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UK looks to carry offensive momentum from win at Tennessee into Missouri contest this Saturday

By Tim Letcher
University of Kentucky

It was the University of Kentucky defense that garnered much of the attention during and after Saturday’s win at Tennessee, and rightfully so.

It was the UK defense that accounted for the Wildcats’ first two touchdowns in the 34-7 victory, with Kelvin Joseph and Jamin Davis each returning interceptions for touchdowns. And it was the defense that held Tennessee to just 84 total yards in the second half.

But the UK offense got things clicking in that second half, too. Perhaps the offense even helped the defense, maintaining the ball for chunks of time while the defense was allowed to rest on the sidelines.

UK’s Allen Dailey hauls in a pass for a touchdown against Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. (UK photo)

Kentucky’s offense had 219 total yards in the second half of the win at Tennessee, including 159 yards on the ground. That allowed Kentucky to keep the ball for more than 21 minutes during the second 30 minutes of play at Neyland Stadium.

The Wildcats (2-2) now hope they can take that offensive momentum and rhythm into Saturday’s game at Missouri. Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was pleased with his offense’s play on Saturday, especially after halftime.

“I really liked the way we played offensively, particularly in the second half,” Stoops said. “I thought when we started with a three-and-out and (our) offense goes 11 plays and I want to say around six minutes and scored a touchdown was very big. Then we come back, get another stop, then another long drive maybe for three, then another long drive.”

Kentucky’s first drive of the second half was 11 plays, covering 76 yards in 5:54. It ended with quarterback Terry Wilson hitting Allen Dailey in the corner of the end zone to give the Cats a 24-7 lead.

On the next drive, the Cats went 49 yards on eight plays and 3:54 came off the clock. That drive ended with a Matt Ruffolo field goal, increasing the lead to 27-7.

Early in the fourth quarter, Kentucky drove again, this time all on the ground. The Cats covered 54 yards in seven rushing plays, taking another 4:04 off the clock. That drive ended with a Chris Rodriguez touchdown run, which gave UK a commanding 34-7 advantage.

Stoops liked how his team controlled the game in the second half.

Chris Rodriguez gains yardage during UK’s 34-7 win at Tennessee on Saturday. (UK photo)

“So we possessed the ball in the second half and I thought we did a really nice job of being aggressive when the plays were there,” Stoops said. “Terry and the receivers and tight ends executed it well, we got some big gains from the pass game which, in turn, created some space in the run game and not let them play with the numbers, at times, and we created some big plays and kept them off balance. Hopefully, we’ll continue to do that, keeping teams off balance by being efficient both throwing and running.”

This week, UK travels to Missouri to face the 1-2 Tigers, who are coming off a bye week. In its last game, Missouri upset defending national champion LSU 45-41 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia. Stoops knows that Missouri will pose another challenge to his team.

“(They) played very good the last time out against LSU,” Stoops said. “We know they’re getting better and better. Well-coached football team.”

The last time Kentucky went to Missouri, in 2018, the Cats rallied late and won the game 15-14 on a touchdown pass from Wilson to C.J. Conrad with no time left on the clock. The offense struggled that day in Columbia but made enough plays in the end to win.

On Saturday in Knoxville, the defense ruled the day. But the strides that Kentucky made on offense, particularly in the second half, give the Cats something to build on this week as they prepare for Missouri.

The kickoff for UK’s game at Missouri is set for 4 p.m. ET and will be televised by the SEC Network. The Wildcats return home the following week (Oct. 31) to host nationally ranked Georgia at Kroger Field.

Kentucky defeated Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday, 34-7, marking the Wildcats’ first win at Neyland Stadium since the 1984 season. (UK photo)

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