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The Kentucky Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 SEC) fell to the Missouri Tigers (6-1, 2-1 SEC) 38-21 on a cool fall night in Lexington on Saturday. The showing was a disappointing one for the ‘Cats after coming off an abysmal performance on the road at No. 1 Georgia a week ago. The ‘Cats continued their season trend of undisciplined play on Saturday, accumulating an outlandish 14 penalties in the game for a total of 122 yards. QB Devin Leary also continued his lackluster play, finishing the game just 14 of 27 passing with 120 yards and 2 INTs, while adding 2 passing TDs and 1 rushing TD. The ‘Cats got off to a blistering start, jumping out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter, largely thanks to RB Ray Davis (7 carries, 70 yds, 1 rec TD in the first quarter). After that quick start, the ‘Cats were outscored 38-7 for the remainder of the game, and 18-0 in the fourth quarter. The surprising stat? The ‘Cats actually held the Tigers star QB Brady Cook to just 175 passing yards, 1 passing TD, and forced 1 INT. Cook added 40 rush yards and 1 rushing TD. The ‘Cats also held the SEC leading receiver Luther Burden III to a season-low 2 receptions for 15 total yards. The ‘Cats defense was repeatedly placed in tough spots due to a poor punting performance by P Berry. The Tigers took advantage of the short fields, especially in the second half. Overall, it was a traditional let down performance from the ‘Cats following a hyped game loss. Stoops’ teams have never been able to bounce back from letdowns as you would hope they would. The ‘Cats will have to regain focus and get healthier over the next 2 weeks before rival Tennessee comes to Lexington on Halloween weekend.
Kentucky entered Saturday nights matchup with a record of 5-1 on the season with their lone loss coming a week ago to the No. 1 ranked team in the country in the Georgia Bulldogs, 51-13. The ‘Cats showing in Athens was a disappointing one, with QB Devin Leary continuing to falter under center. Leary completed just 10 of 26 passes in the game for a total of 128 yards and 2 TDs. The ‘Cats defense never settled in, as they surrendered 608 total yards to the Bulldogs (435 passing, 173 rushing). It was an all systems failure that continued into the week with Head Coach Mark Stoops questionable comments. Stoops pushed the Big Blue Nation to “pony up” more funding into the Kentucky football collective. The collective is used to help the team fund the players through NIL and is often used by teams to lure recruits. Stoops felt local and national backlash for his comments on his coaches show, and put even more pressure on the ‘Cats to perform to their potential against the Tigers at home this week. The ‘Cats will continue to rely on their run game that is led by star RB Ray Davis as SEC continues down the stretch. Davis leads the SEC in rushing with 653 rush yards on the year while totaling 12 TDs on the year, 8 rushing and 4 receiving. There was nothing to be proud of on defense last week for the ‘Cats, although DB Maxwell Hairston continued his solid play with his 4th INT of the season. The ‘Cats were without LB Trevin Wallace (18 solo tk, 3.5 sacks, 1 INT) for their game on Saturday.
The Missouri Tigers arrived in Lexington fresh off of their first loss of the season as well, as they fell to the LSU Tigers at home by a score of 49-39 last week. The Tigers are led by star QB Brady Cook who has accumulated a 13:2 TD-INT ration this season while throwing for 313 YPG. Cook has also added 3 rushing TDs on the season. The Tigers offense also possesses the No. 2 rusher in the SEC in Cody Schrader (577 rush yds, 6 rush TDs).
Keys to the game for the ‘Cats included getting off to a fast start offensively to pace itself versus Missouri’s high powered offensive attack. The ‘Cats finally need Leary to breakout and be the QB they recruited him to be. With that, WRs Brown and Key need to step up and do their best to help their QB when they can by limiting drops and creating yards after the catch. The defense is short-handed without Wallace, but the ‘Cats need to keep pressure on the QB and limit Cook’s time in the pocket. The secondary’s ability to limit WR Luther Burdens big playmaking ability is also key.
The spread for Saturday night’s matchup was -1.5 (UK), with an Over/Under set at 50.5.
