In a matchup of ranked Southeastern Conference teams on Saturday, No. 7 Kentucky and No. 14 Ole Miss will try to shake off last weekend’s sluggishness when they meet in Oxford, Miss.
The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0) ultimately took care of their non-conference business with Northern Illinois — a 26-point underdog — but it wasn’t easy. The Mid-American Conference’s Huskies tied the game at 14 just before halftime.
In the first minute of the second half, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis found Barion Brown for a 70-yard touchdown, and the Wildcats held on to win at home in Lexington, 31-23. Levis went 18-for-26 for 303 yards with a career-high four touchdowns.
The 300-yard game was the senior’s third this season, but he was pressured by the Huskies most of the game and was sacked five times. He connected for plays of 40, 69 and 70 yards, all for touchdowns.
“Overall, just a sluggish game,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “Good to get it behind us. … We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and I thought we did some good things.”
The Wildcats will need better things — starting with pass protection — against the Rebels, whose defense was suffocating through its first three games before showing a few cracks in a 35-27 home win over Tulsa on Saturday.
Ole Miss (4-0, 0-0) couldn’t put away Tulsa, which arrived on the Oxford campus as a three-touchdown underdog.
The Golden Hurricane played most of the game without outstanding quarterback Davis Brin, who left in the second quarter with an injury, yet nearly matched the SEC school in yardage (462-457).
Ole Miss scored 28 points in the second quarter to take a 35-17 halftime lead, but the Rebels went scoreless in the second half.
“You would’ve thought after watching the first half of that game there’s no way we’re not going to score in the second half,” coach Lane Kiffin said. “Like anything here, we try to take negatives and turn them into teaching lessons. That was a really good one.
“You cannot expect, just because you score 35 points and have a bunch of yards in the first half, that the second half is going to go that way.”
The Rebels and Wildcats last met in 2020, when the game went to overtime, 35-35 in Lexington.
After Kentucky scored with its first possession, kicker Matt Ruffolo missed the PAT, and the Rebels took advantage as Elijah Moore caught a TD pass from Matt Corral and Luke Logan booted the extra point for a 42-41 Ole Miss victory.
Kentucky will welcome back top returning rusher Chris Rodriguez Jr., who has finished serving a four-game suspension. In his absence, Kentucky has averaged just 81.5 yards rushing — a 2.4-yard average. Kavosiey Smoke has averaged 5.2 yards on his 51 carries with one touchdown.
Last season, Rodriguez totaled 1,379 rushing yards on 225 carries with nine TDs and scored three more times with pass receptions. Against Ole Miss in 2020, he posted 133 yards and two touchdowns.
For the Rebels, true freshman Quinshon Judkins earned SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors after gaining a career-high 140 yards on 27 rushes against Tulsa. A native of Pikeville Road, Ala., the 5-foot-11, 210-pound rusher has reached 100 all-purpose yards in three of his first four outings.
–Field Level Media