After a fast start on Saturday night at Kroger Field, things quickly turned ugly for Mark Stoops and the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats, as they would fall to No. 25 Missouri, 38-21.
Kentucky jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and looked to be on cruise control as both the offense and defense seemed ready to get back in the win column after an embarrassing loss to No. 1-ranked Georgia last week.
However, Missouri scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter, triggered by a fake punt that resulted in a 39-yard touchdown throw from Missouri punter Luke Bauer who found Marquis Johnson in the end zone with 11:38 left remaining in the second quarter to cut the lead to 14-7. Missouri led 17-14 at halftime.
Things actually got worse to open the second half as Kentucky’s Barion Brown fumbled on the first play of the half deep in Missouri territory, and a Tiger field goal pushed the lead to 20-14 with 11:54 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wildcats fought back after Devin Leary threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Brown-Stephens to put the ‘Cats back on top 21-20 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. However, Missouri bounced back with a score and two-point conversion to pull ahead 28-21 with 14:13 remaining before the Tigers added one final touchdown and a field goal to close out the scoring.
The Wildcats fall to 5-2 on the season with a bye week coming up before hosting Tennessee on October 28th.
Here are the four things you need to know after a gut-wrenching loss at home:
Kentucky comes out swinging, but disaster strikes
For a team that’s often hampered by slow starts this season, the Wildcats held Missouri to a quick three-and-out on its first three possessions before the offense locked in early with a scoring drive that included an opening 65-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass from Devin Leary to Ray Davis, who extended his SEC lead in touchdowns. Davis, a Vanderbilt transfer, chewed up 34 yards rushing on the opening dive.
The second quarter proved to be a different story as Missouri shifted the momentum on its way to a decisive victory.
Ray Davis keeps stuffing the stat sheet
Ray Davis continues to climb up the stat sheet as the focal point of the Kentucky offense. The Vanderbilt transfer rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries in the first half and also caught a touchdown pass from Leary to become the first UK player since Randall Cobb in 2009 to score a touchdown in seven consecutive games. Davis entered the Missouri game with the SEC lead in rushing yards (653) and scoring (72 total points).
Ray Davis has been simply amazing this season, and we need to come up big again to get the ‘Cats back on track. He finished with over 100 yards rushing for the third time this season.
The passing game is still a work in progress
The frustration continues for Liam Coen, and the passing game as Leary is still trying to find the magic of his past with NC State while a few bad drops still seem to kill potential drives. The good news is that Leary did score his first rushing touchdown in the opening quarter and had another one called back on a holding penalty, so he still has great instincts for getting into the end zone.
A young group of receivers still seems to be out of sync, and a loaded tight end room has been underutilized in the passing game.
Of course, when Leary does connect with a speedy group of receivers, big things usually happen, as explosive plays can come in bunches. However, this team should be settled in after seven games and make routine plays to move the chains. Can the bye week help the offense get back in a rhythm?
Bye Week comes at the perfect time
The last seven days have been a roller coaster for Coach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats, first getting blasted in Athens and then getting into a dogfight with a tough Mizzou team. Stoops and his coaching staff are sure to use the extra week to clean up penalties, shore up special teams, and continue to provide added confidence to his coordinators - Liam Coen and Brad White - who could use the week to find some new solutions for a team that needs a boost heading into the final stretch of the season. Getting healthy will certainly be a point of emphasis, as the Wildcats have had plenty of bumps and bruises over the past seven days.
Despite playing without leading tackler Trevin Wallace and Safety Jalen Geiger, the Wildcats did a decent job on Missouri quarterback Brady Cook early in the game, so there are several things to build on. In fact, Maxwell Hairston added another interception to the league lead. But time is running out, and Stoops needs a quick reboot to salvage the season.
Let’s get ready for Tennessee.
Now, let’s vent.