Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer 1039d

Kentucky blasts Charlotte to keep bowl hopes alive

Redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Barker got his first career start and the Kentucky Wildcats kept their bowl hopes alive with a 58-10 blowout win over the Charlotte 49ers.

Behind a huge rushing effort from JoJo Kemp and Boom Williams the Wildcats rushed for 415 yards. Though Barker didn't throw any touchdowns, he didn't really need to, either. He completed 16 of 29 passes for 129 yards without any interceptions.

What the win means for Kentucky: For starters, it snaps a five-game losing streak that had been crushing down on the Wildcats since the middle of October. Second, it moves the Wildcats to five wins, meaning next week's showdown with Louisville, as it was last season, will determine whether Kentucky gets to a bowl game for the first time since the 2010 season and the first time under Mark Stoops.

What the loss means for Charlotte: Considering this was the 49ers first game ever against a Power 5 program, it could have been worse? OK, probably not. Charlotte, still in its infancy as a football program and playing in its first year as an FBS program, closes out the regular season next week at Rice where it'll look to avoid a 10-game losing streak to close out the year after starting 2-0.

How the game was won: With a lot of balance early and a lot of power late. Against a clearly-overmatched Charlotte squad, the Wildcats had a nice and even distribution of yards in the air and on the ground that allowed them to dominate possession. Once they built their 20-3 halftime lead they were able to maintain control and keep pounding away. It didn't hurt, either, that Charlotte shot itself in the foot a few times and the Wildcats capitalized, turning three turnovers into 17 points.

Player(s) of the game: With the first-half lead, the Wildcats were able to pound away with the ground game most of the second half. Kemp and Williams responded. Kemp finished with 165 yards on 11 carries with three touchdowns. Williams carried 16 times for 140 yards and two scores.

Play of the game: With Kentucky already leading 34-3 late in the third quarter, defensive lineman C.J. Johnson nimbly maneuvered his 6-3, 300-pound frame to create an interception. While engaged in a block, Johnson tipped the ball with his right hand, then pirouetted away from the blocker and caught his own tipped pass over his shoulder for the interception. That led to a 32-yard Miles Butler field goal to extend Kentucky's lead to 37-3

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