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What They’re Saying: UK climbing up SEC East

A look at what the media are saying about the Cats glorious last-second victory over Mississippi State Saturday and looking ahead to Missouri.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Wow. What a win. The Cats have been all about the drama in late game situations, making winning all the more exciting for the Big Blue Nation. It’s hard not to be proud of the effort we’ve seen since Kentucky began the season 0-2. Here’s a look at what they’re saying...

Kentucky has a legitimate shot at going .500 in the SEC for just the fifth time in my lifetime. With all the success of Rich Brooks, he only accomplished 4-4 in the SEC once.

Have to give Stephen Johnson credit for being the leader on the field. His accuracy has been sometimes questionable, he’s had issues with turnovers, but when all is said and done, not many Kentucky quarterbacks have started their careers with that kind of win percentage through five games.

ONIONS. Can’t imagine the pressure in that situation. I was nervous as hell just watching it. But he came through when his teammates needed him most. Big time congrats to the sophomore kicker.

I’m sure it was pretty “lit.” Can’t imagine what it will be like if they get one more conference victory before a likely win over Austin Peay.

I’d say that was the most memorable three for the Big Blue Nation since Aaron Harrison in 2014.

Hey move over @LeeCorso as Dickie V becoming a football commentator.

Kentucky’s running back unit is among the best in the conference. Hats off to Boom, Benny and the offensive line for stepping it up.

An awesome pic. Jordan Jones is quickly becoming a fan favorite of the BBN.

Kentucky is in sole possession of second place in the SEC East. There are two very winnable games left and one (at Tennessee) that doesn’t seem nearly as impossible as it did after the Cats started the season 0-2.

A big reason has been the improved play of safety Marcus McWilson, who had a key pick-six vs the Bulldogs in a game that was decided by just two points.

That play came in part because of McWilson answering Mark Stoops’ challenge to step up and be a leader for this secondary.

“I definitely had to except the challenge myself and be the player he expected me to be,” McWilson said of Stoops, via LEX 18. “I had to hold myself to a higher standard and above the standard he even holds me to. They tell us that all the time that a coach is someone that takes you to a place that you cannot get to on your own. So as he pushes me, I push myself, and my teammates all push each other to keep it going.”

The Herald-Leader’s Mark Story had a good account of how high the tensions were leading up to the last second-kick, which came with a cramp,

As he took the field, just to add a little unseen drama, MacGinnis said the calf in his kicking leg was cramping as he approached the game-winning field-goal try.

Still, he got the ball in the air, “I knew it was good,” he said. “I was a little afraid it might hit the cross bar. But I thought I had it.”

He did, setting off a delirious reaction for the team in Kentucky, uh, anthracite.

As the joyous Wildcats rushed toward their place-kicking hero, MacGinnis says both his calves were cramping.

“I was just trying to stay up, not get on the bottom of a dog pile,” MacGinnis said. “You can get hurt that way.”

Now, if you’ve ever wondered what it feels like for a kicker to come through for a team under the most excruciating pressure, the Kentucky Wildcats now have someone you can ask.

“It’s joy,” Austin MacGinnis says, “pure joy.”

After the emotional win, Stoops made sure to thank all of the fans who’ve stuck by this team through the thick and thin of what’s been a roller coaster of a season.

As KSR’s Maggie Davis writes, the driving force behind UK’s offense during their four wins in five games has come on the shoulders of true freshman running back Benny Snell, but don’t forget about Boom Williams.

Snell has dominated on Kentucky’s offense during all four of the Cats’ victories. In total, he’s rushed for 431 yards against New Mexico State, South Carolina, Vandy and Mississippi State. Last night, he ran 19 times for 128 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown that put the cats up 20-17.

After the game, Snell described his emotions following the dramatic victory.

“All of us were emotional about this game. We love this game with all of our heart. When something like that happens, I have no choice but to cry. We just fought so hard.”

An emotional Snell and Boom Williams (who rushed for 99 yards in 14 carries) were caught on camera after the game in an adorable moment of raw emotion.

The win was not enough for UK to climb above the No. 10 spot in SEC Country’s latest SEC power rankings, a spot they’ve held for three weeks now. However, there was good news to be found in the poll in seeing UK’s next opponent is the SEC’s worst team in Missouri.

However, the ranking is not enough for UK to avoid being an underdog at Mizzou this week, as Eric Dewberry writes:

Kentucky hopes to keep its 4-game covers streak alive at Missouri, spotted 4.5 points. It’s the Wildcats’ best run against the number since besting it five times straight in 2007. Missouri fell to Kentucky 21-13 as 2.5-point underdogs last season, but is 3-0 straight up and against the spread as favorites in the matchup.

UK has never finished with a winning SEC record in my lifetime. It’s hard not to be excited, but the Cats were in a similar position a year ago. Let’s hope Stoops and company can finish stronger in 2016.

UK returns to action on Saturday vs Missouri at Faurot Field in Columbia. Kickoff is set for noon ET and the game can be seen on SEC Network.