Photo by Keyli Chisesi (Go Big Blue Country)
The Kentucky Wildcats season didn’t end as planned in Nashville on Friday evening, as Northwestern won the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl 24-23 at Nissan Stadium.
With his team trailing 24-23 with less than a minute to play, Mark Stoops decided to keep the offense on the field to attempt a two-point conversion, rather than taking the PAT to force overtime. Stephen Johnson’s pass deflected off the hand of Tavin Richardson, resulting in a heartbreaking one-point loss in Nashville.
The Wildcats battled and overcame a lot of adversity in the game, which is why I think the decision to go for two was much easier for Stoops to make. Stephen Johnson was banged up and Kentucky had played three-quarters of the game without star running back Benny Snell Jr., who was ejected in the first half. Factor in the suspension of DE/LB Denzil Ware and the injury to CJ Conrad and Kentucky was missing a lot of firepower. Northwestern also dominated Kentucky on the ground, outrushing the Wildcats 333-65 while running 16 more plays.
It was a tough call to make and one that would result in either praise or criticism. Ultimately, Stoops decided to ride the momentum and go for two points, which I actually believe was the correct call in that situation. You’re facing the No. 21 team in the country and if you take a close look at statistics, Kentucky had no business having a chance to win the game.
On the other hand, the Kentucky defense played strong in short field situations, which would be the setting for overtime. The Wildcat defense turned Northwestern over on downs on four occasions, keeping hopes of a victory alive. I think the situation with less than a minute on the clock played a huge factor in Stoops decision to go for two. If a minute or more were on the clock, I say Stoops takes the PAT and plays for overtime.
Honestly, I don’t think there was a wrong choice to make. If Richardson hauls in the pass from Johnson, we are having a completely different conversation but that wasn’t the case. Also, there was no guarantee that Northwestern wouldn’t have marched down the field for a game-winning field goal attempt. If it were the regular season, I say Stoops kicks the PAT. He’s been criticized for being conservative and now most likely for being aggressive.
What would you have done? Let’s hear it.