central Michigan. Wilson was hurt while throwing his second interception, and his brief absence opened the door for Hoak to lead the go-ahead TD drive. Wilson returned to lead another TD drive that extended the lead, but Hoak’s pinch-hit effort illustrated why the QB competition was so close.
“What a moment for him to come in there when we’re losing in the first half,” Stoops said of Hoak. “I think there was 55 seconds (left) and we come down and score a touchdown. Says a lot about Gunnar and his character and his ability, and I was really proud for him.”
Davenport 44, (at) Robert Morris 7: Deondre Ford passed for 271 yards and four TDs. Nate Courturier caught two passes for scores and Deondre Moore and Daronte Powers each had a TD reception for Davenport. Seth Acda also had a rushing TD.
(At) McKendree (Ill.) 34, Northern Michigan 28: Jake Mayon rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Latrell Giles threw for a TD and ran in another to lead McKendree. Reece Metcalf was 17-of-25 for 258 yards, including three TDs, for Northern.
(At) Tiffin 40, Northwood 27: Nick Watson passed for 317 yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yard scoring to play to Charles Holland in the fourth quarter, to lead Tiffin. Corey Burdgick, Grant Dunatchik, Jalen Lewis and Christian Martinez had TDs for Northwood.
Albion 59, (at) Defiance 6: Kyle Thomas passed for 267 yards and four TDs while Isaiah Gibson and Justin Thomas each had six catches and 100 yards to lead Albion. Thomas had two TDs and Gibson one. Doug Freeman added two rushing scores in the rout.
Concordia (Wis.) 31, (at) Finlandia 3: Jake Riportella had TD catches of 2 and 12 yards as the visitors jumped to a 21-0 first-quarter lead. Avery Huibregtse connected on a 33-yard field goal for Finlandia.
(At) Heidelberg 21, Olivet 17: Braden Jerome caught a 17-yard TD pass from Trace Reynolds with 1:11 left as Heidelberg rallied from a 10-point deficit for the victory. Olivet led 14-7 at the half on a 16-yard run by Jamaul Martin. Chris Martin's 13-yard TD reception for Olivet tied the game 7-all in the first quarter.
(At) Kalamazoo 24, Oberlin 7: Zach VanFaussien passed for a TD and ran for another while Jared Pittman also had two scores (a 34-yard pass reception and 7-yard run) to lead Kalamazoo to a season-opening victory. Melvin Briggs scored on a 3-yard run for Oberlin.
(At) Ohio Northern 34, Adrian 17: Brock Martin scored on runs of 5 and 8 yards as Ohio Northern scored 20 unanswered points in the second quarter. Emmanuel Stewart (12 yards) and Colton Randle (2 yards) had rushing TDs for Adrian.