[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1200"] @UKFootball
There were only 62 ticks left on the clock when Kentucky got the ball at their own 20 yard line. Trailing by one with three timeouts, Boom Williams told Austin MacGinnis, "We're going to give you a chance. We believe in you." Boom was right.
For the first time since 1998, Kentucky won on a field goal as time expired. Kentucky's hero received redemption after starting the game with a miss off the right upright from 28 yards out. That was one of many what-ifs that almost cost the Cats. To call it unbelievable would not be cliche.
Kentucky was physically imposing their will upon Mississippi State. Up ten with 9:41 to play, Benny Snell was about to give Kentucky a three-score lead and shove a dagger directly through the Bulldogs. Instead, we witnessed "the only thing you can't do."
A fumble would have been bad. The scoop and score was catastrophic
. Instead of 41-24, it was a three-point game. The air was sucked out of the stadium as fans thought, "not again." Luckily, the players did not share the same thought.
Boom Williams immediately responded, rushing for 35 yards and 23 yards on consecutive plays down the left sideline to put Kentucky within striking range. But Stephen Johnson had another snafu. Lined up as a wide receiver in the Wildcat formation, his false start on first down put the Cats behind the chains and forced them to settle for a field goal and only a six-point lead with 6:52 to play.
Mississippi State methodically marched down the field by getting yards in bunches on first down, all the while fans worried even more, "this can't be happening." Then, it happened.
Kentucky forced a third and nine, but Chris Westry's pass interference gave the Bulldogs another chance. Two plays later on third and six, the blitz was a step too late. Fred Ross' touchdown took away the Kentucky lead with 1:09 to go, 38-37.
Few believed Kentucky could do it. Doubt grew even more after referees interfered. That's not a complaint; a referee tripped C.J. Conrad. The following play Johnson was taken to the ground by a horse collar. Stoops immediately lost it and forgot to call a timeout, costing the Cats a play. Johnson took a deep shot, but Dorian Baker couldn't corral the game-winning touchdown.
Yet some how, some way, Kentucky won the football game. I typed that fact and it's still hard to believe.
A Tale of Two Halves
Compared to the second half, the first was an uneventful bore. The Cats' first drive was impressive, until the kick clanked off the upright. Defensively, Kentucky suffocated State, forcing four three-and-outs to start the game
. Miss. State's first first down of the game didn't occur until the 9:49 mark of the second quarter. The teams combined for only 20 points in the first half; UK scored 21 in the third quarter.
Stephen Johnson's start was subpar. At the half fans were asking if it was time to pull the trigger on Gunnar Hoak. You couldn't blame them; through the previous six quarters he was 19/45 for only 150 yards and an interception. To be fair, receivers dropped passes and State only had 9 yards passing, yet Johnson's misses weren't close misses.
Stephen turned it around in the second half. He was efficient (8/11 for 191 yards) and hit a few deep balls, connecting with Jeff Badet for scores of 44 and 40 yards. Badet had the best game of his career
. Along with the two touchdowns, he had 139 yards on 7 catches. His most important one might have been the last of the game, immediately falling down in the middle of the field to save a few ticks for MacGinnis to hit the game-winner.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="1200"] @UKAthletics
Take a sack, Stephen. Seriously, it's cool. They suck, but not as bad as fumbles. Johnson was stripped twice. The scoop and score was the 83rd point scored off UK turnovers this season. UK's 19 turnovers are the most in the SEC. Take away one of those and it's an easy win, but nothing's easy if you're a Kentucky football fan.
Many, Many Injuries
Kentucky's players took a beating in the physical matchup. Jojo Kemp
left the game with a hand injury, right when he was finding his rhythm in the Wildcat. OLB Jordan Bonner
sprained his knee on a kickoff, limiting the already thin position. Landon Young
left the game with a sprained ankle, but there were many others who needed to be attended to on the field: Denzil Ware, Derrick Baity, Naquez Pringle and Jeff Badet.
Things got scary in the third quarter. Miss. State's lead grew to 17-12, but after Darryl Williams delivered the snap for the field goal, he fell to the ground. Williams spent more than ten minutes on the turf before he was carted off to an ambulance. We're happy to report Williams has movement in all of his extremities
and is being treated at the UK Chandler Medical Center.
McWilson's Pick Six
Too often Marcus McWilson is remembered for the interception he couldn't reel in against Louisville. If it wasn't for the scoop-and-score and the ensuing insanity, people would compare McWilson's Pick Six to Bud Dupree's against South Carolina. On the first play of the fourth quarter, McWilson jumped the out route and took it 45 yards to the house.
The fact that Kentucky had to hit a 51 yard field goal to win tonight's game is incomprehensible
They never should have needed it. Boom and Benny wore down the Miss. State D in the second half, combining for 227 yards on the ground, 100 more yards than the Bulldogs' season average. Miss. State was the inferior team, with Nick Fitzgerald as their one bright spot. But we've watched Kentucky football before. We should have seen this coming.
What makes the dramatic win even more difficult to process is that it was in fact, a win. Kentucky won the football game. They stared down the barrel of a gun, pulled the trigger and lived to tell the story
. They had no business winning the game after repeatedly hurting themselves, yet they persevered.
Mark Stoops' team has learned to handle adversity. Now, they're second in the SEC East, the only team in the division with a win over an opponent from the West, and need only two more wins to play postseason football. It's one hell of a time to be a Kentucky football fan.