Kentucky lost in heartbreaking fashion against Ole Miss in their first home game of the wacky 2020 season, going down 42-41 in overtime.
The momentum, which swung like a pendulum in this game, was all with Kentucky midway through the 3rd quarter, as they were up 28-14 and looked to be in the driver seat. Ole Miss then went on to score 21 unanswered points as quarterback Matt Corral shredded the UK secondary, giving the Rebels a 35-28 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
That really was the story of the game — Ole Miss’s success passing the ball and efficiently getting down the field. Rebels’ quarterback Matt Corral went 24/29 for 320 passing yards and four touchdowns. Wide receiver Elijah Moore had another huge performance after a big game last week, reeling in 10 catches for 92 yards and a touchdown while his teammate Johnathon Mingo had eight catches for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
“They were doing what they wanted to do, to be honest with you,” UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said of the Ole Miss passing attack.
Kentucky’s offense did not budge, however, as Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson led the Cats on a 12 play, 75-yard touchdown drive that included the QB making huge throws on multiple third downs and ultimately tying the game 35-35. Wilson really overall had a marvelous game, going 14/18 for 151 passing and rushing for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 22 attempts.
And not only Wilson, but the offensive running game as a whole was spectacular — rushing for 408 yards and averaging 7.3 per carry. UK sophomore running back Chris Rodriguez led the Cats in that category with 133 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts, while his teammate AJ Rose also had a monstrous outing with 117 rushing yards and one touchdown on 12 attempts. The UK offense even overall out-gained Ole Miss offense 559-459.
“We worked really hard throughout the week, knowing our mindset was gonna have to be to leave it all out there for 60 minutes, and I felt like we did that,” UK QB Terry Wilson said after the game.
Even with the dominant offensive performance, they still were faced with having to go through OT in order to pull out a victory. The Rebels would go on to win the overtime coin toss, and elected to defer. That gave UK the ball to start the OT period, and scored a touchdown in just three straight running plays, putting them up 41-35.
Then the “old UK football” moment kicked in (Yes, the pun was intended).
Kentucky kicker Matt Ruffolo, who had missed a 49-yard field goal earlier in the 3rd quarter but made five out of five of his previous PATs, missed the most important one-point chip shot of the year past the right goal post. That miss made the score 41-35, and Ole Miss took advantage on offense once again, scoring in just four plays and nailing the PAT to win the game 42-41.
Even though Ruffolo missed the PAT, however, this loss was not as much on the hands on the offense as it was the defense. After giving up 42 points today, Kentucky now loses it’s streak of 18 consecutive games holding an opponent to 30 points or less, and 28 straight outings of keeping an opponent from putting up more than 34 points.
To make matters look even worse statistically, the UK secondary has given up seven passing touchdowns so far this season, already close to its season total last year. Also, they are yet to create a turnover.
Now, the sky isn’t falling in Lexington. There have been just two games so far this season, but in a 10-game conference-only schedule in which the next three games for the Cats are ranked opponents, this loss is crucial. UK will face off against Mississippi State next week, who happens to have even more of an explosive offense as the Rebels, so practice this week could be as important as any seven-day period this season in order to get the defense straightened out and ready to go.