Missouri won the toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. The Tigers lost a yard on the first run of the game, with Raynor collecting the TFL for the ‘Cats (Raynor started in place of injured LB Wallace). The ‘Cats defense forced a 3rd-and-10 on the first possession. DB Andru Phillips prevented a first down catch and forced a Missouri punt. The first ‘Cats possession began on their own 35-yard line. Ray Davis took his first carry of the game for a 5-yard gain. Davis took a third-down carry for a gain of 13-yards to the Missouri 44-yard line. Davis’s next carry gathered 14 more yards to the Missouri 30-yard line. Barion Brown took an end-around for a gain of 17 yards to the Missouri 13-yard line. A short yardage Leary rushing touchdown was taken off the board by a TE Kattus holding penalty. The ‘Cats followed the penalty up with a short pass to Sumo-Karngbaye and a 7-yard receiving touchdown by Ray Davis to put the ‘Cats in front 7-0 with 8:32 minutes to play. All three receptions on the drive were caught by Kentucky RBs. RB Schrader picked up the first first-down of the game for the Tigers. DB Maxwell Hairston collected his 5th INT of the season on the next play for the Wildcats. Davis took the first two carries of the drive for gains of 16 and 13 yards to the Missouri 35-yard line. Davis took a 3rd-and-5 carry for a 6-yard gain for a new set of downs. Robinson caught his first pass of the gain for 9 yards to the Missouri 15-yard line. OL Cox was called for a hold on a 3rd-and-1 run by Davis, backing the ‘Cats up into a 3rd-and-11 situation in which Robinson caught a 12-yard reception for a first-down. QB Leary took the next play 13 yards for a rushing touchdown on a designed QB run play by OC Liam Coen. The score put the ’Cats in front 14-0 with 2:09-minutes to play in the quarter. DB Hairston nearly intercepted his second pass of the game on a 2nd down pass attempt by Cook. Deone Walker recorded a sack to force the Tigers to punt as the Wildcats began their next drive on their own 26-yard line. Leary just missed a deep connection with Brown on first down. The ‘Cats followed that with their first 3-and-out of the game to end the first quarter. The ‘Cats led 14-0.
Missouri QB Brady Cook scrambled for a gain of 25 yards for a first down to start the quarter. The ‘Cats defense forced a 3rd-and-4 on their own 33-yard line. The 3rd down snap was bobbled and fumbled by Cook for a loss of 6 yards. The Tigers faked the punt as P Bauer threw a 39-yard touchdown to WR Marquis Johnson. The PAT made the score 14-7 Kentucky with 11:38-minutes. The ensuing Kentucky drive began on the Wildcats 23-yard line. Davis gained 4 yards on his carry to begin the drive. WR Brown-Stephens dropped a perfect pass from Leary for what would have been a big gain on a third-down attempt. Instead, the ‘Cats punt the ball and the Tigers begin their next drive on their own 36-yard line with 9:39-minutes to play in the half. The Tigers put together their best drive of the game, aided with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty by the ‘Cats, down to the 12-yard line of Kentucky. An end-around by Burden on a 3rd down play gave Missouri a first down on the Kentucky 6-yard line. The Kentucky defense stood firm in the red zone and forced the Tigers to kick a 25-yard field goal by K Mevis that brought the score to 14-10 Kentucky with 4:44-minutes to play. Ray Davis began the next drive for Kentucky with an 8-yard carry. The ‘Cats and Davis ran for one first down on the drive but then stalled out. Kentucky punt the ball to Missouri with 1:40-minutes to play. Missouri began their drive on their own 39-yard line after just a 33-yard punt. The Tigers ran their 2-minute offense to perfection, driving down the field and ending their drive with an 18-yard touchdown reception by Wease. The PAT pushed the Tigers in front by a score of 17-14 Missouri.
