Looking for their first win of 2020, the Kentucky Wildcats suffered a gut-wrenching defeat to the Ole Miss Rebels, 42-41 in OT.
It was a high-scoring, back and forth affair, with UK showing signs of a viable passing game and of course, the running game. This was Kentucky’s first overtime game since October 6 of 2018, when they fell at Texas A&M.
Terry Wilson looked sharp all game, aside from a few mental mistakes here and there, and running game took it up a notch after a poor week at Auburn last weekend.
In a game with a high powered Rebels offense, Kentucky’s offense proved that they could hang. The only problem is that their defense could not. The Wildcats defense struggled all game, including the overtime period where they allowed the Rebels to score the game-winning touchdown.
The Cats get another test next week when Mike Leach and Mississippi State come to Lexington.
Here are some things to know about the game:
Kentucky blew a 14-point lead
Kentucky struck first on the first drive of the second half to take a 14-point lead. And that’s where Ole Miss took off, and Kentucky’s offense and defense stalled. The Wildcats gave up a 14-point lead to the Rebels, highlighting a rough day on the field on both sides of the ball. Kentucky would go for it on 4th and 8 from Ole Miss’ side of the field in the fourth quarter, but the offensive line let up a crucial sack that gave Ole Miss the ball is prime field position.
The rushing attack is still working
Kentucky had three rushers, Terry Wilson, AJ Rose, and Chris Rodriguez, of over 100 yards and Ole Miss seemed like they had no answer for it the whole game. Wilson had a career-high three rushing touchdowns and looked significantly more comfortable than last week, making good reads and waiting for plays to develop.
The Big Blue Wall also bounced back after a rough week at Auburn last week. But while it was great to see the ground game have so much success, it also opened up the field more for Terry Wilson when he did drop back to pass, and he had one of his best passing performances as a Wildcat.
The defense needs a lot of work
For the second straight game, the Kentucky defense got torched. Bad. Most notably, the secondary is nowhere near what they were last season, despite adding players, and returning all who started last year.
Yes, the Ole Miss offense is explosive and put up over 600 yards on Florida last week, but this marks two straight games in where UK seemed helpless on the defensive side of the ball. Kelvin Joseph was even beat two plays in a row in the fourth quarter, leading to an Ole Miss game-tying touchdown. Through two games, Kentucky has yet to force a turnover.
The Wildcats defense got a CRUCIAL stop on fourth down on their own goal line, preserving a seven point lead late in the third quarter. They also got a stop at the end of regulation to send the game into overtime.
However, they obviously allowed the game-winning score, and things have to change and in a hurry if the Cats are going to have even a .500 record in this year’s 10-game schedule.
Don’t celebrate too early
AJ, my man. What was that? In case you missed it, AJ Rose ripped off a 72-yard run on UK’s first play from scrimmage. The only issue is that is should have been a 75-yard touchdown run, if not for Rose starting an early celebration at the 30-yard line and getting tripped up inside the 5. And then to top it off, Rose would fumble two plays later. Never celebrate too early.
Thankfully, Kentucky forced a quick three and out, then got a great return by Josh Ali to the Ole Miss 32-yard line before the offense finished it off with a score.
After enduing kicking struggles throughout the 2019 season, it looks like things haven’t changed this year. Matt Ruffalo missed a 49-yard field goal in the third quarter that would have given Kentucky a 10-point lead, then missed an extra point in overtime that left Kentucky holding a six-point lead.
It’s really unfortunate to see Kentucky continue to struggle so badly with kicking. It cost them games last year, and it will cost them more this year if it doesn’t improve.