Kentucky could not have played much worse. The Wildcats got beat at the point of attack, lost the turnover battle, and only rushed for 110 yards on 26 non-sack attempts.
Despite all of that, Kentucky came away with an ugly five-point win over FCS Chattanooga.
Before making their first road trip of the season, the Wildcats have a ton to work on before heading to Williams-Brice Stadium to play South Carolina.
Here are the three plays that allowed the Wildcats to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Sudden change defense
Facing a third-and-long from inside their own 10 in the second quarter, Will Levis made a dire mistake. The redshirt junior threw an interception backed up deep and gave Chattanooga a great chance to score trailing just 14-7 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
Kentucky’s sudden change defense came up with a major stop.
After getting a non-sack tackle for loss on first down from DeAndre Square, Chattanooga face a third-and-seven and went to a run on a passing down. Jacquez Jones came up with a key stop.
Why was this important? Because it set the tone for the rest of the game.
Chattanooga would create three more scoring opportunities before their final possession– having the ball inside the opponent’s 40 — and Kentucky would only allow six points. The defense got timely stops, and this was one of the major reasons Kentucky won the game.
After Chattanooga took the lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Kentucky faced their biggest possession of the season. With an ineffective ground game, the Wildcats were in a pass-heavy situation. On third-and-short, Will Levis decided to use his legs to extend the drive.
On the scramble, the quarterback gave Kentucky its longest rush of the day at 21 yards, and it was just the shot in the arm the offense needed. Four plays later, Levis connected with hybrid tight end Izayah Cummings for a 31-yard score.
The Wildcats would own the lead for the rest of the game.
Kentucky’s timely pressure results in pick-six
After taking the lead, Kentucky allowed Chattanooga to quickly create another scoring opportunity. The Mocs went 52 yards in eight plays before facing a second-and-long at the Kentucky 43. The Wildcats then came up with a huge game-changing play.
Both Josh Paschal and Octavious Oxendine recorded pass-rush wins on the third-and-long to give Kentucky the advantageous situation. This pressure forced Chattanooga quarterback Cole Copeland to make a tricky decision — take the sack or heave it deep. He makes the wrong choice.
Tyrell Ajian plays centerfield and reels in the huge interception. Then the redshirt senior makes a crafty return before getting a huge block from super senior Quandre Mosely. That frees up the sideline and the result is Kentucky’s first NOT (non-offensive touchdown) of the season.
For the second close game in a row, Kentucky came away with the big defensive play when the team had to have it.