Halftime: Missouri 17 – Kentucky 14
The ‘Cats received the second half kick off and began their drive on the 29-yard line. Barion Brown took an end-around for the first play of the half and fumbled the ball, the Tigers recovered and took over on the Kentucky 31-yard line. The ‘Cats defense forced a 3rd-and-8 on the 15-yard line. The defense limited the Tigers to just 1-yard on the third-down attempt to force a 31-yard field goal by the Tigers that Mevis knocked through. The Tigers stretched their lead to 20-14 following the Kentucky turnover. The ‘Cats completed a big gain to Dane Key that was called back due to another holding penalty by OL Eli Cox. Leary was sacked on the next play to force a 3rd-and-20 on the Kentucky 10-yard line. WR Brown-Stephens dropped another perfect pass from Leary, forcing Kentucky to punt once again. The Tigers began their next drive on their own 45-yard line with 9:44-minutes to play in the third quarter. The ‘Cats defense gave up a 17-yard catch but then forced a 3rd-and-6 on the Kentucky 31-yard line. The defense swarmed Cook on a designed QB run to force another Missouri field goal attempt. The 46-yard field goal attempt from Mevis was blocked by Rybka from Kentucky. The ‘Cats took over on their own 36-yard line. On the next ‘Cats possession, Leary narrowly escaped an INT due to the Missouri defender trapping the ball on the ground. The ‘Cats were forced into a 3rd-and-15 following a 1-yard reception from Dingle. Leary scrambled for a 19-yard gain on the third-down attempt, with 10-yards being tacked on due to a holding penalty on the Missouri defense. Ray Davis picked up 13-yards on the next play to push the ‘Cats to the Missouri 33-yard line. Leary found a wide-open TE Jordan Dingle on the next play for a 31-yard gain to the Missouri 2-yard line. Leary finally connected to Brown-Stephens for a 4-yard touchdown on a creative play by OC Coen. The PAT put the ‘Cats back in front by a score 21-20 with 3:39-minutes to play in the third quarter. The touchdown was the first of WR Brown-Stephens career. Missouri began their next drive on their 30-yard line. Deone Walker stuffed RB Schrader for a loss of yardage on a 2nd down run attempt to force a third-and-short. Phillips was called for a questionable pass-interference on the third down to give Missouri a new set of downs. The Tigers drove the ball to the 2-yard line on a 22-yard reception by Norfleet. Kentucky led 21-20 at the end of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter began with a 2nd-and-goal chance from Missouri on the Kentucky 3-yard line. Brady Cook kept the ball to run in for a touchdown on a 3rd-and-goal. The score put the Tigers up 26-21. The Tigers went for the 2 PT conversion and was intercepted, but the ‘Cats were flagged on the play for roughing the passer. The Tigers ran it in on the next attempt to push the lead to 28-21 with 14:13-minutes to play in the game. Leary took a sack for a loss of 11-yards to force a 3rd-and-17. Leary bumped into his own lineman and put the ball on the ground but recovered the fumble. Kentucky punted the ball and Missouri began the next drive on the Kentucky 37-yard line after another short 29-yard punt by Berry. A pass-interference on Phillips pushed the Tigers to the red zone on the Kentucky 19-yard line. Schrader rushed the ball up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown to put the Tigers in front 35-21 with 11:07-minutes remaining in the game. Demie Sumo-Karngbaye returned the kickoff for 33-yards to the Kentucky 44-yard line. Key reeled in a 21-yard reception on the next play. Missouri committed a pass-interference penalty to push the ‘Cats to the Missouri 20-yard line. Leary’s third-down pass attempt was intercepted following a series of unsuccessful plays from the Wildcats. The Tigers took over with 9:28-minutes to play in the game. The ‘Cats intercepted a Cooks pass but the play was called back due to an offsides penalty on Kentucky. The Tigers gained one first-down on the next drive but punted the ball back to the ‘Cats with 5:22-minutes left to play in the game. Leary threw his second interception of the game on a 3rd-and-17 play to give the ball back to the Tigers on the Kentucky 31-yard line. Another unsportsmanlike penalty, this time by Barion Brown, pushed the ball to the 16-yard line. Missouri kicked a 29-yard field goal to push the score to 38-21. Kentucky drove down the field on the next possession but turned the ball over on downs at their own 2-yard line with 42-seconds to play. Missouri defeated Kentucky by a score of 38-21.
Final: Missouri 38 – Kentucky 21
Kentucky – 299 (120 Passing, 179 Rushing)
Missouri – 324 (206 Passing, 118 Rushing)
Turnover Differential: (+ 2 Missouri)
Kentucky 3 – Missouri 1
Time of Possession:
Kentucky – 26:43 minutes
Missouri – 30:10 minutes
Devin Leary – [(14 comp – 27 att) (120 yds) (2 TD) (2 INT)]
Ray Davis – [(20 car) (128 rush yds), (2 rec) (11 rec yds) (1 rec TD)]
Daveren Rayner – [(10 totTk) (5 solo) (1 TFL)]
Deone Walker – [(7 totTk) (6 solo) (4 TFL) (1 Sack)]
Maxwell Hairston – [(3 totTk) (2 solo) (1 INT)]
The ‘Cats (5-2, 2-2 SEC) will take their BYE this week. Following the BYE week, their next game will be back in Lexington when they take on the Tennessee Volunteers (5-1, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday, October 28. The kickoff time and station has not yet been announced.