AUBURN, AL (UK Athletics)- Terry Wilson passed for 239 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 42 yards, but No. 23 Kentucky lost its season opener, falling at No. 8 Auburn 29-13 on Saturday.
Auburn got a couple of first downs on its first possession before being forced to punt. Kentucky took over inside its own 10 yard line. The Cats drove into Auburn territory and, on a third and short, Smoke scampered 35 yards off the right side for the first touchdown of the season. Matt Ruffolo added the PAT and the Cats led 7-0 after an 11-play, 93-yard drive.
The Tigers responded with a scoring drive of their own. Auburn covered 70 yards in just seven plays, capped by a one-yard touchdown run by D.J. Williams. The Tigers faked the extra point and Grant Loy hit John Samuel Shenker with a pass for the two-point conversion, giving Auburn an 8-7 lead with 4:30 to play in the first quarter. That would be the score after the first period.
As the second quarter got underway, Kentucky faced a fourth and three from the Auburn 39, but Wilson’s pass intended for Clevan Thomas Jr. was broken up and Auburn took possession.
Auburn promptly drove into Kentucky territory and eventually faced a fourth and one from the UK 16. The Tigers handed the ball to Williams, who was stuffed by UK linebacker DeAndre Square, giving the ball back to the Cats on the UK 16.
Kentucky was able to drive into Auburn territory, but a holding penalty hampered the Cats’ progress and UK was forced to punt.
After an Auburn punt, Kentucky again drove into Auburn territory, aided by a 40-yard completion from Wilson to Allen Dailey Jr., setting up the Cats at the Auburn 12. The Cats drove inside the Auburn one, and Chris Rodriguez Jr. appeared to score, but replay indicated that he did not get in. On second and goal from the one, Wilson was stuffed, giving UK third and one from the one. That’s when Wilson threw an interception that was returned 100 yards by Roger McCreary for a touchdown. However, after review, Auburn was called for targeting, negating the score. Auburn took an 8-7 lead into the half.
In the second half, Kentucky opened with a three-and-out. After a UK punt, Auburn took over and immediately marched into UK territory. However, the UK defense stood tall, forcing the Tigers to go for it on fourth and eight. Quarterback Bo Nix pooch punted the ball to the UK two yard line.
The Cats could do nothing with the possession but Max Duffy boomed a 75-yard punt, the third-longest in school history, giving the Tigers the ball on their own 24. From there Auburn drove into UK territory and into the red zone. Nix connected with Seth Williams on an 11-yard touchdown pass and Anders Carlson added the PAT to give Auburn a 15-7 lead with 5:42 to play in the third quarter.
Kentucky responded with a drive of its own, methodically marching into Auburn territory. The Cats would get into the red zone and Wilson connected with Akeem Hayes for an eight-yard touchdown, the first of Hayes’ career, to make it 15-13 with 1:00 left in the third. The Cats would go for two, but Wilson could not find anyone open and the try failed.
Auburn added a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns on passing touchdowns by Nix to Seth Williams and Eli Stove to lead 29-13.
Kentucky returns to action on Saturday, hosting Ole Miss in the home opener at Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 4 p.m. ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.