Late Interception Saves The Day
Heading into this weekend eight FCS squads have defeated FBS teams in 2021. On Saturday Mark Stoops and the Wildcats nearly became the ninth. For much of the games on Saturday, the Cats were outplayed by the Mocs from the Southern Conference. In the end, a late defensive stop pushed UK to victory. It wasn’t pretty but let’s take a look as Kentucky Escapes Chattanooga 28-23.
Turnovers Again Cause Issues
Through the first two games of 2021, one of the biggest issues for the Cats has been turnovers. Unfortunately, Saturday was no different as Kentucky had three turnovers which led to six points. The game started off well enough as Kentucky took the opening drive and scored on an 11 yard run by Josh Ali. The Mocs marched right down the field tying it at seven. A 20-yard pass from Will Levis to Isaiah Epps put UK up 14-7. However, on the Cats’ next possession a Levis interception led to a field goal. One more Chattanooga field goal made it a four-point game then another Levis interception led to another field goal and the Mocs led 16-14 early in the fourth.
On the game, Levis threw for 254 yards and two scores. However, he did have the two picks giving him four on the year. Furthermore, the Cats now have eight turnovers in 2021 which is unacceptable. As the schedule only gets harder from here on out they can’t keep shooting themselves in the foot game after game.
Fourth Quarter Rally
As mentioned earlier pretty much no one thought this game would be close, much less Kentucky trailing early in the fourth quarter. Levis took his team down the field and after hitting Izayah Cummings with a 31-yard touchdown putting the Wildcats up by five. However once again, as they did all day, Chattanooga drove down deep into Kentucky territory. They needed a big play and they got it as Tyrell Ajian intercepted a Cole Copeland pass taking it 95 yards to the house putting Kentucky up 12.
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) September 18, 2021
Once they got the ball back the Mocs drove down the field scoring on a two-yard run by Copeland. However, on the ensuing onside kick, Ali recovered and the Cats ran out the clock. It wasn’t pretty but Kentucky escapes Chattanooga 28-23. As we continue our look at the game let’s look at another area of concern from today.
Dominated Up Front
A week ago in the 35-28 win over Missouri Kentucky rolled up 519 yards including 340 on the ground. This coming against a good SEC defense. However, against Chattanooga, they only mustered 102 yards, the least since they gained 56 in a loss to Alabama last year. In fact, the nation’s second-leading rusher Chris Rodriguez only gained 46 yards.
On the other side of the ball, Kentucky couldn’t stop Ailym Ford, who ran for 128 yards and the Mocs gained 171 overall. It’s not often an opponent outruns the Cats but it happened Saturday.
We talked a lot of negatives but in the end, Kentucky did win the game and that moved the UK head man up the all-time wins list.
Getting Closer To A Big Mark
With Saturday’s win, Stoops now sits at 52-50 all-time at Kentucky. That puts him on eight wins behind the legendary Bear Bryant for the most wins in school history. Remember that two games into his fourth season in Lexington Stoops’ record was 12-26. Since then he’s gone 40-24 which is nothing sort of impressive. In addition, he’s won 25 conference games which ties him with Fran Curci. He can set that mark next week, which leads us to our next topic.
Kentucky moves to 3-0 with the win, marking the third time in Stoops’ nine years the Cats have started 3-0. Next week they hit the road for the first time in 2021 when they head to South Carolina for a 7:00 pm kick-off on ESPN2. The Cats have won six of the last seven against the Gamecocks including a 41-18 blowout last year. Shane Beamer‘s squad sits at 2-1 on the year after losing 40-13 to Georgia on Saturday. Chattanooga has next week off before they open Southern Conference play against Western Carolina on October 2nd.
Again Kentucky escapes Chattanooga 28-23 in a lackluster affair to say the least. However, if you are looking for silver linings long-time Wildcat fans know this is the type of game UK’s lost many times over the years. Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll get you ready for South Carolina and update our bowl projections where last week we had Kentucky playing Michigan in the Outback Bowl.