Flashback: How UK blew a 25-point lead to Southern Miss

Flashback: How UK blew a 25-point lead to Southern Miss

Drew Franklinabout 4 years


Article written by:Drew FranklinDrew Franklin


Remember when Kentucky and Southern Miss met in last year's season opener? If you don't, well, it sucked. Let me tell you all about it as we count down the hours until the rematch in Hattiesburg. Consider this a refresher that'll get your blood boiling for revenge.  

"What had happened was"...

After Kentucky went three-and-out to start the game, Southern Miss took the ball and went up early with an opening drive of 49 yards on seven plays, capped off by an Ito Smith touchdown run of eight yards: Kentucky responded on its next play from scrimmage with a 41-yard pass from Drew Barker to Tavin Richardson to get into Southern Miss territory, but the Cats couldn't capitalize from there. The drive ended after five plays on a fumbled field goal attempt from the 32 on 4th and 2. Southern Miss went three-and-out on its next possession, and then the floodgates opened up for the Kentucky offense. First, Drew Barker hit Jeff Badet on a screen pass for a 72-yard touchdown on the Cats' second play of the possession. Two minutes later, Barker evaded the pass rush and hit Garrett Johnson for a 43-yard touchdown, again on the second play of the drive, to give Kentucky the lead. J.D. Harmon got the Cats the ball right back with one of the top plays of the season: a one-handed interception of a Nick Mullens pass. Kentucky then drove the ball 65 yards in seven plays for yet another touchdown -- Barker's third of the first quarter -- on a seven-yard toss to Kayaune Ross. 21-7, Kentucky. UK's defense kept Southern Miss from responding by holding the Golden Eagles to a three-and-out and then forcing back-to-back interceptions, Mullens' second and third of the game. Meanwhile, UK's offense cooled off for a couple of trips, but then added a fourth touchdown on yet another two-play scoring drive -- this time on a 53-yard connection from Barker to Johnson. It was Barker's fourth touchdown throw of the game and Johnson's second touchdown grab, all before halftime. Too soon for Heisman talk? Southern Miss got back on the board with a field goal on its next drive, only to turn around and give up seven more on a JoJo Kemp touchdown run to end a five-play, 64-yard drive. Kentucky's lead was up to 35-10 at that point, but that was as good as it would get for the Cats. It was all downhill from there. In one of the biggest bonehead plays of the year, the Kentucky secondary gave up a 71-yard touchdown pass with only 26 seconds to go in the half. Southern Miss had earned a first down while running out the clock before halftime, which opened the door for Mullens to take a shot downfield. The shot connected as Isaiah Jones got behind the UK defense for the score when all the Cats had to do was keep the Southern Miss receivers in front of them. Despite the defensive goof, Kentucky still led at the half, 35-17. Southern Miss got the ball to start the second half, and only needed 11 plays to go 84 yards for a second consecutive score. Kentucky's lead, once as high as 25 points, was down to 11. Then on the Cats' first offensive possession of the half, Drew Barker fumbled the ball away after Garrett Johnson carried them into scoring territory. The fumble was Kentucky's second big mistake in a long line of big mistakes. Southern Miss quickly made it three unanswered touchdowns after an eight-play, 66-yard touchdown drive off the turnover. Now with only a four-point lead in the game, Kentucky's offensive struggles continued and Barker was sacked on 3rd-and-10 to force a three-and-out. Southern Miss would take the ball and add a fourth unanswered touchdown to gain the lead in the game. The score came on a quarterback sneak on a 4th-and-1 gamble from the goal line after Ito Smith fumbled the ball on 3rd-and-1, only to be recovered by a teammate. 25-point Kentucky lead, gone in a flash. It would keep getting worse. Jeff Badet fielded the Southern Miss kickoff and returned the ball all the way to the 48-yard line to give Kentucky great field position and an opportunity to tie or retake the lead. But the string of bad decisions continued as Barker gave the ball right back on a foolish throw that was picked off. Southern Miss then drove 56 yards to kick a field goal and stretch its lead to six off the costly turnover. The Golden Eagles would then hold Kentucky to another three-and-out and kick another field goal for its 34th unanswered point in the game. The field goal was set up by some embarrassing defense on a third down play that could've forced a punt; instead we saw the rare pass interference plus a catch for a first down in field goal territory. With the Southern Miss lead up to two possessions, Kentucky looked deflated and a loss was imminent. It only got worse when Drew Barker fumbled the ball away on the very first play of the next drive. The turnover marked the end of an ugly second half for Kentucky that saw three turnovers in only seven minutes of possession, while the defense allowed 27 unanswered points. The Cats gave up 34 unanswered for the entire game and 520 yards of offense on 95 plays. So, let's not do that again, huh?

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