Saturday night was yet another ugly win for the Kentucky Wildcats. Missouri came into Kroger Field and nearly pulled off what would have been a surreal upset over Kentucky. The Cats escaped with a 40-34 win after the Tigers failed to convert on 4th down in the final seconds but will have much to improve during their BYE week.
You could make an argument this team is the worst 5-1 Kentucky Football team in history. However a win counts as a win, the Cats are indeed 5-1 and just one or two blown coverages from being an unblemished 6-0.
As I highlighted earlier in the week, though, Kentucky will face a tough stretch to end the season. They travel to Mississippi State following their BYE week, host Tennessee and Ole Miss, have back-to-back road trips to Vandy & Georgia then come back to Lexington for their annual matchup with Louisville. If they want to reach their goal of 8-4 or even 9-3, they'll have to improve in all three phases of the game.
Against a team that was just 1-3 and had over 80% of their drives end in 2-minutes or less, the Wildcats had one of their worst defensive performances of the year. It felt like the Tigers were constantly getting chunk yardage. For a team coached by a former defensive backs coach and an above-average secondary, it's been their achilles heal all season long. They've given up seven plays of 40 or more yards through just six games.
If you're out gained in a football game then you usually walk into the locker room with a loss. However, Kentucky had a rare situation yesterday where they were dominated through the air by 57 yards and on the ground by 25 yards. Missouri also averaged better yards per pass and yards per carry ratios. Kentucky somehow managed to keep the Tigers off the field (and this was likely the success of outscoring them) by winning time of possession 36:09 to 23:51.
Kentucky's once-third-ranked rush defense has dropped to 11th in the nation. Down the stretch, they'll face two of the country's best rushers in Nick Chubb and Lamar Jackson. But even all six teams combined have 493 carries for 2,545 yards and 27 touchdowns through the first half of the season. That's a whopping 5.16 YPC, nearly 2 more than Kentucky has allowed this season. Something obviously has to give and judging by the past three weeks, it's not looking to favor the Wildcats.
Luckily, Kentucky will have two full weeks to prepare for the dynamic threat of Nick Fitzgerald and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. A road win, where ESPN's Power Index is giving the Cats just a 21.1% chance of upset, would build endless momentum for the Cats home-stand. You might recall Austin MacGinnis’ game-winning 51-yard field goal last season at then-Commonwealth Stadium. Yes, that was over the Bulldogs.
Here are the postgame notes from Saturday’s win, courtesy of UK Athletics:
- The win moved Kentucky to a 12-5 record over the last 17 games.
- UK’s 12-4 mark in the last 16 regular-season games has not been exceeded since 1977-78 when the Wildcats were 12-3-1 in a 16-game span.
- UK has won eight of its last 10 home games, first time that has happened since 2006-07.
- UK has won six of its last 10 SEC games, first time that has happened since 2006-07.
- Tonight’s game was the annual Homecoming contest. UK held its first Homecoming in 1915. Early records are incomplete, but UK has hosted a Homecoming game every year since 1946 and owns a 51-21 record in those contests.
- Kentucky scored a season-high 40 points tonight.
- UK has scored 38 points or more in at least one game in each season since 1997, the second-longest active streak in the SEC behind LSU.
- UK has scored at least 23 points in the first six games of the season, first time that has happened since 2007.
- UK has scored at least 23 points in 12 straight regular-season games, first time in school history.
- Kentucky was +1 in turnovers today. The Wildcats are now +8 for the season. UK entered the game ranked 11th in the nation in turnover margin.
- UK had a season-high 486 yards total offense tonight.
- Kentucky converted two-of-two on fourth-down conversions, both of which led to field goals.
- UK has allowed five rushing TDs in the first six games of the season, fewest in the first six games since 2008.
- UK has not allowed a rushing TD in the first quarter this season.
- The Wildcats have now scored in 20 consecutive quarters. The last time that happened was during the 2007 season when the Cats tallied in 27 straight quarters.
- Kentucky has defeated Missouri three in a row and South Carolina the last four years; it is the first time in school history that UK has defeated the same two SEC opponents in three concurrent seasons.
- UK has had at least a 70-yard run in five consecutive seasons, a school record.
- UK’s game captains were OG Nick Haynes, QB Stephen Johnson, LB Courtney Love and S Mike Edwards.
- Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson completed 22 of 36 passes for a season-high 298 yards and two touchdowns.
- UK is now 12-5 over the last 17 games with Johnson as the starter (10-5) or QB for the majority of the game in a relief role (2-0).
- Including 44 net rushing yards, he had 342 yards total offense. It is his fourth game as a Wildcat with at least 300 total offensive yards.
- Over the last nine games he has thrown 15 touchdowns with only three interceptions.
- Johnson is only UK quarterback since 1966 with four career games of at least 224 passing yards and 44 rushing yards.
- Sophomore running back Benny Snell led the rushing attack with 20 carries for 117 yards and two touchdowns.
- He had a career-long 71-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
- It is his third 100-yard game of the season and eighth of his career. He has rushed for 100 yards in five of the last six home games.
- He has six rushing touchdowns this season, 19 in his career.
- He has rushed for 309 yards in two games vs. Missouri, most for a Wildcat in consecutive seasons against an SEC opponent since Rafael Little vs. Vanderbilt in 2005-06.
- He has 100-yard games vs. Missouri as a freshman and sophomore, first Wildcat to do so vs. an SEC opponent since Moe Williams vs. Georgia in 1993-94.
- He advanced three slots to 17th place on the UK all-time rushing list with 1,614 career yards.
- Senior wide receiver Garrett Johnson had seven catches for 111 yards and one touchdown.
- It is his first 100-yard game of the season and sixth of his career.
- He has had at least one 100-yard receiving game each of his four seasons; he and Rafael Little are the only two Wildcats in school history to do so.
- He has caught a pass in 17 consecutive games and is fourth in UK history with 1,883 receiving yards.
- He had a 64-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. It is his sixth catch of at least 60 yards in his career, four of which have been touchdowns from Stephen Johnson.
- Senior wide receiver Blake Bone had three catches for 30 yards, including a 14-yard TD catch to open the scoring. It is his second TD reception of the season, fifth of his career.
- Senior wide receiver Kayaune Ross had his best game as a Wildcat, four catches for 77 yards.
- Senior kicker Austin MacGinnis had 16 points tonight, breaking the UK career scoring record with 314 points.
- The previous record was 305 points by Lones Seiber from 2006-09.
- MacGinnis made all four of his field goals and four extra points, totaling 16 points for the night. The 16 points tied his career high for a game and is the second-most points for a kicker in one game in school history.
- He made a 53-yarder for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter. In the process, he became the first player in school history with at three field goals in his career of at least 53 yards.
- Junior safety Mike Edwards had 11 tackles, his second double-figure tackle game of the season and sixth of his career.
- Senior linebacker Courtney Love had a career-high 10 tackles.
- Junior linebacker Josh Allen got a quarterback sack on the first defensive series, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior linebacker Courtney Love.
- Allen now has 6.5 sacks and two caused fumbles on the season.
- Allen has the most sacks by a UK player through the first six games of the season since Jeremy Jarmon in 2007.
- For Love, it is his second fumble recovery of the season.
- Junior cornerback Derrick Baity had a career-high three pass breakups. He also had two PBU last week, giving him five over the last two games.
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