Defense and kicking issues doom Cats against Ole Miss, 42-41

Kentucky rushed for 408 yards and six touchdowns, but the Wildcats fell to Ole Miss 42-41 in overtime on Saturday at Kroger Field.

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Kentucky rushed for 408 yards and six touchdowns, but the Wildcats fell to Ole Miss 42-41 in overtime on Saturday at Kroger Field.

Kentucky (0-2, 0-2 SEC) got career-high rushing efforts from Chris Rodriguez Jr., who had 133 yards and two touchdowns, Terry Wilson, who had 129 yards and three touchdowns, and Asim Rose, who had 117 yards on the ground and a touchdown.

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Wilson was also 14-of-18 through the air for 151 yards in the game.

Ole Miss (1-1, 1-1) took the opening kickoff and methodically marched down the field. The Rebels covered 75 yards in eight plays and just 2:22, ending with a one-yard touchdown rush by Jerrion Ealy. The PAT from Luke Logan was good and the Rebels grabbed an early 7-0 lead.

Kentucky’s opening possession started with a 72-yard rush from Rose, taking the ball to the Ole Miss three yard line. Rose carried on the next play, getting the Cats to the one. But on the third UK play, out of the Wildcat formation, Rose fumbled and Ole Miss took over at its own one yard line.

The Rebels were unable to do anything with the ensuing possession and were forced to punt. Josh Ali returned the punt 17 yards to the Ole Miss 29, giving the Cats outstanding field position with which to start their second possession. From there, the Cats needed only four plays and 1:54 to get into the end zone, with quarterback Terry Wilson rushing it in from four yards out. Matt Ruffolo added the PAT to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:36 left in the first period.

On its next possession, Ole Miss made it to midfield, but was forced to punt after a sack from Marquan McCall and J.J. Weaver on third down. Kentucky would take over at its own 20 with 5:58 left in the first.

The Cats again moved right down the field, quickly getting inside the red zone. On third and goal from the two, Rose pushed his way into the end zone, giving UK its first lead of the game. Ruffolo’s PAT was good and the Cats led 14-7 with 1:33 left in the first. That would be the score after 15 minutes of play.

As the second quarter began, Ole Miss was driving. The Rebels would tie the game on a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Corral to Kenny Yeboah. Logan’s PAT tied the game at 14-14 with 13:19 left in the half.

The next four possessions would end in punts, two by each team. But just before the half, Kentucky mounted a drive that would cover 83 yards in nine plays, ending with a 22-yard touchdown run from Wilson. Ruffolo added the PAT, giving Kentucky a 21-14 lead with 29 seconds left in the half. That would be he halftime score.

Kentucky got the ball first in the second half, and the Wildcats used the ground game to effectively drive the ball down the field. UK covered 75 yards in 10 plays, all on the ground, ending with a 22-yard touchdown run from Chris Rodriguez Jr. Ruffolo’s PAT gave the Cats a 28-14 lead with 10:41 left in the third quarter.

Ole Miss had a response, quickly assembling a scoring drive of its own. The Rebels needed just four plays to go 75 yards, ending with a 24-yard pass from Corral to Jonathan Mingo. Logan’s extra point was good, and Ole Miss climbed within seven, 28-21, with 9:17 still to play in the third quarter.

On its next drive, Kentucky drove into Ole Miss territory, again riding the run game. But Ole Miss would stop the Cats, forcing a field goal. But Ruffolo’s try from 49 yards hit the right upright and bounced back onto the field.

The Rebels would take possession and would promptly drive into UK territory. The Rebels would go 68 yards to the UK one-yard line, but the UK defense, led by Kelvin Joseph and Josh Paschal, came up with a stop on fourth-and-goal, keeping the Rebels from scoring.

Pinned at its own goal line, Kentucky was unable to do much with the ensuing possession and was forced to punt. Ole Miss took over and had the ball as the third quarter ended with UK leading 28-21.

But on that same drive, Ole Miss would tie the score, as Corral hit Mingo with a 16-yard touchdown pass. Logan’s PAT tied the score at 28 apiece with 13:37 to play in the game.

Kentucky took over and was able to get into Ole Miss territory. However, the Cats suffered yardage losses on third and fourth down and Ole Miss got the ball back at its own 47. The Rebels got a 47-yard completion from Corral to Yeboah on first down, then a pass interference call against UK gave the Rebels possession at the two-yard line. Two plays later, Connor scored from one yard out as Ole Miss took its first lead since the first quarter, a 35-28 advantage with 8:23 to play.

Just as Ole Miss kept doing, Kentucky responded. The Cats rode the arm of Wilson, who had 66 yards passing during a 75-yard drive that ended with a one-yard touchdown carry from Rodriguez. Ruffolo nailed the extra point and the game was tied 35-35 with 2:04 to play.

Kentucky forced at Ole Miss punt on the next possession, and the Cats ran out the clock and the game went to overtime.

The Cats got the ball first in overtime and needed just four plays, all on the ground, to score. Wilson covered the final 10 yards, rushing for his third touchdown of the game. But Ruffolo missed the PAT and the Cats led 41-35.

Ole Miss quickly drove inside the UK 10, aided by a pass interference call in the end zone. The Rebels had first and goal from the two, and on second down, Corral hit Elijah Moore with a three-yard TD pass. Logan made the PAT and Ole Miss claimed the win.

Kentucky returns to action next week, hosting No. 16 Mississippi State at Kroger Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 ET and the game can be seen on the SEC Network.

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Austin Miller joins ABC 36 Sports Team as a Sports Reporter and Weekend Anchor. Austin is from the Louisville area and graduated from St. Xavier High School in 2008. Austin graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a second concentration in German. While at IU, Austin was a blogger at Kentsterling.com and co-host, producer and engineer for WIUX, the school’s student radio station. Before coming to ABC 36, Austin was a news videographer at WLFI in West Lafayette from 2012-2015. While working with WLFI, Austin had the chance to cover the Purdue Boilermakers. He then accepted a Sports/New Reporter position at Local 4 KSNB-TV in Hastings Nebraska and was eventually promoted to sports full-time as the Weekend Sports Anchor/Reporter. While at KSNB-TV, Austin covered the University of Nebraska, the University of Nebraska-Kearney and Hastings College. After spending nearly six years away from home, Austin is excited to return to the Bluegrass State to cover the teams he grew up watching. In his spare time, Austin enjoys playing basketball, working out and cooking. If you have any story ideas or would like to say “Hello,” you can reach Austin by email at amiller@wtvq.com or direct message him on Twitter @AustinMillerTV.