After a disappointing loss against the Florida Gators, the Kentucky Wildcats offense was under the gun as the #25 Missouri Tigers rolled into town. Boasting a top ranked defense, the Tigers had offensive woes of their own. The question was, which team would break out of their slump?
Patrick Towles, Jojo Kemp, Dorian Baker, Garrett Johnson, and CJ Conrad answered the bell for coaches Mark Stoops and Shannon Dawson as the Wildcats outlasted the Tigers 21-13 as Kentucky moves to 3-1 (2-1) on the season.
There were fans calling for Towles to be benched for redshirt freshman Drew Barker, but Towles answered the call in an impressive game against one of the better defenses in the SEC. Towles was great as he went 22/27, with two touchdown passes, no interceptions, 21 yards and one touchdown on the ground. The Kentucky quarterback was efficient, patient, and did not force throws. He got rid of the ball or tucked it and ran instead of settling for sacks as he did in the previous game.
Dorian Baker redeemed his past drops with a fantastic one handed catch to the give the Wildcats life late in the game. He finished with five receptions, 51 yards and a touchdown. Garrett Johnson broke out as the go-to receiver for Towles across the middle. He accounted for 119 yards on offense.
CJ Conrad had his best game as a Wildcat and resurrected the tight end position at Kentucky. He made a critical third down catch that Towles laid out perfectly for him and scored a touchdown in the third quarter. His help blocking the Missouri pass rush cannot be overstated.
The Kentucky rushing attack wasn't as impressive as it has been, but Jojo Kemp came up big late. The junior running back was critical in getting first downs in the third and fourth quarters. While he didn't score a touchdown, he ran hard for 66 big yards.
The defense held steady and forced Maty Mauk into bad throws and held the Tigers to 111 yards rushing even with the return of starting running back Russell Hansbrough.
Denzil Ware, Jason Hatcher, Ryan Flannigan, CJ Johnson, and Chris Westry all had notable games for the Kentucky defense.
The Wildcats fought through bad field position all night as Missouri punter Corey Fatony repeatedly pinned Kentucky in their own territory. But the Wildcats persevered, and it was an all-around team effort to win this game. The defense was outstanding and the offensive game plan was called to perfection by Shannon Dawson.
Kentucky is now 3-1 heading into a game against Eastern Kentucky that they should handily win. They should be 4-1 when they face the Auburn Tigers on a Thursday night. This was the boost that Mark Stoops has been talking about and that the fans have been waiting for.
This is the first win against a top 25 team that Kentucky has had since they beat #10 South Carolina in 2010. This is the first road loss the Tigers have suffered in two years, 11 straight wins. The Tigers were 20-1 against teams outside of the top ten since 2013.
The game is changing in Lexington. It's time to get on board.