Come on. Missouri?
Along with Vanderbilt, I assumed this game would be one of the Kentucky Wildcats’ solid runaway victories this season.
Missouri entered this game 1-3, ranked last in the Southeastern Conference with an average of 442 total yards allowed per game. Kentucky entered this game on its home turf with just one loss by one point. (Had the Wildcats played ANY defense near the end against Florida, they’d be undefeated.)
This was a very heavily offensive game, though not the highest scoring game of the night. (Thanks, Western Michigan and Buffalo.)
The Wildcats closed out the 40-34 win in a nail-biting fourth quarter. Here are four takeaways:
1. High offense for the Wildcats
In no game this year have the Wildcats scored thirty points. Against Missouri, Kentucky scored 20 by halftime.
Not to mention, after just 30 minutes of game play, the Wildcat offense logged more than 260 yards. The Herald Leader’s Jen Smith reminded us that was 32 more yards than the total yards logged against Eastern Michigan last week.
Kentucky has 260 yards of offense in the first half, which is 32 more yards than it had in the last game vs. Eastern Michigan.— Jen Smith (@jenheraldleader) October 8, 2017
The offense did its job, and it was, well, relatively smooth. The Wildcats logged 486 yards, a season high, and averaged just five plays per trip to the end zone.
Now, let’s get to those scores.
2. All four of Kentucky’s touchdowns
The first score of the night belonged to Blake Bone, who had just five catches this season before entering this game. This followed a recovered fumble from Kentucky on Missouri’s 19-yard line by Wildcat linebacker Courtney Love.
Touchdown Kentucky. Stephen Johnson to Blake Bone. pic.twitter.com/XSITRq7skp— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 7, 2017
Watching the second touchdown was like watching ballet. Benny Snell Jr.’s swift feet tiptoed along the sideline and hopped over the Missouri tackler for a career-high, 71-yard touchdown run. It was sheer beauty.
Benny Snell 71 yards to the house. Yowza. pic.twitter.com/QtBYn341ZE— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2017
The team’s third touchdown was the second from Snell, a short but sweet six-yard run for the Wildcats’ first score of the second half.
Benny Snell into the endzone for his second TD of the game. pic.twitter.com/nh1Cd6uMt9— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2017
The fourth score was a Johnson and Johnson connection. A 64-yard touchdown from Stephen Johnson to Garrett Johnson broke the tie and gave Kentucky a 34-27 lead in the fourth quarter.
Juice Johnson with the juke and into the endzone for the 64 yard TD. pic.twitter.com/8ohGg5s07n— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2017
OK, so it’s not a scoring play, but this beautiful movement by Lynn Bowden Jr. is worth a highlight. This is what got the Wildcats in solid field goal range. This forced the Tigers to answer with a touchdown in the final two minutes.
Lord have mercy, Lynn Bowden. pic.twitter.com/vJwhK95ha1— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) October 8, 2017
3. Bad game for Kentucky’s defense, until it was needed most
I blinked near the end of the third quarter, and the score was tied.
There were way too many times the Tigers’ receivers had wide-open paths for large gains, and in some of those times, the Tigers capitalized: three Missouri touchdown receptions, one for 75 whopping yards and two for more than 50 yards each. Where was the coverage?
Meanwhile, a Wildcat run defense that allows just 2.6 yards per carry and less than 60 yards per game — leading the SEC and fifth lowest in the country — allowed a normally unimpressive Missouri to log 213 rushing yards.
Fortunately, on the Tigers’ last drive, defense prevailed and prevented a one-point win in the final seconds.
4. Have a day, Austin MacGinnis
Kentucky’s senior kicker Austin MacGinnis notched his 306th career point, making him the school’s all-time leading scorer and placing him among the ranks of Wildcat basketball royalty.
Austin MacGinnis (306 points) has joined Dan Issel (men's hoops) & Valerie Still (women's hoops) as UK's all-time leading scorers— Mark Story (@markcstory) October 8, 2017
MacGinnis contributed four total field goals against the Tigers. One of those was a 53-yard kick, one yard shy of his career high, to put the Wildcats back in front 37-34 with 9:40 left in the game.
Here is the final box score:
Here are the highlights, courtesy of Kentucky Wildcats TV:
Kentucky (5-1, 2-1 SEC) is on a bye week next Saturday. The Wildcats will face the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the road Saturday, Oct. 21.