The winning streak continues for the Kentucky Wildcats who moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1950, and only the fifth time in school history, after dismantling LSU 42-21 on Saturday night at Kroger Field.
Kentucky, ranked No. 16 in the latest AP Poll, now has back-to-back wins over national powers Florida and LSU to set up next week’s SEC East showdown against No. 2-ranked Georgia at Sanford Stadium in Athens.
Against LSU, Coach Mark Stoops finally got his wish for “complimentary football” - a phrase he’s used all season to describe his desire to see the offense and defense clicking at the same time. That finally happened in a big way on Saturday night as both sides of the ball were firing on all cylinders.
First, the Kentucky defense came up big, holding LSU to just 120 yards of total offense in the first half while quarterback Will Levis had his best performance as a Wildcat, playing a hand in five touchdowns that included three through the air and two rushing. Levis finished 14 for 17 for 145 yards passing and led an offense that had few penalties, no turnovers and scored the third most points against an SEC team in the Mark Stoops era.
The Wildcats were dominant early, scoring on its first two drives to take a 14-0 halftime advantage. Both scores were set up by the defense who got a sack on LSU’s opening possession as linebacker DeAndre Square stripped quarterback Max Johnson as Josaih Hayes recovered the fumble. The offense took advantage of the turnover after rolling the dice on 4th and 3 at the goal line as Levis connected with Chris Rodriguez on a touchdown pass to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead at the 6:17 mark in the first quarter.
On LSU’s next possession, the Kentucky defense stopped the Tigers on 4th and 1 to set up a five-play, 69-yard drive that ended with another Levis strike to Wan’Dale Robinson for an 11-yard touchdown to start the second quarter.
Kentucky scored twice in the third quarter as Levis found the end zone on 1-yard and 5-yard runs, respectively, to give the Wildcats a 28-7 lead to close the third quarter. Levis threw his third touchdown pass on a 25-yard dart to JuTahn McClain with 12:07 left in the game. Rodriguez closed the scoring with an 18-yard touchdown run with 4:23 remaining.
The defense was led by Jacquez Jones with nine tackles followed by Square and Carrington Valentine who each had eight.
Next week’s game at Georgia begins at 3:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CBS.
Playing in just his sixth game at Kentucky, the light bulb finally went off for Levis, who played like an elite veteran that’s now in the middle of an SEC East showdown on the road next week at Georgia.
After struggling early with decision-making and accuracy — he threw six interceptions through the first five games — the Penn State transfer was locked in against the Tigers and gets the nod as the Game’s MVP.
Despite the loss of senior wide receiver Josh Ali to injury, Levis was able to connect with five different receivers - Robinson, Epps, Rigg, McClain and Izayah Cummings - and punished the LSU defense on the ground with 75 yards rushing on nine carries.
On Kentucky’s opening drive, Levis fired a bullet on 3rd and 7 to Epps for a 20-yard gain to set the tone for a much improved passing game under Offensive Coordinator Liam Coen. On the Wildcats’ next possession, he then connected on a 34-yard pass play to tight end Justin Rigg to keep the chains moving and set up the run game for Rodriguez, who finished with 147 yards on 16 carries and entered the Kentucky record book as just the 10th player in UK history to rush for 2,000 career yards.
Kavosiey Smoke also turned in his best game as a Wildcat, rushing for his first 100-yard game with 104 yards on 12 carries.