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Kentucky Wildcats fall to Ole Miss Rebels: 3 things to know, box score and postgame comments

A back-and-forth affair turns into heartbreak for the Cats.

Mississippi v Kentucky Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Offense: Tale of Two Halves

Offensively for Kentucky, the first and second halves could not have been more different. The first half has to be considered a success (20-17 UK lead at halftime), even though the Cats’ defense had little interest in playing their part. It helps that Ole Miss’ defense didn’t either.

In the first two quarters, Kentucky put points on the board in all four of their drives — the first two of which were field goals and the latter two being touchdowns. Stephen Johnson continued his run of admirable quarterback play, throwing only one incompletion in the first half. He made several big plays to setup touchdowns for Bennie Snell, one of which was a 32-yard completion from Lynn Bowden in a fun trick play that nearly didn’t work. The next time on the field, he completed a 28-yard toss to Isaiah Epps to put the ball on the 1-yard line. Snell ran for two of his three touchdowns before halftime.

During the second half, however, the wheels started to come off for the Wildcats’ offense. It started nicely with a 46-yard C.J. Conrad TD reception reminiscent of the season’s start. It was nice to see him back to his old ways; the star tight end brought in 75 yards receiving for the game. After that score, it wasn’t pretty. Kentucky made it without punting for the whole first half but made-up for it with four consecutive three-and-out drives. Only 6 yards were gained during that span. Yikes.

If not for a gutsy final drive, led by Bennie Snell who ran for 77 yards and the go-ahead touchdown after starting on the 5-yard line, we could be talking about one of the worst halves of football in the Mark Stoops era. Obviously, the Cats didn’t keep the lead, but the offense rallied after a rough second half to put the team into position to win.

Defense: Complete Malfunction of the Secondary

The cornerback tandem of Derrick Baity and Chris Westry had a lot of preseason expectations, but have failed to live up to the hype — resulting in Lonnie Johnson replacing Westry as the starter in the depth chart. It didn’t really help much tonight.

Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu completed 31 of his 40 passes for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns. The Cats let him do just about whatever he wanted and the Rebels connected on big play after big play, one of which coming in the form of a 58-yard touchdown catch by D.K. Metcalf. That time, it was Westry’s replacement who was completely blown by on the play.

The run defense held mostly strong, giving up only 91 yards in 26 attempts. Jordan Jones looked like his old self, bringing down 8 ball carriers, three of which resulted in a loss.

Last Minute Heart Break

The big takeaway from the game is obviously the 14 play, 71 yard drive that Ole Miss made in just over two minutes to give that Cats a loss. The offense put the Cats into a great chance to leave with a win and the defense let them down, which more or less sums up the whole game.

The Rebels only encountered a third down twice in their leisurely stroll down the field, the last of which ended up with a pitch-and-catch touchdown fade to D.K. Metcalf. Lonnie Johnson was in position to make a play, but gave up a lot of size to the larger receiver who made a spectacular play to get one of his feet down before being tackled out of bounds.

There is no other way around it. The loss was depressing. Kentucky could be headed to Nashville to play Vanderbilt with a 7-2 record and a chance to play at Georgia for a shot at the SEC East championship if Auburn could pull of the upset against the Bulldogs. Now there’s no chance of that happening.

On the bright side, Kentucky is already bowl eligible and has two more winnable games on the schedule. Eight wins is still very much in play, and the Cats can still play in their best bowl game in ten years.

Notable Postgame Comments

“Devastating loss. The bottom line is that we did not make enough plays in critical moments. I’m proud of the offense taking the ball down to the end zone.”

“We had opportunities to pull away and couldn't get it done. It’s a team loss. Each phase had an opportunity.”

“(Ole Miss’ passing game) did what they wanted to do. They ran the run-pass option nearly every snap. They converted in the soft spots of the zone.”

“We have a lot of confidence in Lynn Bowden. He’s doing some very good things. He’s very talented.”

On if it will be emotionally difficult for them to bounce back: “It better not be. It should hurt. Our team is investing, working. Losses should hurt.”

Here is the final box score:

Now....let’s mourn together.