Big Win For The Cats
Most coaches will give you the usual “coach speak” about their schedule. It’s always “no game is more important than the others” or “we just take it one game at a time.” However for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats they’ve had Saturday’s game marked on the schedule for a year. After getting it handed to them a year ago the Cats wanted nothing more than to return the favor under the lights at Kroger Field. Let’s wrap up a big win as Kentucky outlasts Missouri 35-28. As usual, in true Kentucky fashion, it wasn’t easy.
A Hot Start
If you read our game preview we told you the Cats were chomping at the bit to get even for last year when the Tigers totally outclassed them. Spurred by a super charged crowd things couldn’t have started better for UK. They jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on a touchdown pass from Will Levis to Christopher Rodriguez and a two yard run by C-Rod. Following a Missouri touchdown the Cats went up 21-7 on a scoring run by Levis. However it wouldn’t last.
An Unwanted Friend Returns
The one blemish in the big win over Louisiana-Monroe was three turnovers. Against a bad Warhawks team, you can get away with it. However against Missouri you can’t. With the Cats inside the Tigers’ 10 yard line the usually reliable Rodriguez fumbled.
Connor Bazelak drove Missouri down the field in 1:44 and on a 17-yard pass to Keke Chism cut the lead to 21-14 at the half. Unfortunately for the Big Blue Nation it was a familiar script as time after time Kentucky’s had meltdowns in the last two minutes of a half. That fumble changed the entire momentum as it went from potentially a three score game to just one.
Back And Forth Affair
Starting the second half Kentucky did exactly what it needed to do in order to swing the momentum. An interception by Jacquez Jones set UK up at the Missouri 38. Three plays later Rodriguez went in for another score giving the Cats a 14-point lead. However from that point on the Tigers dominated not only time possession but the game. Running off 14 straight points, Missouri tied the game early in the fourth quarter on a 17-yard pass from Bazelak to Tyler Badie. Many in the Big Blue Nation started thinking “oh no, here we go again” as time after time Kentucky’s managed to snatch defeat from the hands of victory.
On this night it was different though they still made it interesting. With Rodriguez barreling toward the end zone he fumbled at the goal line. Offensive guard and local product Eli Cox fell on the ball to preserve the score, though C-Rod got credit for it putting the Cats up 35-28.
Eli Cox for Heisman pic.twitter.com/yCWtUwDuGI
— Nick Farley (@farlesbarkley62) September 12, 2021
All game long Brad White’s defense had no answer for Bazelak and Badie especially on third down where Missouri had gone 9-13. For the game Bazelak threw for 294 yards and four touchdowns as the Cats got no pressure on him most of the night. Badie had 149 yards of total offense to go along with one score.
Kentucky's defense has made zero adjustments tonight. Like pressing a random button on Madden, just hoping for the best.
— Jack Pilgrim (@JackPilgrimKSR) September 12, 2021
Finally they got those adjustments stopping Badie on third down forcing a punt. Kentucky held the ball for over six minutes driving it down to the Missouri 19. Rather then going for it Stoops elected for a field goal, which was promptly blocked. Again at crunch time the defense came up big with a sack by J.J. Weaver on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth gave the Cats the win as Kentucky outlasts Missouri 35-28.
Return To The Old Days
After throwing for 419 yards in the season opening win over Louisiana-Monore, Kentucky reverted back to it’s old ways on Saturday. Behind a career high 206 yards from Rodriguez and three scores Liam Coen’s offense rushed for 349 yards total. Levis did throw the ball 18 times completing 10 for 179 yards and a touchdown. It was a far cry from last week but when your running game is working behind “The Big Blue Wall” you go with your strength. In addition the Cats racked up 26 first downs and held the ball for 33 minutes. That’s considerably better than the 43 minutes Missouri had in last year’s win.
Moving Up The Leader Board
The win was Kentucky sixth in the last seven against Missouri and they lead the all-time series 8-4. For Stoops it was another big night. On the heels of becoming only the second coach in UK history to win 50 games, he tied another mark. Saturday’s victory was his 25th conference win tying him with Fran Curci. He’ll attempt to break that on September 25th when the Cats travel to South Carolina. Overall the UK head man is back over .500 at 51-50.
With the win Kentucky moves to 2-0 on the season and it’s the sixth time in nine years under Stoops the Cats have won their first two. Next week they step out of FBS competition as they face Chattanooga club from the Southern conference. It will be the first time in history the two schools have ever met.
Much like the Wildcats Missouri also hosts an FCS school when they entertain Southeast Missouri from the Ohio Valley Conference next week. The Tigers are 4-0 all-time against the Redhawks with Mizzou winning 50-0 in their last meeting in 2019.
Again Kentucky outlasts Missouri 35-28 in a game in year’s past the Cats probably would have lost. Even though the Cats have won six of seven it’s becoming a pretty good rivalry between the schools. Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll have our updated bowl projections where previously we had the Cats playing Penn State in the Outback Bowl.