LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Kentucky Wildcats held off Vanderbilt 38-35 at Kroger Field in their first game since the death of offensive line coach John Schlarman. The 45-year-old assistant died Thursday after a battle with cancer.

On the first possession of the game, the Wildcats took the field with only 10 men, leaving the left guard sport open in honor of the position Schlarman played at Kentucky from 1993-1997. UK took a delay of game penalty, which Vanderbilt declined.

Then, left tackle Landon Young came on the field wearing Schlarman’s No. 65 to a round of applause from the fans at Kroger Field. 

"We left a slot out there because we were missing one of our Wildcats today,” Young said. "Just being able to have the opportunity to wear his number out there shows it was so much bigger than football. It was a blessing for me and it was a blessing that he allowed us to do that before he passed away."

UK jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter when Terry Wilson took a quarterback keeper 32 yards into the end zone. Wilson also threw two touchdown passes in the first half.

"Going into this game, we knew who we were playing for, which was coach Schlarman and Chris Oats (who’s out with a medical condition)," Wilson said. "I feel the guys were motivated, so we just had to go out there and execute."

The Commodores answered with two touchdowns before halftime. UK led 21-14 at the break.

Kentucky started the second half with a Chris Rodriguez touchdown run to take a 31-14 lead. Rodriguez then gave UK a 17-point cushion in the fourth quarter with a 74-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 38-21 with just over nine minutes left in the game. 

Rodriguez led the Wildcats with 149 yards rushing. 

Kentucky’s usually stingy defense gave up 407 yards of offense to the Commodores.

UK (3-4) heads to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, next Saturday to take on top-ranked Alabama (6-0). The Crimson Tide’s scheduled game this week at LSU was postponed due to COVID-19 protocol.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Copyright 2020 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.