No. 7 Kentucky Comes Up Short at No. 14 Ole Miss
OXFORD, Miss. – Will Levis connected on 18 of his 24 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, but a late drive came up short as seventh-ranked Kentucky fell at No. 14 Ole Miss 22-19 on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Chris Rodriguez Jr., playing in his first game of the season, carried 19 times for 72 yards and a touchdown, and caught three passes for 40 yards in the game.
Freshman Barion Brown had four explosive plays in the game for the Cats, two receptions and two on kick returns.
DeAndre Square led the UK defensive attack with 11 tackles and Jordan Wright had eight.
Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0 SEC) had the first possession of the game and the Rebels were able to get one first down before the Cats forced a punt.
Kentucky (4-1, 1-1) took over at its own five yard line and, like the Rebels, the Cats made one first down before being forced to kick it away.
On its second possession, Ole Miss got the scoring underway. The Rebels needed just 1:40 to cover 70 yards in six plays, ending with a four-yard touchdown rush by Zach Evans. Jonathan Cruz added the point after and Ole Miss led 7-0 with 7:09 left in the first quarter.
The Cats would take the ensuing possession into Ole Miss territory, aided by a 30-yard completion from Levis to freshman Brown. But the drive would stall and Kentucky would try a 39-yard field goal from Matt Ruffolo. The kick would sail wide left and the score remained 7-0 with 2:44 left in the first.
Ole Miss would strike again on its next drive. The Rebels would get to midfield, and that’s when freshman Quinshon Judkin busted free up the middle and raced to the end zone for a 48-yard touchdown. Cruz made the PAT and the Rebels led 14-0 with 59 seconds left in the first quarter.
Kentucky would respond on the ensuing kickoff. Brown took the kickoff at the goal line and sprinted 85 yards down the left sideline to the Ole Miss 15 yard line. Two plays later, Rodriguez took it right up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown, getting the Cats on the board. The PAT was blocked and the period ended with Ole Miss leading 14-6.
In the second quarter, Ole Miss would make one first down on its next drive before being forced to punt again. The Rebels down the ball at the UK one yard line, where the Cats would take over.
Kentucky would get out of the shadow of its own goal post with a first down. However, Ole Miss held and on third-and-12, Levis was under pressure and threw the ball away. Intentional grounding was called on the play and, because Levis was in the end zone, it resulted in a safety, giving the Rebels a 16-6 advantage with 10:28 to play in the half.
Ole Miss took possession at their own 37 after the free kick and quickly got into UK territory. But an offensive pass interference call set the Rebels back and they were forced into a 53-yard field goal by Cruz, which was good, giving Ole Miss a 19-6 lead with 7:03 remaining in the half.
Kentucky needed points on its next drive and the Cats got just that. UK used a nice mix of running and passing to get inside the Ole Miss 10. Among the key plays was a 23-yard rush by Izayah Cummings.
On first and goal from the five, Levis flipped a pass to Tayvion Robinson, who sprinted right and into the front corner of the end zone for a touchdown. A bad snap prevented the extra point attempt but the Cats got within seven, 19-12, with 1:23 left in the half.
Ole Miss would get a final possession and the Rebels would get into UK territory before former Rebel Jacquez Jones intercepted Dart at the UK 28. The half would end with Ole Miss holding a 19-12 lead.
Kentucky took the second half kickoff but the Cats were forced into a three-and-out. Colin Goodfellow booted a 52-yard punt and Ole Miss took over at its own 16 yard line.
Ole Miss followed suit, going three-and-out and punting the ball back to the Cats. The punt, which was into the wind, also took a UK bounce and the Cats took over in great field position at the Ole Miss 49 yard line.
Levis would connect with Dane Key for a 14-yard completion. The Cats would later face a fourth-and-1 from the Ole Miss 26 and Rodriguez would convert, giving UK a new set of downs. Kentucky would not waste the opportunity, as Levis hit tight end Jordan Dingle, who fought his way into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown. Ruffolo added the PAT and the game was tied 19-19 with 6:22 to play in the third quarter.
Ole Miss would assemble a scoring drive on the next possession. The Rebels used their high-paced offense to get down the field in a hurry. But the Cats’ defense stood tall and forced the Rebels into a 26-yard field goal from Cruz, which was good, giving Ole Miss a 22-19 advantage with 2:19 left in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, Brown struck again, taking the kickoff 54 yards to the Ole Miss 39 and giving the Cats very good field position again. But the Cats were unable to take advantage and gave the ball up on downs as the fourth quarter began.
Ole Miss marched down the field and got inside the UK red zone. But big plays by DeAndre Square and D’Eryck Jackson forced the Rebels into a fourth-and-goal from the five and Dart’s pass was knocked away by Jordan Lovett, giving UK the ball with 10:14 to play.
The Cats got out of the deep hole on the first play of the ensuing drive as Ju’Tahn McClain went up the middle for 17 yards and a first down. UK would continue to march down the field, with Levis and Rodriguez hooking up on a 17-yard completion and, two plays later, Levis and Dingle connecting for 14 yards. But on third-and-two from the Ole Miss 19, Levis, trying to stretch for the first down, was hit and fumbled. Ole Miss would recover, taking over at their own 21 with 2:55 to play.
Ole Miss went three-and-out with the ensuing possession, punting the ball back to the Cats, who took over at their own 34 with 1:49 to play. After an eight-yard completion to Rodriguez, Levis hit Brown on a screen that the speedster took 51 yards to the Ole Miss seven.
On the next play, Levis hit freshman Dane Key on a fade in the corner of the end zone for an apparent touchdown. But the Cats were not set on the play and were called for illegal motion. Then, on the next play, Levis was back to pass and was hit by the Rebels’ Jared Ivey, who forced a fumble that the Rebels recovered to seal the game.
Kentucky returns home next week, hosting South Carolina at Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.